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School efficiency task force chairman says panel has broached sensitive topic of district consolidation

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A task force appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback to make school spending more efficient has broached the politically explosive topic of consolidating school districts, the panel's chairman said Tuesday.

"There really is no way to have a conversation about this without that coming up, however, so we are talking about it," Ken Willard told the Legislative Educational Planning Committee. Willard, of Hutchinson, said he understood that emotions run high around the subject of consolidation, and added that the task force was "not going to go there" when it delivers a report to legislators by the time the 2013 legislative session starts in January.

There are 286 school districts in Kansas and Willard said the question is whether that is an efficient "model for delivering education."

But Willard noted that Brownback has made it clear that he doesn't favor the state forcing consolidation.

State Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, said the only way to save money when consolidating school districts is to shut down schools, and that, she added, has a devastating impact on communities. "When you close buildings, you close the town," she said.

Willard said the task force was looking at several other items, such as the salaries of school superintendents. "Many are paid more than the governor is," he said.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Trabert and Brownback are promoting Kansas BIG GOVERNMENT and a high dollar voucher system that funnels tons of public education dollars into corporate schools. Again this is money laundering of the highest order.

It has nothing to do with a better education or fiscal responsibility. Conservatives are on record as poor business mangers and big time reckless spenders as supply side economics provides.

There was nothing wrong with the public education system until conservatives came along and began cutting budgets and painting the system as evil. These corporate "evil minded" politicians see trillions of public school tax dollars that will make more of the 1% wealthier,shareholders happier and owners of the K-12 virtual curriculum even wealthier beyond belief.

The Walton's of Wal-Mart fame and fortune were pushing this nonsense through their personal contact with GW,the Bush family which owns software directly connected to K-12 and Reagan/Bush protege Bill Bennett among the original founders of K-12.

There is no way the voucher corporate school concept will or can provide a better education than the public school system. There is a lot of unfounded rhetoric. We must remember the most reliable source of fraud against government tax dollars is still some in corporate America.

Bill Gates is a public school graduate. The current CEO of Ford is a public school graduate. A lot of our local mayors and other politicians are public school graduates. Tons and tons of successful farmers, business people,doctors and scientists are public school graduates.

So how in the hell can public education be evil?

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Larry Sturm 1 year, 5 months ago

You already have science not being taught in schools by cutting revenue and having fewer teachers to teach bigger classes and the children fall through the cracks. consolidating schools is not the answer.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

I thought topeka republicans were against government telling communities how run their business?

And against Big Government interference?

These are the kinds of people who could run a business in the ground. Behind their rhetoric is Vouchers. A money laundering tool that funnels loads of public school tax dollars to private industry.

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Patricia Davis 1 year, 5 months ago

Yes, it is time to consolidate schools. Yes, it is time to reduce redundancy in college programs. Yes, it is time to reduce to the number of counties in Kansas~we have more counties than California. Yes, some small Kansas towns will cease to exist. Most of the people in these small towns voted republican. Yet most will be surprised to find their way of life is not economically viable and we need to job the dollars going down the drain. Republicans want smaller government. Prove it.

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lawslady 1 year, 5 months ago

While I am all for effiencies and being accountable, one of the problems is that success in this arena cannot be measured by simply using an accountant's cost, expense and return rubric. There are intangibles that are gained, but cannot be put on a ledger, from having a school nearby or attending a school (nearby or far away). That is one of the major flaws with having business men (alone) trying to figure out how to run schools. The problem with a lot of the new ideas is that they are not new. Just as with a teenager who thinks their ideas are BRAND NEW AND OMG HOW SMART AM I AND WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE ELSE SEE HOW OBVIOUS THE ANSWERS ARE, so too do many newbies to any field (like lawmakers) think they have it all figured out. Only to realize (we hope) down the road that most things have already been done or tried, and failed in the past. We are where we are now because of the past, and that includes a lot of evolution. I am all for figuring out better ways to do things, as times and needs change. However, going too fast and throwing the baby out with the bath water is how we end up repeating history. People don't want facts. They want their way and they want it now. And we all suffer when our policy makers fail to consider all the facts and history, before making draconian changes.

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gccs14r 1 year, 5 months ago

Consolidate counties (to 12 or so), consolidate school districts to match counties (more or less), and drop all local school boards and let the state Board of Education (made up of PhDs in Education) set curriculum statewide.

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Matthew Herbert 1 year, 5 months ago

A committee focusing on making things more efficient. That's ironic.

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Bob_Keeshan 1 year, 5 months ago

Good. They should start with Johnson County.

65% of Kansans support the concept because they think it only will apply to the sparsely populated areas. So the majority of voters, who live in the high population areas, support consolidating districts.

Low population areas are not the issue. The high population areas could much more easily be handled by a single district.

But you won't get that analysis from Koch errand boy up there. The Kochs hate small towns and small communities. They want their 80% GOP votes, but other than that they can go to hell.

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Dave Trabert 1 year, 5 months ago

The data disproves Jean Schodorf's comment about closing schools being the only way to reduce costs. Her comment is a scare tactic, not a fact.

Significant efficiencies can be achieved by consolidating administrative and other outside-the-classroom functions like transportation, food service and maintenance. The services need to be provided but the savings comes from eliminating unnecessary and overlapping bureaucracy.

Our recent public opinion poll showed that 65% of Kansans support this concept and only 28% are opposed. Details at www.KansasPolicy.org (top right section of the page, with links to more information and the full questionnaire.)

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Tracy Rogers 1 year, 5 months ago

Consolidation of schools needs to happen in the east. Most of the counties in the west already have just one school.

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oldbaldguy 1 year, 5 months ago

close these schools and the little towns around them die.

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Gary Denning 1 year, 5 months ago

Schodorf is accurate in her statement about closing buildings to save money rather than just consolidation. The real money is gained by closing attendance centers. Yeah, you could consolidate the schools into one district and maybe save money on a superintendent salary (let's say $90,000). But chances are the supe at a smaller district is also the principal of one of the schools, along with director of food service, transportation, curriculum, etc, etc. you would save the $90,000 but replace that person with a $70,000 principal.

Closing buildings saves money because you can take advantage of economies of scale at the new school. Instead of 50 teachers leading classes averaging 12 students each you would have 30 teachers leading classes averaging 20 students. 20 teachers equals a mil. That is REAL money.

I think one of the best examples of an area where money could be saves is Rice County. It has parts or all of the Lyons, Moundridge, Little River and some other school districts. All the students could fairly easily attend school in Lyons. But if you close the other schools, what happens to Moundridge and Little River? Do they cease to exist?

Willard's statement about superintendents' salaries is kind of a red herring. Those salaries are reasonable when considering the expertise needed and the scope of the job. Any CEO of a business with a mult- million dollar budget and thousands of employees would command a similar salary. The cost of supes is simply a matter of supply and demand.

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