The Memphis City Schools Administration has finally hit on a way to save money. Unfortunately, the returns are fairly modest.
When the administration released a long-awaited consultant's report on school system operations and spending practices, reporters found out they would have to pay $39.42 for a copy of the thick report. News outlets generally are not charged for public documents and reports other than copies of lawsuits because that is how the information is conveyed to the public.
With approximately 25 print and broadcast news outlets of various descriptions in Memphis, the administration could be looking at a $1,000 windfall. In fact, however, only two newspapers and four television stations regularly cover the board of education, so returns could be somewhat lower.
Dolores Bell, spokeswoman for the Memphis City Schools, said the media are being charged for the report because of cost concerns in making copies of the report, which is over 1000 pages in length. She said it had apparently not occurred to the school administration or the consultant to make it available via the Internet, as most government offices and corporations routinely do.
Cost concerns, however, apparently don=B9t trouble the "thrifty" administration when it comes to multimillion-dollar contracts and central-office employees who make six-figure salaries. The report itemizes scores of examples of wasteful spending and unnecessary expenditures by MCS.
It says the system could save over $100 million by not building unnecessary new schools and consolidating underused ones instead. And it says MCS incurs budget overruns of, on average, 38 percent on new schools and 25 percent on renovations and additions.