No.. This measure won't be controversial. Not at all.

The AP is reporting in the Rapid City Journal that a plan is circulating and will come forth as legislation to close most school districts with fewer that 200 students.
A group of lawmakers who served on a state task force will propose a measure that would require many school districts with fewer than 200 students to consolidate by July 2009, Senate Republican Leader Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls said. The state would put together a merger plan for any of those schools that do not consolidate by that deadline, he said Friday.

The consolidation plan would not apply to sparsely populated school districts, mostly in western South Dakota, that cannot consolidate because distances between schools are too great, Knudson said.

and...

Of South Dakota's 168 school districts, 48 have fewer than 200 students, according to the task-force report. But nine of those districts are considered to be sparsely populated, meaning distances to nearby schools are so great that consolidation would be difficult or impossible.

"There's certainly some misgivings about forcing people to consolidate. On the other side, there is pretty strong evidence that student opportunity and achievement and education efficiency are enhanced by larger school districts," Knudson said.

Read it all here. This one is sure to be one of the most, if not THE MOST controversial piece if legislation brought forth this year.

39 towns would seemingly lose their schools under this plan during a time when some legislative candidates campaigned on platforms of "local control of education." And now their platforms are sure to be tested.

Is jurisdiction over eduction opportunities best when it's centralized to ensure equality? Or is it best managed by the local taxpayers who foot a big part of the bill?

Comments

Anonymous said…
Boy this post is going to start a ranting. When I have time I will post some of my thoughts.
Lets all hang on for the ride it is going to be a big one I bet!
Nicholas Nemec said…
Can you provide a link to a list of school districts and their enrollments?
PP said…
Actually, yes. I've got something going on tonight, but I'll try to get to it tomorrow.
Anonymous said…
pp: in your last paragraph, did you mean education or eduction? Where did you go to school?
Anonymous said…
Jezz, are you saying you didn't get what PP was saying.
So what he made a mistake in typing. His editor is on vacation. Give people a break.
nonnie said…
I think the problem, if there is one of small schools, will take care of itself in time. There are statistics out concerning how good kids do on ACT or in college or something from small schools cmopared to large. I'd like to see that. If they beat the larger schools, should the larger schools be closed? Isn't that what the whole argument is about - quality of education??

I do think that the small school factor should be done away with though. Put all the schools on an equal footing as far as aid from the state. Then if they survive,so be it. If they can't, so be that.

Sparsity is another issue though. I do support the sparsity factor. If not this, what's left. Bus rides for hours every day or boarding schools?
Anonymous said…
I very much doubt that the very small schools beat the larger as far as ACT scores. Those kids also have fewer opportunities to take AP classes, college courses, a broad range of electives, etc.
Consolidation hurts the towns that lose their schools. There's no doubt about that and I hope there's a way to help them lessen that damage. But the kids are better off.
(I don't know the exact numbers, but I wouldn't be suprised if the highest scores are in the medium-sized schools, the larger A/smaller AA schools.)
Anonymous said…
To think closing small schools is going to save much money,or do much to improve education, is a big joke and a big lie. Actually, stats from most years have smaller schools at the top in test scores, and ACT's etc.
Anonymous said…
My very unofficial list, gleaned from the State Education Department's enrollment listings for fall 06, of any school at less than 200, is as follows. As I was gleaning, I arbitrarily omitted some West River schools I knew were too far apart; other West River ones I included just for info sake. There were a few that were just over the 200 mark that are NOT included here.

Armour, Bison, BonesteelFairfax, Bowdle, Bridgewater, Colome, Conde, Corsica, Doland, Edgemont, Edmunds Central, Emery, Eureka, Geddes, Grant/Deuel, Harrold, Henry, Herreid, Hoven, Hurley, Irene, Iroquois, Isabel, Jones County, Lake Preston, Langford (barely), McIntosh, Montrose, Oelrichs, Oldham/Ramona, Pollock, Roslyn, Rosholt, Rutland, Smee (right at 200), South Shore, Stickney, Summit, Wakonda,Waverly, Waubay, Wood, Woonsocket.

Some of these towns have done some recent consolidating, and it's still not helping. Lots of them are within 10 miles of another school; lots aren't. Lots of pain coming down the road as these towns hit the wall of the reality of enrollments and dollars and the recognition of the academic mediocrity too many of them slip into in the battle to survive. Too bad there aren't more good practicing Catholics out there to keep our school enrollment up. On the other hand, not having to worry about how to pay the hospital delivery bills would have influenced lots of young rural families I know when they were deciding if they could have another child.
Anonymous said…
Anon 4:03 adds:

These numbers INCLUDE the Hutterite attendance centers, and they make THE difference (above or below 200) for more than one district, e.g. Hitchcock/Tulare, in spite of their recent consolidation, would be below 200 without the 2 Hutterite colonies within their district.
Nicholas Nemec said…
anon 4:03 Thanks for the list. The debate might be brutal.

In my area Harrold just voted on a consolidation with Stanley County (Fort Pierre). Harrold voted to consolidate but the voters in Stanley county voted no. So no dice on that deal and back to the drawing board for Harrold. Their other options are Highmore, Pierre, or Sully Buttes (Onida).
VJ said…
I have been told by a few people that should know that there really aren’t any savings when it comes to consolidation.

But if you can prove that those small schools listed aren't getting as good of an education as the larger schools, then by all means close them all down!

You can’t worry about what it will do to small town Main Street if the kids aren’t getting the education they deserve. Simple as that!
Anonymous said…
Smaller towns should NOT rely on the schools to keep them going. Yes, it helps but many times towns rely to much on the schools. Mayors and the council need to consider development.
Anonymous said…
Maybe some of the larger schools should consolidate.

What sense does it make economically to have separate school districts with separate administrations for Pierre and Ft. Pierre with schools only a mile away from each other?

For that matter, what sense does it make to have county seats for Hughes and Stanley Counties (Pierre & Ft. Pierre) a mile from each other?

And by the way, this comment comes from a Stanley County landowner.
nonnie said…
It isn't up to me, the taxpayer, to subidize schools just because the towns don't want to lose their school.

I think just as great savings could be shown, like the poster above said, in consolidation of administrations. Sioux Falls essentially has one superintendent for all the city schools. Why not that same thing for many school districts? One superintendent, each school under that umbrella retains one principal, and thus many of the administration expenses would be cut down. There would still be local control but with one less layer of local bureaucracy.

There are many ways to think outside the box, and we need to start doing it. That's what the 2006 school study group should have been doing but didn't. Their many plan was to once again sock it to the property owner.
Brad S said…
Not only do I think this is a good idea (coming from a small town high school), but the Lege should study what the Nebraska Unicameral did in merging off the small one-room school districts. The law (LB 126) was structured in such a way that not even the courts or a referendum in November could stop the consolidation.

And the Unicameral used the existence of allegedly cash-poor majority-Hispanic districts such as Lexington to ramrod the bill through.

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