Thursday, January 22, 2015
Will The State Force Our Hand In School Consolidation?
Could forced school consolidation be coming our way? Perhaps.
Below this post, we've published a list of reasons why small schools are superior to larger institutions. Not everyone agrees -- and in Lincoln at the State Capitol, we know some lawmakers would love nothing more than to way a wand and have many small schools disappear.
The Times has been informed that Norfolk State Senator Jim Scheer has introduced legislation (Legislative Bill 49) to create what he calls "allied school systems." (UPDATE: The Times has been told that this bill will get a hearing by the Legislature's Education Committee on Tuesday January 27, in Room 1525 of the State Capitol at 1:30 p.m. Any one from the public can testify. Readers can see the bill language for themselves by clicking here. The underlined language would become new law if the bill is approved, according to a source.)
The bill, according to information we were e-mailed, aims "to increase educational opportunities and equity for students statewide."
If the bill were passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Ricketts, all Nebraska school districts with under 650 students in K-12 (that includes Dorchester, Friend, Milford, Exeter-Milligan, Wilber-Clatonia, Meridian and many other surrounding schools) would be forced to create "allied school systems" no later than July of next year.
These systems would be, in essence, forced mergers consisting of at least three small school districts. (To rub salt in the wound, one of the school districts in the system would need to have more than 150 students in K-6.)
If school districts did not voluntarily join an "allied school system," the Nebraska Commissioner of Education could force schools into a system of his choosing.
We have no idea if this bill has a chance of getting through the Legislature, but apparently some in the Legislature believe small school districts cannot do an adequate job of educating our kids.
This bill would be a major step in forcing small schools across the state to eventually consolidate, regardless of what contrived name a state senator calls the process.
We wonder if Senator Scheer has compared dropout rates in Omaha Public Schools and Lincoln Public Schools with those of Nebraska's small school districts.
We wonder if he realizes that small, farm-based school districts (through the loss of state aid dollars, despite the heavy property tax burden) are helping subsidize Class A and B schools in Omaha and Lincoln -- and even those in smaller cities like Norfolk and Crete.
With rare exception, most small school districts in Nebraska are funded mainly by local tax dollars. If the state wants to shoulder that financial burden, then maybe we can talk about consolidation.
But until that occurs, what is it about "local control" that these politicians don't understand?