Kansas School Districts could face changes with proposed bill

Recently proposed Kansas House Bill 2504, proposed by John Bradford, R-Lansing, includes a plan that would consolidate school districts into single, county-wide district in less-populated counties.

1-31 School Boards

Counties with fewer than 10,000 students would be required to have just one district under the proposed bill, while those with more than 10,000 students in the county could not have districts with fewer than 1,500 students enrolled.

If passed, more than 80 percent of Kansas school districts would be realigned, with only about 50 remaining untouched, according to a study by the Kansas Association of School Boards. The same study showed the change would decrease the number of school districts from about 286 to 132, while increasing the average number of students per school district from 1,719 to 3,724.

USD 234 Superintendent Bob Beckham said already he has heard people around town talking about the proposition, and said he thinks the consolidation would create issues instead of solve problems.

“I have looked at that bill and I think that there are so many unanswered questions that the legislature hasn’t even considered,” Beckham said, saying he thinks those unknowns may prevent it from being passed.

If the bill passed, Fort Scott and Uniontown school districts would be consolidated. While Beckham said he understands the students will attend classes at the same buildings with the same teachers, the school boards would have to be reorganized into a central governing entity.

“I can’t even imagine what kind of impact it would have,” Beckham said.

Bradford is quoted in other news sources as saying $170 million could be saved by the changes over 10 years, and few changes would be made at the school level other than combining school boards and creating a central administration, leading to an increase in efficiency.

The House Education Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 3. The complete bill can be found at the following link: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/measures/documents/hb2504_00_0000.pdf.

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