I have followed the discourse on House Bill 2504 and found that the loudest mouths are from the ones who have the least interest in the consequences, except saving money short-term for their pet projects. I have lived close to the school activities for 75 years and feel I have an unique perspective on the subject.
First, closing schools to save money is a no-brainer. You might save some pocket change, yet end up burning your wallet because of your actions. Without exception, I have seen that there are two requirements for a small town to survive: a public school and a grocery store. Every time you “save” money by closing the school, you end up losing money when the grocery store closes. There are at least a dozen examples of this just in Barton County.
Secondly, the education that a student receives in the small schools is a bargain. The teachers often work for less pay that in the big schools, because of the absence of unions that increase the pay and create many “make work” activities. The striving to excel causes many students to go far beyond the normal curriculum which teaches them to work without a roadmap and makes them more apt to do well when they are out on their own. Large schools channel such effort into organized sports, which does not provide the insights in life after college.
My personal experience is typical. I wanted to become the world’s finest fighter pilot (I had never touched an airplane at this time). I graduated from Bazine High School in 1953 and enrolled in Fort Hays Kansas State College. I had good grade averages, because of the encouragement of the teachers in my classes. In 1955, 7,400 young men applied for the first class at the new Air Force Academy. I was one of the 306 that were accepted, and one of the 207 that graduated in 1959. I did become a fighter pilot and did well, until being a loving father and good husband took priority over making holes in the sky.
I have lived in Claflin for the past 20 years. I served on the School Board for ten years as we consolidated Claflin, Holyrood, Bushton, and Wilson into one district. We were able to keep schools open in each town, so the result was beneficial for everyone. For the past 13 years, I have spent Wednesdays in our elementary helping the second graders and special ed. kids with reading. I have seen the teachers repeatedly dig in their own pockets to buy supplies when there are not school funds for them. That would never happen in a large school.
So, I know what is best for our kids. Can we get some of our smarter citizens who spend too much time in front of the TV to volunteer to help? They would be amazed at the innate wisdom of these students who will be our future leaders.