Is it time for the North Country’s really small school districts to vanish?

Tomorrow during the 8 O’clock Hour, I’ll talk in-depth with Cynthia Ford-Johnston, the innovative school superintendent of Keene Central School in the Adirondacks.

With just 160 students in the entire district, this is the kind of hyper-small school that many education experts say is unaffordable in an age of budget austerity.

As a warm-up to that conversation, I want to repost a blog essay first written back in February.  The basic question remains the same:  Is it time for more tweaking and minor course corrections in North Country education?

Or is it time for a big re-think?  Check this out, comment below, and listen for Ford-Johnston’s thoughts tomorrow during the 8 O’Clock Hour.

Original Post:

In his state of the budget address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo went hard and fast at school superintendents, making a joke of their salaries.

“I understand that they sometimes have to manage budgets, and sometimes the budgets are difficult,” he said. “But why they get paid more than the governor of the state I really don’t understand.”

Cuomo also questioned the existence of roughly two hundred small school districts in New York state, with total enrollments under 1,000 students.

It turns out, about a fifth of those tiny school districts targeted by the governor are located right here in the North Country.  A quick survey of the AATV’s APRAP survey shows that we have roughly 40 districts with enrollment under a thousand.

Another 6-10 district have enrollments hovering right around that 1,000-student thresh-hold.  What’s more, at least seven of our region’s school districts have fewer than 100 students.

In a 2008 audit, the state Comptroller singled out the Piseco district, in Hamilton County, which has fewer than 30 students, pre-K through 6th grade.

According to the report, the superintendent in that district (who also has a secretary) makes up one eighth of the entire full time staff.

The question Gov. Cuomo is raising is whether that kind of overhead — with each district operating its own bus fleet, its own accounting department, employing its own superintendent and support staff, etc. — is sustainable.

In at least some cases, think the answer is probably no.

Here in the North Country, widespread consolidations will be made very difficult by geography.  But my sense is that in most cases the fiercest resistance to district mergers is cultural.  Put bluntly, communities love their schools.

That’s understandable.  But I think it’s time to look long and hard at making a serious and fairly fundamental transition.

Studying a map of the region’s school districts (on page 104 of this PDF), it’s hard to understand why more communities can’t follow the model established by “big” regional districts such as Saranac Lake and North Adirondack Central School Districts.

Those two districts have managed to consolidate huge geographic areas fairly smoothly into big districts, clawing their way above 1,000 students.  They also provide their communities with a great educational experience.

It seems reasonable to think that a lot of the North Country’s tiny disticts could do the same. Let me point to one example.

I’d like to see a study that shows how it might work if Elizabethtown-Lewis, Keene, Moriah, Westport, and Willsboro were consolidated into one entity, with separate elementary schools and one big central high school in Elizabethtown.

Taken together, that would mean a total of 1,800 students, and would save those communities millions of dollars a year in separate management costs.

That money could be plowed back into hiring teachers, building better arts programs, improving sports opportunities, and trimming property taxes.

(Other districts that look ripe for possible partnerships include Tupper Lake and Long Lake, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, Crown Point and Ticonderoga, as well as Minerva and Newcomb.)

St. Lawrence County is taking the lead on this kind of “big think.”

According to the Watertown Daily Times, districts there are exploring the possibility of consolidating the entire county (along with one school district in Lewis County) into three big regional high schools.

Understandably, some North Country school superintendents are pushing back against the idea that their salaries — and their sheer numbers — are part of the problem.

But with enrollments dropping, and budgets tighter and tighter, I’m guessing that those districts that move forward on this will be the ones that have the best outcomes.

I don’t want to minimize the pain that this kind of thing causes, and I don’t raise this topic lightly.

I’ve been to football games in Moriah, and I’ve taken part in career day at Keene.  I know how much those communities cherish the culture and traditions of their schools.

I’ve watched the dismay in communities from Lake Clear to Raquette Lake when their schools have closed.  But I still think the governor was right to put this squarely on the table.

