Are TUSD central adminstrative costs out of line?


by David Safier

A letter to the editor in today's Star says TUSD's central administrative costs are higher than other Arizona school districts, and if they were brought into line, it could save the District something like $9 million a year. The signers of the letter deserve to be taken seriously. Betts Putnam-Hidalgo ran a strong campaign for the Board and pays as much attention as anyone to what goes on in TUSD. Sheila Tobias is a friend who is an author and a very careful researcher. I don't know the third person, Lillian Fox, but Putnam-Hidalgo and Tobias are reason enough for me to sit up and take notice.

Something that's bothered me since the potential school closures were announced is the lack of details about other cost saving measures. The District put a figure on the savings from closing the 14 schools at $5 million. But when it comes to dealing with the rest of the $17 million deficit, no one gives any specifics. Pedicone's generalized statements about how he would deal with the $12 million left in the deficit sound a lot like John Boehner saying he has a plan to bring in $800 billion in extra tax revenue but not telling us where it's coming from.

According to the letter, "TUSD spends $180 more per student for administration than comparable Arizona school districts." Multiply that by the number of students in TUSD and you get $9 million. If the $9 million figures is anywhere near accurate, TUSD should be able to trim at least $5 million from its administrative costs, maybe more, without huge sacrifices in services. Those kinds of savings should come before cramming more students in already overcrowded classrooms or cutting art, music and other programs that aren't covered on the AIMS test.

The District and the Board owe us information about the way it plans to cut the entire $17 million from the budget, not just the $5 million from closing schools. And it should explain and justify its administrative costs and give details about how they can be cut.

You can read the letter below the fold.


Re: the Dec. 7 guest column "School closures will strengthen TUSD, allow for improved instruction."

TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone argues that only by shutting down 20 or more schools will we make up TUSD's financial shortfall.

We've heard moving testimony from parents and pupils.

But not so far mentioned in the debate are the outsized costs for central administration in the Tucson Unified School District compared with other (matched) districts.

We have before us the current Arizona state auditor general's report that shows TUSD spends $180 more per student for administration than comparable Arizona school districts.

As we do the math, if TUSD's central administration costs were brought in line with other districts, TUSD might save as much as $9 million a year – unless there's some other agenda for school closings? 

Lillian Fox, Betts Putnam-Hidalgo, Sheila Tobias