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Governor and legislators outline shared-services proposal for Minnesota schools

Some details emerged today from the proposal by Gov.

Some details emerged today from the proposal by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and several lawmakers for what they call a bipartisan effort to require Minnesota school districts and charter schools to combine efforts to reduce costs.

Under their Minnesota K-12 Shared Service proposal, school districts and charter schools will be able to pool their purchasing power for information technology, food services, supplies and equipment, operations, transportation and other goods and services. All Minnesota public school districts and charter schools will be required to participate in shared services.

The proposal calls for the Minnesota Department of Education to create and maintain a list of preferred vendors for various shared services. Once the list was compiled, the ed department would create contracts with the preferred vendors on behalf of the state and work with school administrators, educators and other stakeholders on a two-year shared-services plan to best realize cost savings.   

“There are 340 school districts and 150 charter schools in the state, but back-room functions don’t need to be duplicated 490 times,” Pawlenty said. “Shared services will allow Minnesota schools to focus resources where they are needed the most — in the classroom and on improving student achievement.””

The governor’s office says this type of plan has worked in other places, saving 5 percent to 15 percent in purchasing and information technology services. For example:

• One Pennsylvania school district was able to save about $100,000 through the sharing of food services that helped standardize health and safety practices.
• The California Charter School Association entered into shared services agreements for workers’ compensation insurance, saving about $20,000 annually per school.

• Through the Midwestern Higher Education Commission, IT software sharing occurs among Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin resulting in a combined savings of $750,000.

The governor said he hopes the Legislature will pass the plan sooner, rather than later, so that districts may realize savings during the 2009-2010 school year.

Other legislators with the governor today backing the plan were: Sens. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, and Reps. Carol McFarlane, R-White Bear Lake, Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.