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School leaders respond to LePage criticism of administrators

The heads of the Maine School Boards Association and Maine School Superintendents Association say Gov. Paul LePage’s latest assertion that administrators are to blame for rising school costs just isn’t true and strong school leadership matters when it comes to student success.

While school administration has been a longtime target of the governor, the reality is superintendent salaries are less than 1 percent of the total spent on K-12 education, and the number of administrators has gone down in the last decade.

According to the Department of Education’s own statistics, system administration, which includes the superintendent, other central office staff, finance functions, insurance and legal costs, has gone down 4 percent since 2005. It is the only cost center to have gone down, with the others rising anywhere from 10 to 73 percent.

Superintendent salaries make up $12.3 million of that central office cost, and that pays for 96 full-time and 32 part-time superintendents. Statewide the total cost of public education is just over $2 billion.

“Leadership matters, and the governor should know that,” said MSBA President Becky Fles of Gardiner. “Studies have shown that a strong school leader can make a difference in how a student does in school, even in districts where there is not a lot of money to spend.”

MSSA President Supt. Steve Bailey of AOS 93, based in Damariscotta, said the governor has long criticized administration and now appears to be blaming both superintendents and principals for rising costs. The reality, Bailey said, is all organizations need leadership. In the case of school districts, which are often the largest employers in town, superintendents have the added responsibility of overseeing the expenditures of state and local tax dollars.

“As a group, we have reached out to the governor and his staff to explain that administrators in Maine wear many different hats and are committed to student success. We would be happy to meet with him today to explain what we do and have him visit some of our districts,” Bailey said.

Bailey went on to say that comparing Maine with Florida doesn’t work. “We are set up very differently, and in some of our smaller districts, superintendents do it all. We don’t have the huge layers of administration that Florida has,” he said.

Gov. LePage made his comments about administrative costs during a morning interview on WVOM. He said he wanted to push the cost of paying for school superintendents down to the local level and not expend any state money on administration.

“All of the backroom operations will be done at the units, but if a school district wants to have a principal and a superintendent, the locals will have to pay for it,” the governor said.

Gov. LePage said his plan will be included in his proposal for the next state budget.

To hear the full interview with the governor under “GHRT Rewinds” click here:


MSBA President Becky Fles:, 441-4505
MSSA President Supt. Steve Bailey:, 232-0264

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