So what do you think?  Is it time for a big shake-up, or can our tiny districts hold on simply by tightening their belts one more time?

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52 Responses to “Is it time for the North Country’s really small school districts to vanish?”

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  1. tootightmike says:

    My kids went to the Knox school in Russell years ago. The school was near the center of town and was the main focal point of social activity in that small community. When the district consolidated with Edwards, creating the Edwards-Knox school district, a lovely new school was build along the road between the two villages. The people in the district love their new school and it’s great facilities, and that much is good. Unfortunately, it’s not so good for the village of Russell
    The corner store is gone, the cafe is gone, the garage is gone, and the lovely old school has become a construction equipment storage yard. The village relies on a quickie-mart to provide some semblance of civilized life.
    There is no heart in the village, and no commerce, and the greatest aspiration is to get a winning lottery number. If it weren’t for the bridge, no one would even drive through Russell.
    Little town need their schools sometimes to make them real.

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  2. Peter Hahn says:

    The two central issues are money and the quality of the education. These little districts (including the “giant” Saranac Lake district) have much higher cost/pupil rates than the larger ones. If the cost per pupil can be brought down without compromising education by combining administrations that should be done as soon as possible. The alternative cost control – firing teachers – might save money, but it would reduce the quality of education. Breaking teacher unions is not practical even if it were desirable.

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  3. Jim Bullard says:

    When it was centralized I went from a one room school (6-8 students in all eight grades) to a school over 20 miles away with 4-5 classes of 30 in each grade. It was not a good experience for a variety of reasons. While small local schools are great, they have their shortcomings in terms of preparing children for the larger world. While large central schools provide much broader opportunity, trucking small children hours each day is destructive to them and the small communities they live in.

    Why not have small local schools K-4, moderately larger 5-8 and large central schools only for 9-12? I know that would mean more buildings to maintain but there are ways to economize. For example we could relax some of the requirements. I did not suffer badly from walking a mile and a half to school. If anything it was a good substitute for the PE classes we didn’t have. How about having music and art teachers travel rather than the students? Same for PE teachers. And by all means have regional administration. Not to mention that some (a lot?) of state mandates for equipping schools are ridiculous.

    Schools and their administration should be organized around the needs of the students and their communities rather than trucking students for many miles to fulfill some ideal of what a school system should look like.

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  4. Mervel says:

    The districts should be given an option to pay for a smaller school if that is what they desire for their community. A set per-student rate could be established. The tiny districts with huge costs per pupil would be required to make up that difference locally.

    Outside of that I think consolidating into one district for example in SLC would make sense. You could do it as Jim mentioned above by keeping the elementary and even the middle schools in the communities. The high schools could be consolidated into the larger villages and the administrative functions would all be consolidated. I would also consolidate the special education and many athletics.

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  5. Peter Hahn says:

    the idea should be to at first consolidate the school districts – school boards first, then superintendents. The need for closing schools et cetera – the part the effects the students is totally independent, but might follow naturally. The Lake Clear school was closed because it was too expensive, but if there were a Lake Clear school district, obviously, the school would still be open. But those taxpayers would be paying a lot more – since they would have to be paying for a whole layer of administration on top of the higher cost/per pupil for just the instruction part.

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  6. Consolidation of small, rural schools in areas with poverty, and that is us, does not work. It does not save money in the long run, students do not do as well academically. Lastly, once you consolidate, your identity of your own town is gone. Although consolidation works in others geographic areas it does not fit well here. If it’s down to consolidate or close, I am sure there are people around who would do the superintendent’s job for less money. Do not let yourself get railroaded into consolidating without knowing, researching, the facts.

