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Local Lawmaker and Superintendents React to Plan for Consolidating Kansas School Districts by 53%

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Kansas education committee hears a plan to reorganize school districts and its already drawing fire from local politicians and superintendents.

     The plan by Representative John Bradford would cut the number of local school districts from the current two hundred eighty-six down to just one hundred thirty-two. Consolidation is always a controversial word but a local state senator says it should strike fear in citizens.  Why?  Because he and superintendents don't think consolidation  will stop with just  districts.

Pittsburg superintendent Destry Brown says, "I think the goal is to get to the consolidation and closing of schools."

And if that happens communities are hurt.

Galena superintendent Brian Smith says, "If you look at history small towns that have lost their schools, they are, if they haven't already died, they're dying."

A map by the Kansas School Board Association shows that about forty-five districts would not be impacted by the plan in yellow. All others will be consolidated in some way.

Sen. Jake La Turner from the 13th district in southeast Kansas asks, "How do you have proportional representation for each town?” He says,

“I don't see very much savings and I see a whole hornets nest full of problems for parents. Parents want  to be in contact with their school leaders.”

Smith agrees saying, "It creates bureaucracy and so it would be harder for parents to talk to administrators, to sit down with them, try to solve problems."

Galena, Columbus and Riverton would become part of Baxter Springs district meaning superintendent Smith could lose his job. 

The bill's sponsor says it would save one hundred seventy million dollars a year from superintendent salaries, limiting the districts to one administrative office and one car.

Brown says, “It’s seventeen  million a year statewide. Compare that to the entire state budget, that’s a drop in the bucket."

Brown's district would include all Crawford county schools: Girard, Arma, Frontenac and Southeast in Cherokee with one school board of seven people.

Brown says after talking to the state board of education, "It would put four in Pittsburg, but then you've got four other schools. There’s only three board members left so who gets left out without a voice."

The bill's sponsor contends communities could keep their school boards.

 But Brown says even then he would have forty-two bosses and five school board meetings a week.

The bill says remaining districts can't have more administrative staff than one hundred twenty percent of the largest district. Brown says that would mean downsizing from twenty-six to about eighteen or twenty countywide.

Brown says, "There would be one superintendent and a couple buildings would have to share principals. But that would also mean one principals at Pittsburg high school with nine hundred students. I don't see this plan working for anybody."

And Senator La Turner says "It's a bad bill. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it’s defeated."

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