Archive for Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kansas House backs off from requiring school districts to consolidate

March 9, 2010, 8:12 a.m. Updated March 9, 2010, 4:15 p.m.

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— Kansas House members rejected portions of a bill Tuesday that would have reduced state aid for some small school districts.

The bill would have pushed six districts with enrollments of fewer than 200 students and fewer than 200 square miles to consolidate. The districts are Argonia, Attica, Altoona-Midway, Baileyville, Chase and Elk Valley.

But the bill was amended on a 75-39 vote to remove those provisions. Supporters of the amendment said districts didn’t deserve to be punished financially and were likely to consider consolidating on their own terms.

“We have sent the message to the small schools. I think it’s an effective message,” said Rep. Steve Lukert, a Sabetha Democrat. “To hit them with the stick again isn’t a good message.”

Under the bill, those smaller districts would have had state aid reduced to the same level as those with 200 students.

But Rep. Bill Light, a Rolla Republican, said consolidation should be a local decision by school boards, not mandated by legislators. Kansas last forced hundreds of districts to consolidate in the 1960s, a process that still stirs resentment statewide.

The change in small school funding was proposed by Rep. Clay Aurand, chairman of the House Education Committee. He drafted the bill in response to an audit that indicated the state could save money that it spends in aid for districts that are considered too small, many by choice.

It was the third time in the past three years that legislators have tried to adjust the funding provision and push some of the 293 Kansas districts to merge their operations.

“It’s becoming clear to me that we will never do anything,” said Aurand, a Courtland Republican.

Kansas gives smaller school districts, most in rural areas, additional funds on the premise that because of their enrollment the additional funds are needed to provide a basic education.

Rep. Jeff King, an Independence Republican, said legislators shouldn’t hide behind the bill’s intent and make consolidation a fair process, not punish districts already facing financial struggles.

“Let’s make no bones about this,” King said. “This is a forced consolidation bill.” The bill contained other provisions that would allow three or more districts to discuss voluntary consolidation and form two districts. Those provisions advanced to a final vote, expected Wednesday.

Legislators said the change helps in particularly sparse, low-enrollment districts where distance between the current district and merged schools becomes a barrier to consolidation. If it becomes law later this session, districts would have the authority to speak with multiple districts to best divide their territory and students.

Comments

kitnkat 5 years, 5 months ago

I see, so the entire western half of the state will now all be going to one school. Yeah, I mean what's a 2 hr drive to get to school?

timetospeakup 5 years, 5 months ago

Wow - school districts with less than 200 kids need to be consolidated. Split over K-12, that's 15 kids or less per grade.

Larger budget concerns aside, there's simply no way kids in a class of 16 get the quality of instruction that average sized schools get. You simply can't have a first rate physics teacher, calculus teacher, english teacher, chemistry teacher, biology teacher, music teacher, drama teacher, shop teacher, etc on the payroll for that many kids.

I graduated in a class of 115, and missed out on plenty of opportunities that friends from larger schools had. I can't imagine what it'd be like with 15 to a class. People in small towns need to put aside their hometown pride and realize their shortchanging their students' future.

Janet Lowther 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey, Kitnkat,

Seems like there are already places in western Kansas with two hour bus rides for the kids.

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

timetospeakup (anonymous) says… " there's simply no way kids in a class of 16 get the quality of instruction that average sized schools get. You simply can't have a first rate physics teacher, calculus teacher, english teacher, chemistry teacher, biology teacher, music teacher, drama teacher, shop teacher, etc on the payroll for that many kids."

Yes, you can - but you have to pay for it. Are you saying we should't provide kids in small, rural areas the same quality of education provided to urban kids? Basically, punish kids because their parents happen to be the ones putting food on your table?

Sure, we can consolidate and save $ on administration, teachers, etc.; but those figures ignore the fact that new buildings would be needed, and that some kids would spent 4 to 6 hours per day sitting on a bus.

And, those figures ignore the cost of additional transportation. Put into perspective,...what's being proposed would add about 2.5 million miles of school bus driving per year. That's roughly the equivalent of five round trips to the moon.

This is just another shell game on the part of legislators who would rather see the end of public education entirely. I'd welcome any attempts to falsify that hypothesis.

Graczyk 5 years, 5 months ago

Maybe we should just make everybody in Kansas move to the east side of Salina. Then we could institute the Buffalo Commons in the western wilds.

Mary Sucha 5 years, 5 months ago

I would think most Kansans living in the 1st cong. district would be in favor consolidation, smaller government and fewer taxpayer dollars being spent on their PUBLIC school system. But this vote says we(rural legislators) want to keep our expensive small schools and you all in the urban areas can just reduce your school spending.

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