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  7. Walker says:

    I think we’re on the right track here, consolidating administration but not necessarily schools. But I think we need to recognize that we’re having this discussion in the middle of the biggest recession since the Great Depression, and that, unlike that event, business profits are rapidly bouncing back, especially in New York City, from whence cometh most state revenue. (And it would be generating even more of our revenue if we had a Democrat for a Governor. Oh, wait…)

    And the other thing to consider is that this whole anti-tax, anti-deficit fervor has been stirred up by conservative billionaires (Koch, Murdock et al.), as part of a movement that has intentionally created the deficit problem as part of their “drown government in the bathtub” program. There are some hopeful signs that the citizenry is beginning to shake off their brainwashing– Glenn Beck’s decline, the Wisconsin backlash, etc.

    So sure, let’s look for ways to save money. But let’s not strip education to the bone to solve what just might turn out to be a temporary problem.

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  8. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    As I stated in another thread, it’s the formula that needs reform. And that formula is indeed confusing and complicated. But to witness and hear firsthand from a very high level education administrator in our area the shear incompetence and laziness with which our local elected state officials have drawn attention to this issue and failed miserably to get behind reform, makes me downright angry. Addie Russell, to her credit, is the only state official screaming bloody murder about the very unfair formula. Blakenbush, Griffo, and Richie had been asleep at the wheel from day one. They’ve been hearing about this problem from local superintendents, district board members, BOCES personnel for weeks going on months. Sadly, all they’ve done is repeat what most everyone already agree with, that we need overall cuts. What they fail to grasp, or fear to address with their party superiors, is the formula issue. Get with it, Joe, Ken, Patti…….

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  9. SBarrick says:

    Only if it is not cost-effective to keep the district running…. Sharing of some services might be considered in small areas.

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  10. BRFVolpe says:

    The structure to enable small school districts to boost the quality and breadth of their programs was created back in the ’50s: Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. Schools shared speech therapists, driver ed and agriculture teachers, school psychologists and physical therapists – who traveled between schools. Then vocational centers were built, and heavy equipment, nurse’s aide, child care, and computer graphics courses were offered to students – who were bussed. Seems like this concept could help today with the creative potential of technology. BOCES was created to give small schools the latitude to be creative with limited resources. Shared business managers, transportation, purchasing is a common practice for small districts through BOCES. Provincialism works against this, when local districts “know” they can do it better themselves.

    If a businesses in Rochester can conference with their offices in San Paolo, and Singapore, and families can Skype with relatives in Belfast, can’t eight year olds in tiny schools in the North Country to get a quality education without riding on a school bus for 4 hours a day? I know so…. the technology is here for a teacher (I know), to be in their own home in CNY, to teach English to third graders in Korea. Why not in the North Country?

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  11. Pete Klein says:

    This is an issue created by our elected officials in state government who don’t give a hoot for our schools, our children or us.
    You see the same problem with health care.
    We must bring down the cost, they say.
    They say they care about our pocketbooks.
    They say a lot of things. Mostly what they say is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”
    But they lie. They care about themselves and all their rich friends and donors.
    Most of their kids go to private schools and they really don’t like helping to pay for kids going to public schools.
    Here in the North Country, local public schools are and always have been the only option.
    If they get their way and consolidate our schools out of existence, they will drive everyone with school age children out of the Adirondacks.
    Is that their goal?
    But if they drive the children and their parents out of the Adirondacks, just who do they think will remain to staff the volunteer ambulance and fire departments. How many critical jobs in town, county, state and in private sector will go begging.
    We fought the Civil War because there were some rich people who didn’t want to give up their slaves. They needed them to stay rich. Now the rich want us all to be their slaves. The slaveholders said they loved their slaves and just wanted to keep the system going to protect their beloved slaves.
    It’s happening again. They just want to protect us from ourselves.

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  12. A large part of the problem in resolving these issues is a failure to recognize that a lot of things government does are not measurable in the economic terms that are used to measure efficiency and success in business. If it were large scale centralization would be a viable solution but a purely financial analysis leaves out the human factor. Education, libraries, health care, etc. are first and foremost “human services”. Yes, the money is a factor but looking only at the bottom line ignores the reason they exist.

