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CPBJ Blog Extras

Studying public school consolidation a great step

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I fulfill a lot of roles other than managing editor.

Wife. Reporter. Daughter. Colleague. Sister. Mentor. Volunteer. Dog walker. Blogger. Teacher. Mother. Taxpayer.

It’s those last two in particular that have me applauding last week’s move by York County Republicans to have an independent review done to determine whether consolidating administration of the county’s public schools is a viable option.

For eight years before I joined the Business Journal, I was an editor at one of York’s newspapers, where I read more than my fair share of stories from school board meetings.

What I noticed as I read hundreds — if not thousands (it felt like thousands) — of stories during those eight years was that the districts were dealing with many of the same issues: rising transportation costs, superintendents coming and going, pay-to-play athletics, etc.

And yet each district approached each problem as if it were on an island, with no one around to look to for support or — heaven forbid — guidance on a potential solution.

As House Majority Whip Stan Saylor and Reps. Seth Grove, Keith Gillespie, Ron Miller, Mike Regan and Will Tallman pointed out Friday, however, there are 15 public school districts in York County — and there is no reason for them not to work together and look to each other for help.

“The debate over merging school districts is not a new one,” the group said in a news release Friday. “Possible scenarios for combining schools have been argued for years.”

Indeed, they have been argued for years. And for the first time, a group with the power to do so has stepped up and organized an independent study of the idea.

I especially appreciated two comments that came with last week’s announcement:

1. “We would like to emphasize that the results will in no way affect current geographic boundaries of school districts or their athletic programs,” the news release stated. “This is purely an administrative analysis.”

Thank you for that extreme clarity. It helps avoid so many off-topic arguments.

2. “Obviously, if it increases taxes for people, then it probably ends the story right there,” Grove told staff reporter Brent Burkey on Thursday.

Again, that’s welcome clarity. But without having an independent review done, thus far all we’ve heard is wild conjecture on whether consolidation would lead to tax increases.

I find only one caveat to this study: Though the state Independent Fiscal Office can look at hard data and crunch numbers, it won’t be able to determine how such consolidation might affect students’ experiences in classrooms.

We can all look for efficiencies in our businesses, but how implementing those efficiencies will affect our customers can be difficult to judge beforehand. And in this case, with our children being the “customers” who would be affected, the mother in me is nervous that this study will show it’s a great idea on paper but the implementation in the real world could be a veritable disaster.

What do you think of the study? What do you expect the results will be?

 

Amy Gulli

Amy Gulli

Amy Gulli is the managing editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Have a question or tip for her? Email her at amy@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @amygulli. Circle Amy Gulli on .

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