Iowa is gearing up for that time-honored battle in rural communities — the threat of school consolidation. A Des Moines state senator (Matt McCoy) said there are millions of dollars to be saved by shrinking the number of school districts in the state from 362 to 144. McCoy has put his proposal into a bill and the fun started, according to The Des Moines Register’s Staci Hupp and Jennifer Jacobs.
“A state legislator says we can’t maintain this inefficiency anymore, and I want to know what that inefficiency is since our graduation rates in northwest Iowa are much higher than they are in Des Moines,” said Sen. David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan who took to the microphone in the Iowa Senate Tuesday morning. “Our student achievement scores are much higher than they are in Des Moines.” The reporters said that education lobbyists are staying out of the school merger fray, but today’s tight finances are forcing districts to consider mergers
In the mid-’60s, a state law forced school districts without high schools to merge. The state encouraged mergers but there have been few since the economic downturn of the early 1980s. “People are very reluctant to give up their schools,” said Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political science professor. “It means you lose your team, your community identity, everything that makes people happy to pay taxes because it’s their school that gets lost.”