SAU Requirement?

Aug 06, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

School administrative units (SAUs) are offices that oversee the operations of school districts. The size and makeup of an SAU can vary greatly, from a single school to multiple schools across several towns. They can also include just a single school district or multiple districts.

State law requires that every school belong to an SAU.

The difference between SAUs and school districts

SAUs and school districts in New Hampshire have different responsibilities.

  • Each school district has a school board. SAUs do not have school boards.
  • Districts create school budgets, negotiate contracts, hire teachers, arrange for busses and maintain buildings and facilities.
  • SAUs handle the business and administrative responsibilities for the school district or districts, such as accounting, bookkeeping, and managing health and retirement benefits for school employees. They may also coordinate curriculum across the member districts.

Increasing numbers of SAUs

Before 1987, the number of SAUs in New Hampshire was capped at a maximum of 60. When that cap was repealed, it became easier for school districts to form new SAUs.

Another change in 1996 meant school districts no longer had to get approval from the state Board of Education before withdrawing from an SAU. This made it easier than ever for school districts to ‘break up’ with their SAU and join or form a new one.

These changes lead the number of SAUs in New Hampshire to double since the 1980s, rising from 53 to 105.

At the same time, New Hampshire’s population of school age children has actually gone down, and is expected to keep getting smaller over the next decade.

Should NH let school districts go SAU-free?

Many SAUs now consist of only a single school. This has led some to question whether New Hampshire should scrap the requirement that all school districts be part of an SAU.

They argue that giving school districts the option to ‘go it alone’ could save taxpayers money. The duties of the SAU could be taken on by the school board and school administrators without too much of a burden, eliminating the need for extra staff and facilities.

Others say that letting school districts manage themselves means more local control over education.

However, others argue that SAUs provide an important level of oversight and accountability. They also maintain that ideally, SAUs should consist of more than one district, leading to cost-savings through an economy of scale. Multi-school SAUs can also help share education approaches that are working in high-performing schools with those that are struggling.

Should NH school districts still be required to be part of an SAU? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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