Great Bend Superintendent Brad Reed said a proposal in the Kansas Legislature to consolidate more school districts would not save money but could hurt the quality of education in some districts. USD 428 representatives’ recent trip to Topeka was discussed at Thursday’s mid-month school board meeting.
School consolidation began in the 1960s, when Kansas had over 1,000 school districts. Now there are 286.
“The reason consolidation took place in the ’60s was to improve instruction,” Reed said. “Now they want to save money and be efficient. I assure you, there’s no efficiency out there in consolidation.”
Under the proposal, Barton County would have one school district instead of three (counting Great Bend, Ellinwood and Hoisington, the districts located entirely within the county). In theory, there could be two fewer superintendents and two fewer directors of finance. But Reed said a larger administrative staff would be needed to handle the work.
Under the scenario, the three school districts would all be replaced by one new district, with a single school board. New teacher contracts and new board policies would have to be drawn up. “You’d have to start from scratch to rebuilding everything,” Reed said.
Any bonded indebtedness, however, would stay in the community that created it.
“I don’t think this will pass,” Reed concluded. K-12 recommendations from the Alvarez and Marsal Kansas State Efficiency Study are a greater concern. The 105 recommendations would supposedly save $2 billion. Most of the savings would come in two areas: reducing cash balances and creating a mandatory state health insurance pool for school districts.
“The two ideas they say will generate most of their savings are red herrings,” he said. “There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how things work.” Local school districts are already operating as efficiently as possible – and showing good results in teaching children, he said.
Lunch at Eisenhower
Thursday’s meeting was held at Eisenhower Elementary School, where students were celebrating the 125th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s birth, as well as their building’s 62nd anniversary. This was a noon luncheon meeting, and the placemats were decorated with Ike-inspired art assembled by Linda Bayse’s kindergartners.
Each board member received a replica Eisenhower campaign button and a specialty cupcake from Sweets & Eats in Larned in appreciation for all they do.
In action items, the board accepted the resignations of Malia Divilbiss, teacher of vocal music at Great Bend Middle School, and Great Bend High School football coach and PE teacher Tony Crough.
The board also accepted a $2,500 grant from Monsanto Corporation for Lincoln Elementary School.