Senator’s plan to ‘fix’ schools would harm students

Senator's plan to 'fix' schools would harm students

by Rachel GullNews Editor

With a struggling economy and dwindling enrollments, many Iowa schools have consolidated in recent years. These consolidations are enacted by individual school districts as administrators see fit. However, an Iowa lawmaker is hoping to change that.

Iowa State Senator Matt McCoy recently proposed a plan that would force all Iowa school districts with fewer than 750 students to consolidate by 2013. Of 362 Iowa school districts, this would affect about 217.

The announcement of McCoy’s plan caused an uproar across the state. As I scrolled through the list of affected schools, I saw my high school, every school in our 1-A conference and several nearby “big” schools that have already been consolidated.

Seeing this list, I felt a surge of loyalty. No state senator is going to close my school! I don’t care that enrollment has dropped dramatically since I graduated and the school has 298 students between preschool and 12th grade. It doesn’t matter that programs are being cut, teachers are losing their jobs and the school will probably close its doors within the next five years. All that I care about is some stupid senator trying to force us into it!

Senator McCoy argues that consolidating schools will even out the state’s educational spending, providing each student with a better education. Especially when dealing with the economic crisis, McCoy feels that a restructuring of the state’s educational system is necessary and I agree with him to an extent.

Restructuring and even funding for Iowa’s schools could be very beneficial to our educational system. Good teachers would be encouraged to stay in the state and teach at smaller schools. Kids would benefit from increased extracurricular programs. Also, in some cases, the only way for a school to survive is through consolidation.

For instance, my high school has been struggling for years, and if it doesn’t consolidate with another school soon, it will cease to exist. There are lots of nearby schools to go to if this happens, but if the school goes, our tiny town will go with it. Our town has a gas station, a post office, a bar and a bank. None of these businesses could survive without the support of our entire rural community. Consolidating with another school will be necessary to the entire community. However, not all of the schools on McCoy’s list need a consolidation.

The Clayton Ridge school district consolidated Guttenberg and Garnavillo Community Schools in 2004. The district currently has 669 students from six nearby towns. Clayton Ridge has finally settled into its consolidation, but McCoy’s plan would require it to consolidate with yet another school. The closest school district is about 45 minutes away, and bussing Clayton Ridge students ten miles already takes that long. In this situation, trying to consolidate could only harm the students.

Senator McCoy’s plan for the Iowa Educational System was well meant, but it is impossible to apply a statewide law when school districts have such varied needs. Instead of forcing consolidations on schools of a certain size, Iowa lawmakers should allow schools to make the decision to consolidate on their own. Iowa schools seem to be doing pretty well at it already.