Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Kansas lawmakers cautious about school district consolidation

January 28, 2013


— The chairman of Gov. Sam Brownback’s School Efficiency Task Force told lawmakers Monday that his group carefully avoided using the word “consolidation” in its report.

But it didn’t take long for members of the House and Senate education committees to figure out that’s what one of the group’s recommendations was all about.

“We specifically did not say consolidation or use that word because it has such a negative and scary connotation to everyone,” task force chairman Ken Willard said during a joint meeting of the two panels. “We’re talking about what we want to accomplish, and that is to reduce the level and the numbers of administrations around the state and allow those administrators to determine which schools need to move, change or whatever.”

The task force report, which was released to the public last week, includes a recommendation to study “administration personnel structures and positions.” Within that study, the panel recommends that the Legislature “investigate the regionalization of administration structures; and realign district geographical boundaries in order to facilitate administrative efficiencies.”

“I understand the reluctance to use the word consolidation,” said Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, the ranking member on the House education panel. “But the point is, how else can you get the efficiency you’re talking about?”

Many Kansans still have painful memories of the last major consolidation effort in the mid-1960s, when the state merged an estimated 2,800 school districts into 311 unified school districts.

That resulted in closing many one- and two-room school houses, which had been organized as individual districts, and merging them with schools in larger communities, thus spelling the end for many small towns.

Since then, rural populations have continued to shift toward larger urban areas, and some districts have merged voluntarily. Today, there are 286 school districts in Kansas. But the seven largest of those, including Lawrence, have one-third of all the students in the state, and the 17 largest have just over half of all students.

Meanwhile, 31 districts have fewer than 200 students in their entire K-12 systems, including five that have fewer than 100.

“This recommends regionalization in some fashion, and a study would have to go into that to determine what works best,” Willard said. “Some studies show it could be done with far fewer administrations, which would represent a significant savings to the state — or, maybe not savings to the state, but a freeing up of money to be spent on education and going to the classrooms.”

Rep. Ward Cassidy, R-St. Francis, vice chairman of the House Education Committee, said he doubted whether lawmakers would try to tackle consolidation this year. But he said there may be room to talk about some limited kinds of consolidation.

“What I personally would like to see is some incentive for small districts or different districts working together,” he said.

Cassidy noted that under current law, districts can consolidate without suffering a net loss in their base state aid for three years.

“Maybe there’s a step before that where we can save the state some money — merge their vocational programs, or split music teachers, or split superintendents between two districts. There are some places doing that, and I think we can save the state money where communities could buy into it a lot easier than if the Legislature just shoves consolidation down their throat.”


Claudean McKellips 1 year, 2 months ago

Sham and the legislature need to comply with the court's ruling or face sanctions. Can you imagine if a working class Kansan ignored a judge's ruling? We would go to jail.


Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 2 months ago

I wonder if the state did not have their nose in the local schools business down to the core, if things would not be much better. Many things lose effenciency when the government gets ahold of them.

It would be nice if teachers could teach, instead filling out mounds of paperwork.

When funding comes from test scores, or how many kids you have on the food program it would get a little tough, especially, when you have to teach the test instead of what is needed.

Just a thought.


jhawki 1 year, 2 months ago

Perfect example is 3 school districts in Lyon Co. The north and south could easily consolidate to Emporia which has been consolidating schools. It is a colossal waste of money to have 3 districts operating within 20 minutes of Emporia.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Gee did Brownback advise voters during his campaign that he would be depleting the public education budget in order to justify consolidation of schools? So he could fund fundamentalist private schools with vouchers?

Does anyone remember this discussion during his campaign? Or was he using "code words".


Nikonman 1 year, 2 months ago

I think the schools out west and in the rural areas have consolidated just about as much as they can. How would you like your child having to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning just to make the trip to school? Maybe the districts in the big urban areas should do some consolidating. As for the number of counties, I agree there is no need for 105 and the number needs to be reduced. But even that has unforseen consequences. Can you imagine all the political battles that would be fought over turf and power? And how about Townships? I think that political division has outlived the purpose for which they were established a long time ago.

In Kansas I think interstate 70 had more to  do with the small towns drying up than anything else. Before I-70 there were at least six highways going East-West across Kansas: 36,24, 40,4,56,54. Even though some of them have US designations they are hardley ever used for interstate travel.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm curious how many shares Koch industries and Koch related shares Brownback might own? Or has owned.


MacHeath 1 year, 2 months ago

Consolidation of counties makes a great deal of sense too. Do that first, then do the school district thing.

I also have a problem with school administrators. Overpaid, ineffective, and most of them are as dumb as a box of hammers.


Paul R Getto 1 year, 2 months ago

We went through the war on administrators in the 1990's when the state cut taxes too much the first time. Now there is a two-fronted war on teachers and administrators. There is money to be saved, but the only big bucks is in getting rid of teachers and closing schools. This will get interesting and the rural folks may finally figure out Muscular Sam and his strange little union-busting jesus thingie are screwing them over. Doug Coe's revenge?


MacHeath 1 year, 2 months ago

"That resulted in closing many one- and two-room school houses, which had been organized as individual districts, and merging them with schools in larger communities, thus spelling the end for many small towns."

