To the editor:
As the deadline for the Central and East Lawrence Consolidation Working Group’s recommendation looms, neither the Lawrence school board nor the district administration has offered a clear explanation for why this exercise is necessary in the first place. For many reasons, the working group’s charge makes little sense:
• Research consistently shows that smaller elementary schools achieve better academic outcomes, particularly among low-income and at-risk students like those found in large numbers in east Lawrence.
• The school board recently released $1.15 million from the district’s contingency fund. Even with this expenditure, $3.6 million will remain in the contingency fund at the end of June. Clearly, the school district is not in dire financial straits.
• While the current school funding formula rewards districts for building new facilities, school finance reform is currently a hotly contested issue in our state and the formula may change in the near future.
• Closing existing schools to build new facilities is financially and environmentally wasteful.
• According to the data provided by the RSP consulting group, school closures in east and central Lawrence will disrupt students throughout the district.
When members of the working group approached the school board for clarification on their task, they were told to “think beyond capacity issues … and find ways to meet the needs of all students in an equitable way with particular focus on student achievement.” What better way to equitably meet the educational needs of our community than by not “fixing” what isn’t broken?