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  13. scratchy says:

    “So sure, let’s look for ways to save money. But let’s not strip education to the bone to solve what just might turn out to be a temporary problem.”

    I don’t think anyone is proposing that we “strip education to the bone.” I think that given we spend more per pupil than other state, we should be able to find some efficiencies. Districts with less than 100 students should look at ways of consolidating with other districts, as should some districts with less than 1000 students. Having a teacher teach classes of 4 or 5 students is not financially viable.

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  14. Mervel says:

    If citizens in tiny school districts want to pay the cost with higher property taxes than they currently pay I would say that they should be given the option of doing so. If this really is a key to small village identity then the village residents should be willing to pay the cost of maintaining that identity.

    We have had many discussions about who should pay what for our services, I can’t think of a more local issue than educating our families children and maintaining the life of a particular village; thus I for one would be willing to pay more to keep my school system. What I would not want is to have that choice taken from me, just to be told from outside that we must consolidate. The choice should be given to the school districts. But we cannot expect the taxpayers of outside of our districts to subsidize 100 person school districts, I mean people downstate would kill to get a teacher student ratio that low, and many of the extremely wealthy DO pay to go to elite private schools that offer that small school experience.

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  15. Peter Hahn says:

    Mervel – If people want to pay a huge premium in some district where everyone is ok with that just for tiny classes, thats great. But… most people are complaining bitterly about paying too much in school taxes and then claiming that they want to pay teachers a lot less.

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  16. CRAZY HORSE 2 says:

    First I would like to know Brian Mann’s backgroung. Second I made note that he suggested any saving by consolidation be dumped back into the system, WHAT about returning those saving to the people that pay them in the first place?
    I think consolidateing administrative duties and keeping the local town schools should be looked at. No one wants to send their young children of on one of the yellow buses for a trip in hazardous winter conditions, or for that matter even when conditions on the road are good! Move slowley, look for alternate savings, possibly by illiminating NYS mandates that I feel should be left to the discrestion of the Local School Boards who are closest to the real needs of the community!

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  17. tootightmike says:

    Let’s remember, that the single largest, and fastest rising cost to our school districts….is health insurance. NOT health care…that would be done by doctors and nurses, but INSURANCE, carried out by huge companies, paying huge salaries to their CEO’s. This money leaves our communities forever, enriching the already over-wealthy who do their darnedest to keep our state and national government in line. Until we reign in the ever escalating cost of keeping the rich fed, we will not have reasonable control of the cost of education.

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  18. scratchy says:

    A recent NYT article provides an interesting analysis of various education mandates.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/nyregion/new-york-school-districts-challenge-state-mandates.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

    tootightmike,

    I am aware that the administrative costs of private health care are much higher than single payer systems. The rising cost of health insurance, however, is not being driven by increased administrative costs. Rather, the increasing cost of actually delivering health care (more expensive treatments, drugs, operations, etc.) and an older, sicker population are increasing costs. In some school districts, the amount of employee and/or contributions to health care is arguably too low and was set back in 1970s when health insurance was much cheaper, relative to both total compensation and inflation.

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  19. Mervel says:

    Peter,

    Many are complaining I agree, but not all. People given the choice of losing their school may agree to pay more, maybe not, but the choice should be the local school districts.I think many won’t do it, but some will.

    On the other side it is on the face of it relatively nuts that you would have an entire school district with 100 kids, k-12. I mean not even the most remote western school districts do that. My cousins live in western South Dakota, they choose to live and ranch there, it is MUCH less populated than say Hamilton County. They have two choices bus their kids 50 miles or home school, they choose to home school until high school then they board in town. Those are the choices that rural people around the country make.

    We cannot expect the taxpayers of NYS to subsidize us to keep 100 child school districts.

