Franklin Co. school districts considering entering into consortium to increase buying power

May 04, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Facing crippled funding streams, Franklin County, Pa., school districts are exploring myriad ways to save money, including joining together in a consortium to improve buying power.

Waynesboro Area School Board voted this week to enter into the consortium. Other invited members are the Greencastle-Antrim, Chambersburg Area, Tuscarora, Fannett-Metal and Shippensburg Area school districts.

Evan Williams, assistant superintendent in the Waynesboro Area School District, said the participating districts are not obligated to anything by signing the initial agreement.

"It's an agreement to agree," he said Tuesday.

One potential initiative for the consortium is joining together to offer a cyber charter school, Williams said. Pennsylvania's public school districts are required to pay for their residents' attendance at charter school.

Estimates are Waynesboro could save $1,000 per student in cyber charter school through the consortium, Williams said.

Tuscarora School District Superintendent Rebecca Erb said her district might not be involved in the cyber charter school because it already has its own. However, she sees other potential cost-savings if the Tuscarora School Board approves participation in the consortium at its meeting Monday.

"I would like to see an opportunity to share capital investments, like expensive equipment," Erb said Wednesday.

She gave the example of buying a scissor lift that might be used infrequently by one school district. She said the consortium would allow the districts to purchase one together and share it.

"It's all voluntary," Erb said. "There are some things I think are beneficial and some that might not work for our unique situation."

Erb said the county's superintendents have been talking about the consortium concept for about a year. While she's not familiar with other Pennsylvania school districts undertaking a similar agreement, she said Ohio schools embark on "shared services" initiatives.

A copy of the consortium agreement lists other possible uses. Among those are sharing in heating, ventilation and air conditioning services; sharing in professional services; offering courses in cooperation with a community college; sharing common classrooms for services like special and alternative education; and exploring legislative incentives.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed returning public schools to their 2008-09 funding levels, which would mean losses of more than $1 million for some Franklin County districts.

The Herald-Mail Articles