Before Wyoming State legislators pass HB77, we sincerely hope they have done all of their homework.

HB77 is the bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) that would reduce the number of school districts in the state from 48 districts to 24 or less.

Wyoming’s Legislative Services Office says consolidation would save the state about $8.1 million, a tiny portion of what the state spends on educating K-12 students.

We hope the legislators proceed cautiously. 

The consolidation the legislators are considering in the bill is not really consolidation in the true sense, but only consolidation of administrations.

In other words, it’s saving money by getting rid of a few school superintendents.

The real benefits of consolidation, monetarily and otherwise, would come from real consolidation, consolidating not only administration, but buildings and everything else associated with the change.

Consolidation definitely has both benefits and disadvantages, but they are nebulous. Monetary savings through efficiency of administration is just one of the reasons to consolidate.

Larger schools mean those districts will be able to provide more opportunities for extra-curricular activities, including additional sports programs and other activities such as orchestra, which are not available to students in smaller schools.

Consolidation can also allow school districts to provide training in technical areas not available in many smaller schools.

Not every student will be attending a university and a top-notch technical training program can provide students a means to a good living.

Many larger school districts throughout the U.S. and some in the area are providing training in computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).

Students coming out of those high school programs are on track to land excellent paying jobs.

Consolidation of school districts is not necessarily a bad idea. Saving only $8.1 million by eliminating some superintendents will only save money. It is not a step towards making K-12 education in the state more efficient and productive.

 

(1) comment

Scott Weber

Consolidation has been used since the 1970's to save money for all shareholders, but it is a painful process given that the small town school element is lost, classes are bigger, buildings close, local athletic fields lost, some lose their jobs and bye-bye to your previous school name and identity.

And remember this: If a school merges into another school, the teachers will be on the higher salary schedule and any higher school taxes will be paid by the merging schools' shareholders.

Some school districts fight like a bearcat to avoid consolidation. And in most cases they should.

Consolidation occurs more readily when school districts are close together like what you see in the East. Wyoming is hindered in terms of consolidation by distance and to some extent weather.

Consolidation could work, for instance, with Cody/Powell/Meeteetsee, but not with, say, Cody and Thermopolis. There is a limit as to how long an 8-year old can be on a bus. Not four hours for sure and maybe not even two. Six is out of the question.

So far the discussions I've heard from lawmakers are "supers are making too much money". I do not agree. Any top CEO of 400 workers makes at least $150,000 plus benefits - just like our supers.

I had the pleasure of working with one of the top superintendents of Wyoming and of the country (he received state and national top awards) and I can tell you he worked until ten most nights, through the weekends and we had to insist that he take a vacation!

Running even a medium-sized district or 2000 students and 400 workers is a 24/7 job. So the lawmakers barking up the tree of cutting supers is wrong headed.

However, that's where the perceived $8.1 million "savings" comes from. It would be quite a chore for there to be one super in Cody/Powell/Meeteetsee. He or she would be hustling and doing quite a bit of driving!

Schools can easily get along with the temporary downturn with cutting and reserves, however mass consolidation and new taxes are NOT the answer.

Welcome to the discussion.

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