Tuesday, October 07, 2008

School consolidation looms in Ariz., other states

This November, voters in 76 Arizona school districts will decide whether to consolidate, and many rural residents worry that merging districts will have negative consequences for rural students and community identity.

Supporters of consolidation say "combining districts can put more money toward instruction by reducing administrative costs," Greg Lindsay writes in The Arizona Republic. They claim that fear of change is the primary motivation behind opposition to the plan. "These school districts have been around for 100-plus years," says Jay Blanchard, a member of the School District Redistricting Commission and an Arizona State University professor of psychology in education. "Most generations have an allegiance to their school district, an allegiance to their sports teams, an allegiance to their schools." (Read more)

Rural opponents to consolidation say that, while they fear district consolidation will lead to school consolidation, their opposition goes beyond the typical argument that schools are a unifying forces and gathering places for rural communities. "We're not afraid of change. We want the best for our kids," Olivia Rodriguez, whose grandchildren are the third generation attending the elementary school in Stanfield, population 650.

The Rural School and Community Trust, which is hosting a webinar on school consolidation on Oct. 22, says other states are also adopting orconsidering consolidation programs. The trust says merging districts results in longer bus rides, higher dropout rates, increased anonymity, lower extra-curricular participation and increased costs from areas such as transportation. (Read more)

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