Why Not Put the Intermediate Units in Charge of Schools?

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Gort is tired of school boards and hyper-local funding of schools:

I understand that the primary funding for schools in PA comes from the property tax so local people should have a say on how the money is spent.

So I propose that the funding mechanism for schools be taken over by the state by reforming the property tax system by exempting the first $250,000 of assessment and raising the income and sales taxes to cover the difference. Then hire professional educators and administrators to run the schools many of which are already in place.

I know that many details of my proposal needs to be worked out but I think we really need to have a discussion on school financing and administration.

I like this proposal, but would do it somewhat differently. Move the education tax base to the state level, but hand over policy and budgetary authority to the 29 Intermediate Units:

Established in 1971 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, intermediate units operate as regional educational service agencies providing cost-effective, management-efficient programs to Pennsylvania’s 501 public school districts and over 2,400 non-public and private schools. In addition, intermediate units serve as liaison agents between the school districts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Over the years, intermediate units have responded to a wide array of needs as they developed in schools and communities throughout the state. Today, intermediate units continue to fulfill their mission of service by addressing traditional and emerging needs and by serving as essential links for learning in Pennsylvania. Each intermediate unit has its own board of school directors that is composed of board member representatives from public school districts in its service area.

If you look at the list of services Intermediate Units already provide, it seems clear that it would not be a big stretch for them to simply absorb the policy and budgetary authority currently held by elected volunteer school board members.

I don’t really think there should be direct electoral accountability on this issue. I think it would be better to have a system of staggered appointments, with the Governor replacing IU directors as their terms expire. In Gubernatorial elections, everyone would know which IU directors would be up for reappointment during that Governor’s term, and this would become an issue in the race for Governor.

This entry was posted in Education, Elections.

3 Responses to Why Not Put the Intermediate Units in Charge of Schools?

  1. Pingback: Analysis of possible school district mergers in Pittsburgh... - Page 8 - City-Data Forum

  2. Gort says:

    This is an interesting idea. The LIUs would have a better handle on what the schools in their areas would need than Harrisburg.

    • Jon says:

      Yeah, I kind of like that there’s some room for policy experimentation, but with 501 districts it’s too much. With 29, you could actually study whether district policy was having an effect on student performance.