Schools For Quality Education (SQE) is an organization comprised of over 100 rural school districts throughout the State of Kansas. SQE was formed with the five following purposes:
- to provide quality educational opportunities for all children of Kansas
- to oppose further Kansas unified school district consolidation without the approval of the patrons involved
- to pursue the quality of excellence in education
- to give identity, voice, and exposure to the particular quality of rural schools
- to enhance the quality of life unique in the rural community
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For Immediate Release Contact: SQE Communications
Thursday, February 4, 2016 (785) 925-6139
Coalition of rural school districts lead effort against ‘forced’ school consolidation bill
(Palco school board member tells Legislature decision should be left to local patrons)
(TOPEKA) — Rural school patrons, school board members, and administrators packed a House committee meeting this week to oppose what they perceive as forced consolidation of rural school districts dictated by Topeka.
At issue is House Bill 2504, which would require 98 of Kansas’ 105 counties to have only one unified school district. The seven most populous counties in the state would be allowed to have multiple districts as long as each has more than 1,500 students. The bill would force the consolidation of over half the school districts in Kansas without the consideration by school district patrons.
Tom Benoit, a board member of Palco Unified School District 269, and member of Schools for Quality Education, a coalition of rural school districts, told the committee that consolidation of school districts, when appropriate, should be the decision of the local patrons of those districts.
“The greater issue here is, quite simply, that of ‘local control’, Benoit said. “It should go without saying that the control of local schools by the communities who’s students are enrolled in those schools is a time-honored Kansas virtue. These decisions are best left to local patrons and not based upon a hasty and ill-conceived plan or decision from Topeka.”
Over 40 school board members, community leaders, economic development officials and patrons testified in opposition to the bill. Many told the committee that school districts are already implementing efficiencies, through decisions by their local school boards, by sharing services and consolidating administrative functions.
The bill’s author, Rep, John Bradford, R-Lansing, tried to defend the bill by saying it would not close schools, affect teachers, sell school buses, change school district boundaries, kill any school mascots, affect any students or football teams and wouldn’t increase the time students ride school buses.
However, Benoit drew applause from the citizens in the audience when he declared that Rep. Bradford was wrong and that every one of the effects he listed would become reality under the bill.
“The interest of students should always come first no matter what the size of the school,” Benoit said.