I lived in and witnessed the end of small towns.  School district consolidation had nothing to do with small towns drying up.  My father would have blamed it on graded eggs. He ran a grocery in a small community, and when graded eggs came about, it put an end to the barter system he had for cream and eggs. Folks then had to sell eggs to a dealer for money, then they went to a larger grocery in a larger town.

Now, graded eggs were more of a symptom than a cause. I will say that graded eggs had a hell of a lot more to do with it than school district consolidation.

I bet you never heard that one!


Patricia Davis 1 year, 2 months ago

I keep saying we don't need 105 counties. Glad to see someone else think it's ridiculous that we have more counties than California. Yes, schools need to consolidate. Yes we need to consolidate city-county governments. We need to eliminate overhead/redundancy so we can fund what it truly important: education, roads, clean water, a fair safety net for those in need.

I'd also suggest, let us go to a unicameral government like Nebraska or a state whose elected representatives/senators meet every two years. And what does it take to rescind the way our beloved elected officials—the ones who have it out for the working folks—get their pensions calculated.


markoo 1 year, 2 months ago

"“We specifically did not say consolidation or use that word because it has such a negative and scary connotation to everyone,”

Good grief, how old are you? How old and stupid do you think we are? Just because you decide not to use a word doesn't mean the process of consolidation won't exist in your proposals.

Really, really, stupid.


gccs14r 1 year, 2 months ago

County consolidation needs to be next. The state is roughly 200 x 400 miles, so make eight counties 100 miles square.


mikekt 1 year, 2 months ago

If you a looking for an oxymoronic terms, think about " Rural Kansas Health and Dental Care "

The money obviously goes elsewhere than into a workable, flexible healthcare system......because duplicitous counties, school boards, etc, are " where it's at "!......dogs and fire hydrants !!!

Yes, there is health and dental care available for rural Kansas residents.........if their car is good for 100 miles or more, one way......and they are not of the rural poor who can't afford the drive or destination charges ..

The state is so fractured with political subdivisions, that there is probably no real solving of rural health care issues, is.........But that is by choices..... and not an accident !

Strangely, the poorest of the poor actually live in rural areas......... and are mostly white folks......unlike the way that rural politicians often portray major cities and their visible minority populations as being $ poorest or most unproductive of folks.........whatever ?!


mikekt 1 year, 2 months ago

Of course legislators are cautious about consolidating school districts that are top heavy with administrators........local their own little poky pig back yards ! Surprise !!!

All of that talk about saving money goes out the window when the home town rural crowd is ring side to see the show ! Get your hands off my top heavy school district........that folks from elsewhere pay for !!!! Commies!!!!!

It's Commies that hate Jesus ( you know ) that want to consolidate waistfull rural school districts!!!!!!

Rediculously small rural school districts kind of go hand in hand with large individual Government rural $ handouts to farmers that the average small business doesn't get to stay afloat because helping non farmers is communism & socialism !!!!

Kansas has 105 counties and many of them lack the simple density of population to afford their own multiple school districts and their own private local administrative staffs of qualified individuals to administer a jokable number of students .

Distance is not what it used to be....I.e., far a steam engines could run without having to take on water and fuel....or a man on horse or in a wagon, could travel in a day of reasonable horsemanship.......and thusly......where the next county & county seat would be .

Today, people talk with others, on real time systems, that allow group meetings of people on line, that are at vast distances from each other.......and yet in our state, the number of pointless excessive school districts that dates back to a time of wagon trains, the poney express and the early steam engine lines, is alive and well .

And by the way, does Kansas really need 105 feed troughs ( counties ) that made sence in the day of the horse & the early steam locomotives that had to pull in for water & fuel every 10 or 15 miles ? At least 4 KS counties, are under 2,000 population . Rediculous ! Bizzar !


juma 1 year, 2 months ago

Consolidation of Districts does NOt necessarily mean closing small schools. What consolidation should do is get rid of all the overpaid District staff. Every District has an Administrator and Staff. What do they do?; not teach! Leave the small schools and teachers and use the salaries of overpaid admin.


KSManimal 1 year, 2 months ago

Yeah,...let's save money by consolidating music teachers. That way those folks could drive not just among schools in one town....but between several towns or counties. The time for this will, of course, come from the teacher's plan time; since that won't be negotiable any longer.

Then, we'll reward those who work this horrific job by cutting their free speech & assembly rights, removing due process protections, and eliminating collective bargaining so we can pay them less and get rid of those expensive health insurance premiums.

I'm sure our schools will be absolutely FLOODED with applicants for music teaching.

Gee, it's almost as if these wingnuts are TRYING to destroy public schools?

ps - Brownback is a lawyer, right? And he swore to uphold the law and the state constitution, right? And then he thumbed his nose at the courts and the constitution with his asinine state budget . He should be held in contempt of court and disbarred.


Patricia Davis 1 year, 2 months ago

Consolidation. Consolidation. Consolidation.


deec 1 year, 2 months ago

But I thought Dave what's-his-name said they weren't going to consider consolidation. Oops.


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