'Run schools like a business' By David Lias Some residents of the Vermillion School District admit that school funding is a complex subject.
They wonder, however, if it�s time to apply some business sense to the school budget.
Despite drastic cuts totaling over $1 million in the past five years, and despite declining enrollment numbers in the Vermillion School District, the cost to educate students has been on nearly an upward trend.
Expenditures per average daily membership (ADM) jumped from $5,134 in 1999-2000, to $5,517 in 2000-01. ADM expenditures rose to $5,709 in 2001-02, and decreased to $5,674 in 2002-03.
They climbed again in 2003-04, to $5,882.
These expenditures include the general fund, special education and pension funds.
�I sympathize with the budget cuts that the school board has had to make,�
Van Pierce, a retired resident of the Vermillion School District, said. �But to me, I think a school is a business. The business is producing qualified people out of the system. If you don�t have any income, or you know your income is declining for four or five years, you need to make adjustments in your staff as well as your productive people, which are the teachers.�
Part of the problem in comparing schools to businesses, Vermillion Superintendent Mark Froke said, are factors other than the marketplace that affect school operations.
�A business has control over a lot of things they do,� he said. �We�re mandated to do a lot of things that we can�t control.�
Pierce said he gets a sense from many people of his generation that the burden of the district�s budget problems may be falling unfairly on teachers.
�It appears to me that teachers are getting bumped and classes are getting curtailed or eliminated,� he said. �To that extent, I think there is a feeling that there isn�t enough being done on the administrative side to balance the productive side.�
Froke, who holds a business degree, buys into the philosophy that schools should be operated as efficiently as possible.
�Thinking in those terms, I have to say the school district has been tightening its belt,� Froke said. �The school board has cut over $1 million, they are poised to cut as much as $430,000 if the opt-out doesn�t go.
�If a business tightens its belt and does without, maybe they can go all over their plant or business and cut back on things, but when we do that, we�re cutting opportunities for children,� he said. �In one sense, we are like a business, but we have to keep in mind how far we cut, because we are affecting what we can give the children.�
Pierce said voters will need to decide if those opportunities are worth the added taxes they�ll pay if the opt-out is approved.
�People, especially those downtown, are concerned,� he said. �It will considerably raise their taxes and they just got an increase.