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Mammoth superintendent calls survey 'waste of money'

Thursday, February 23, 2006

MAMMOTH SPRING -- Mammoth Spring School Superintendent Ron Taylor said last week he does not mind Mammoth Spring Elementary School being involved in a new statewide study, but he does not think it is necessary.

Taylor said last week that Mammoth Spring Elementary School is one of 100 schools in the state selected to take part in a statewide study of school uses of resources.

At the request of the Arkansas Legislature's Joint Adequacy Oversight Subcommittee, Lawrence O. Picus and Associates from Hollywood, Calif., will be conducting the case studies of the selected schools to understand the impact of recent educational reform legislation and more specifically how schools use resources.

"We (Mammoth Spring Elementary School) will be glad to show them what we have done," Taylor said. He mentioned several areas of improvement at the elementary school, including the new preschool program, extending the hours the nurse is available at the elementary school, a new art program at the school, a recently added full-time counselor and extending the base pay for teachers at the elementary school.

Taylor said he is not happy with the entire process. The superintendent said he Does not mind being involved in the study, but he thinks it is a waste of money.

"In the first place, the funds involved goes back to the 2003 special legislative session. This study wants to see if school districts deserve more money and also to see if we used the money wisely," he said. Taylor said his district received approximately an additional $250,000, or $5,400 per/pupil increase.

"The truth is, school districts across the state received more mandates than we did money, and there is no way we could have done anything but follow the law," the superintendent said.

The cost of the study is $450,000 and will include two surveys. Taylor said one survey will use an online questionnaire and will go out to every public school superintendent in the state. "The other survey will have a consultant and staff from various state agencies make visits to 100 of the state's 251 school districts this spring, including Mammoth Spring Elementary School," Taylor said.

The result of both surveys will be kept confidential until the study ends.

Taylor said the way he understands the study it will never be in the hands of the state and will instead be collected by the consultants. "Even the identities of the 100 schools selected to take part in the site-visit surveys will be kept confidential from lawmakers. We were told this is to make sure the districts selected for the site visits would not feel they were targeted by vindictive lawmakers," Taylor said.

Taylor said the 100 schools selected will include the more than 40 school districts that sued the state last year. "The suit saw the Supreme Court declare the state's system of funding public education unconstitutionally inadequate," Taylor said.

"I didn't ask the Mammoth Spring School Board to join the other schools in the state in the lawsuit, although I am very sympathetic to their cause," he said. He said two of the closest districts to be involved in the lawsuit are the Calico Rock School District and the Cushman School District.

"Our school districts are underfunded and overmandated. There are 15 school districts in Arkansas that are currently listed in physical distress. This means they are spending more than they are making. They will either have to come up with a plan and file it with the state or face consolidation," Taylor said. He said some of the distressed districts close to Mammoth Spring include Flippin, Lead Hill and Jasper.

"This is a duplicate deal. We already have the oversight of our local school board and auditors. We have the very same process already in place. This is a waste of money," he said.

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