Dear School Administrator:
Craig Wood, a professor of educational leadership at the University of Florida, provided testimony, last fall, telling the Missouri legislators that you have two choices - you can raise taxes or consolidate schools. Could the consolidation of schools become a legislative issue in Missouri?
Although MARE fully endorses the efforts of the Committee on Educational Equality, successful challenges of state funding formulas for public education in other states has shown us that it is possible to win the battle and lose the war, as legislatures act to remedy court decisions in ways that force school closures or consolidations. A most recent example was the declaration of the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2002 declaring Arkansas' system to be unconstitutional, inadequate and inequitable. The court gave the state until January 1, 2004, to adopt remedies. The legislature of Arkansas responded by approving legislation requiring every school district with 350 or fewer students to be merged with another school district by July 1, 2004. If the governor and many legislators have their way, it is possible that a second round (500 or fewer students) and possibly a third round (1,500 or fewer students) of mergers will happen. Could the consolidation of schools become a legislative issue in Missouri? According to the 2003 fall membership count, 164 Missouri school districts had enrollments of 350 or fewer students. To take it one step further, 336 of the 524 school districts in the state have 1,000 or fewer students.
Attached is the document "The Value of Small Schools in Missouri," that the Missouri Association of Rural Education is distributing to promote understanding of the true value of small schools in this state. Eight areas of particular attention will be expanded upon through the release of additional articles later this summer. We hope that your district will make these articles widely available to your community members, local civic organizations, and news outlets.
The Missouri Association of Rural Education believes by sounding the alarm now, ALL of us can become better informed in order to take action on behalf of rural children and ensure quality educational opportunities in rural Missouri. Forced closing or consolidating of small rural schools based on misinformation and outdated notions of economies of scale is unacceptable!!
Ray V. Patrick, EdD.
MARE Executive Director