Writings and observations

Consolidate

The Idaho Legislature likely will adjourn this week (shouldn’t take longer to work through the remaining veto and other matters that remain), which means the question soon will be discuss: Was anything of value accomplished this year? Surely, the session has been more notable for the many ideas, a number of them worthy, rejected, than for the ideas pushed through to fruition. But that doesn’t mean the pluses were altogether absent.

Let’s point here to something of possible substantial benefit: Senate Bill 1067.

Floor sponsored by the top Senate Republican (Robert Geddes of Soda Springs) and the top House Democrat (Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum), it has to do with school district consolidation. To make the point: As in many other states, Idaho has many more school districts than it needs, and many public schools could run more efficiently (and save some bucks) with some consolidation. The bill’s statement of purpose says, “This is especially true in areas where multiple districts, in close geographic proximity, serve small student populations. In these cases, money is spent duplicating administrative functions that could otherwise be spent in the classroom.” True enough.

External attempts at persuasion or pressure usually have resulted in blowback. The current total of 114 school districts has been almost exactly static for decades.

So 1067 does this:

This legislation provides four new or expanded incentives for school district consolidation:
1. Increases the amount of state money available for school districts to conduct consolidation plans and studies, from $10,000 per study to $10,000 per school district involved.
2. Because consolidation results in the opportunity to eliminate the duplication of certain functions, this legislation makes one-time employee severance payments available to a maximum of 10% of the employees, on a willing-employer-willing-employee basis.
3. Increases the amount of state subsidies paid on any bond passed within three years after the successful consolidation election.
4. After the 7-year post-consolidation funding protection period has expired, the new district would get to keep half of the funding formula savings resulting from consolidation (the state currently receives 100% of the savings from consolidation after 7 years).

Could be a win-win. If local districts don’t pick up on it, at least there’s no loss.

Might work.

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