Letter to the Editor: A Look at the Recent School Consolidation Proposal by Roy Dieck
By Roy Dieck
To the Editor,
Justification for consolidation is based on only a few factors, even though many different arguments surface, many are not relevant to consolidation.
Only three things should be considered in deciding the next move: money, academics, and a long-range plan. In the interest of space, I will only comment of the first – money.
To begin, if your interest is only in the money, don’t believe most of what you hear and read. We hire “consultants” that are sales people. They sell referendums. Their job is to tell school districts “the sky is falling.” We should be dead broke by this time if their forecasts were true. There are so many unknowns from year to year, it is impossible to make these kinds of projections with any amount of accuracy.
This is the same forecast that has been made for many years. Sometimes the electorate has agreed to referendums for capital or operating funds, and sometimes not.
The enrollment has dropped from a top of 4,200 students in the 1970s to the present of just over 2,000. Considering there was no four-year old program and kindergarten was just beginning, the decrease would be over 50%. Since cost controls were installed in 1993, we are told we have made about $12 million in cuts. Cuts in the budget are something that should be expected, as enrollment is the driving force behind our size. We spend about $14,000 per student in our current budget. If there were no cuts, we would be spending about $20,000 per student. That is why cuts can be expected.
Problems arise because of some major inequities in the way we manage our money. Our system of budgeting and accounting leaves much to be desired. Any budgeting system is only as good as its ability to enlighten the decision makers, namely the school board and of course, in turn, the electorate. The budget report of 2016-17 contains a forecast of a savings of $430,000 by closing Mattoon Elementary. Without proper analysis, that is believed to be untrue.
The closing of small schools carries with it heavy loss, a loss that cannot be measured in money. We must ask ourselves if what we lose by closing small schools is worth the loss if we consider only money.
Next time: What We Lost by Closing the Neighborhood Schools.
Roy W. Dieck
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