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Former Iowa Lt. Gov Art Neu (above) says forced school consolidation in the rural reaches of the Hawkeye State is both politically unpalatable and shortsighted where the education of kids is concerned. Neu, a Republican who is widely respected on both sides of the aisle, has been touting a plan for K-12 schools that creates larger administrative districts with some shared staff and courses but maintains high schools and distinct sports teams in small towns. Neu, a former member of the State Board of Regents, said such a plan preserves what’s best in small district while correcting deficiencies. “The small schools will have a longer life under this than they will independently,” Neu told the Yonder.

Neu is calling for the formation of a blue-riboon commission to fill in the details of such a plan, which he believes would head off a proposal from Sen. Matt McCoy (a Des Moines Democrat) to force consolidation. Under Neu’s plan rural schools would be merged into one district with a central administration with a district-wide school board. The existing districts could keep their high schools, but for upper-level science and math classes as well as foreign-language classes, students would be bused to a central location. School districts would have the authority to pay the teachers of advanced science classes, for example, premium salaries.

Instead of having to choose just one foreign language, Neu’s sharing system would allow students in smaller schools to choose (or take) both Spanish and German. Neu notes that there is an optimum size of school district for ACT test scores. Composite test scores are best in districts composed of 2,500 to 7,499 students. Districts above 1,000 have better ACT scores in math and science, though scores drop in districts over 7,500.

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