Residents Say No to Dissolving Dist. 5
Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 12:29PM
Editor

By Betty Bagley

Superintendent, Anderson School District 5


     Two things were clear after Monday’s night’s Anderson County Board of Education meeting in which its $58,000 redistricting study was discussed.

     One, the study’s proposal to dissolve Anderson School District Five is a solution in search of a problem.Betty Bagley is superintendent of Anderson County School District 5

     Two, most of the more than 200 residents who attended the meeting want no part of the redistricting scheme.

      Ironically, the best argument against dissolving District Five comes directly out of the Strom Thurmond Institute study that endorses the action.

      Page 50 of the study states: “Redistricting Anderson County school districts into three districts is unlikely to achieve cost saving, according to national research.”

      The study goes on to say, “Consolidation or redistricting is not the only or even necessarily the best way to contain cost, improve outcomes, and share educational resources more equitably.”

      The study also quotes a report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation which says, “Consolidation of districts and schools is one of the most thoroughly researched aspects of education reform, with research spanning 50 years” “. . . and in many studies there is evidence that consolidation worsened financial, academic and social outcomes.”

      In addition, the study quotes researchers from the Indiana University Center for Evaluation and Education Policy as saying: “Consolidation often becomes politically unpopular, reduces local control, and negligibly impacts education outcomes. As a result, consolidation may not be the most effective strategy to help drive more money into the classroom.”

      The study’s own authors further state, “Whether it is athletic competition, academic success, or just having a place for public meetings and where neighbors encounter each other, the identification with neighborhood schools extends to neighborhood districts. One’s voice is more likely to be heard in a smaller district. A large district, headquartered at some distance, is more likely to be unresponsive.”

      After this overview of the research into redistricting, the Strom Thurmond Institute study lists the drawbacks of redrawing district lines. They are, according to the study:

      One could summarize the report’s finding this way: There is strong evidence that the proposal to dissolve District Five will not save money, and it will not improve the academic achievement of our students. There is also a likelihood that such a drastic change will result in a loss of local control of our schools, an increase in bureaucracy and a decrease in responsiveness to parents.

      Those are not the findings of District Five. Those are the findings of the study requested and paid for by the Anderson County Board of Education.

      So, why is the Board of Education still considering a plan that would dissolve our district? Because, according to some of its members, this action would help divide our county’s resources and services in a more equitable way. The fact is, however, the difficulties of redrawing and dissolving districts are completely unnecessary if our purpose is to find better ways to share resources and services.

      Several multi-district counties in our state - namely, Greenwood, Laurens and Spartanburg counties - already share a tax levy. Indeed, for many years the Anderson County Board of Education has levied a 14.7-mill tax designed to help equalize the financial support available to all five school districts.

      The sharing of services among districts is also taking place. For example:

      District Five has partnerships with Tri-County Technical College and Anderson University, as do some of the other Anderson districts. These partnerships include dual-credit courses for which students may receive both high school and college credit.

      District Five share an Adult and Community Education Center with Districts Three and Four.

      All five Anderson County Districts share an Alternative School that provides a second chance for students who have had severe disciplinary problems.

      Districts One and Two share a Career and Technology Center.

      The Anderson County Board of Education provides food purchasing and counseling services for some districts.

      The superintendents of the five county districts are meeting next week to discuss additional ways we can share services, expertise and resources. I feel certain that these areas of cooperation will grow in the months and years ahead. I am equally certain that the majority of our residents want to keep their school districts intact. That message was sent, loud and clear, on Monday night. We all hope the County Board of Education members were listening.

Article originally appeared on The Anderson Observer (http://andersonobserver.com/).
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