The Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would force consolidation of small school districts. I am against this plan. Bigger is not better for kids trying to learn. Bigger districts mean longer bus rides and more out of pocket expenses for Kansas families. I think this move will ruin our small rural communities because it will spell the end of our smaller schools.
The community where I lived went through a consolidation a number of years ago. At that time, it was agreed that both towns would maintain an elementary school, and the high school and middle school would be divided between the two towns. However, not long before my kids were of school age, our town’s elementary school was closed after a fierce battle. No one anticipated that event at the initial consolidation, but it happened. And my kids got to experience a bus ride for the better part of an hour as kindergarteners and primary school kids, while the closed school the could have walked to sat empty a couple of blocks away.
My point is, when these plans are proposed, there are always hidden costs that no one considers. And as long as it isn’t my kid that is affected, why not do it? Well, that is short sighted. Here is the e-mail I sent to my legislator:
Dear Rep. Concannon,
I am strongly opposed to the bill under consideration for the forced consolidation of school districts. I realize that the present argument says that schools won’t close, only districts will merge for a reduction in administrative costs. I believe if districts consolidate, it will only be a matter of time before closing the smaller schools is a reality. This plan gives too much power to larger population centers over smaller communities. Once our schools are gone, our communities will have no future.
We are now in a digital age where it is possible to live and work from anywhere. It is now possible to reverse the trend of everyone moving away from small towns to seek better opportunities. We are seeing this in Clyde, with young families returning from bigger cities to raise kids. I myself returned to Kansas for the purpose of living a small town rural lifestyle. I could have stayed in California and worked in the technology industry. Instead, I moved back home in hopes of raising my family here.
Consolidation will destroy the very fabric of what makes Kansas Kansas, our small towns and rural communities, just when new possibilities exist. You look at any town that has lost its school, and you will see a town that is dead or dying. Don’t do this to Kansas. Find another way. If saving administrative costs is the goal, I’m sure this can be done without merging school districts. Neighboring districts can possibly share a superintendent. Incentivize these kinds of resource-sharing collaborations, but don’t wreck our schools with this myopic consolidation plan.
We are counting on you.
William E. Genereux, Ph.D.