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  20. Mcculley says:

    Give every student $10,000 and choice and watch education quality grow and local economy’s thrive.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx4pN-aiofw

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  21. Walker says:

    Yeah, right, Mcculley, let the genius of the marketplace solve the problem. Look how well it works for medical care! We have the highest cost medical care in the world, but mediocre results.

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  22. Peter Hahn says:

    Mcculley – there are lots of very well known very serious problems with that approach.

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  23. Bret4207 says:

    Walker, to backtrack just a little to your ludicrous statement- ” And the other thing to consider is that this whole anti-tax, anti-deficit fervor has been stirred up by conservative billionaires (Koch, Murdock et al.), as part of a movement that has intentionally created the deficit problem as part of their “drown government in the bathtub” program….”

    Hogwash! Your claim then is that obscene deficits, sky high taxes and a declining economy are somehow something to aim for?!! No sir. The whole anti tax/deficit thing has been stirred up by everyday people with the character to shake the scales from their eyes and see that burdening our children with unsustainable debt is criminal!

    You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re much, much smarter than that.

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  24. Bret4207 says:

    As far as our schools go, we need to cut costs while improving educational results. My solution would be to gut the administration, do away with a lot of mandates and consider some non-traditional answers like school in summer (lower power and busing costs), shorter school weeks with longer school days, eliminate sports and other costly inter mural events. Pay the teachers based on results, stand up to the UNION.

    I doubt it’ll ever happen. This will just be another money pit with declining results for increased costs.

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  25. Pete Klein says:

    If the governor and other elected officials want to control health care costs, they should start by paying for their own health insurance and pensions.
    If you want to talk consolidation, let’s start by consolidating all the branches of the military into one branch.
    While we are at it, let’s consolidate all the law enforcement agencies.
    And why or why are we constantly being asked to protect the almost tax free status of the rich and their supper reach corporations?
    Do people really dream they will win millions in the lottery and vote to protect the millions they will never win?

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  26. Peter Hahn says:

    Bret re:hogwash and ludicrous statement “drown government in the bathtub”. You are correct (I believe). I think the actual phrase they used was “starve the beast”. But I do remember “drown the government in the bathtub” used by them for something similar.

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  27. Big Al says:

    If I could draw a political cartoon, I would draw Cuomo putting a headlock on a Beaver that was passing out. Cuomo would be grimacing and yelling, “Say consolidate! SAY CONSOLIDATE!

    Here at Beaver River, it seems that our officials are orchestrating the conditions to force a consolidation. Our aid has been cut so much that our school board is looking to make drastic lay-offs to every department. Hardest hit will be our much beloved programs, the arts, technology, agriculture and potentially sports. Without those programs, that we are well known for, families are not likely to flock to our school. So, we will be thrust into a nose dive that will get exponentially steeper, till we are forced to merge with a larger district when our enrollment and tax base gets too small to survive.

    Not coincidentally, our district might get some of the aid it needs if the latest census data were used to determine our eligibility as a “high needs” district. Currently we are not considered “high needs”. Come walk around Croghan and Beaver Falls and tell me if we should be “high needs”. The politicians would have to propose this idea in Albany and vote on it, however. Guess where all their voters are? Not here…

    Beaver River isn’t asking for more than our share. We just want our FAIR share.

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  28. Peter Hahn says:

    Brian M – I just listened to your interview with the Keene superintendent. Her point seems to be that there would not be any cost savings for her tax-payers, and there might be a big loss in education quality. All true – but thats a small wealthy district where the residents are happy with paying lots for a great education. But she said they could take a couple of hundred kids without really increasing costs which means they have lots of excess capacity which means there are potential cost savings for the region as a whole, just not for Keene.

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  29. oa says:

    “First I would like to know Brian Mann’s backgroung.”
    Second, I would like to know if CRAZY HORSE 2 has spell check.
    And Bret, calm down a bit while I Google something for you, re:
    “drown government in the bathtub” program….”
    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/grovernorq182534.html
    PS–Grover Norquist is a big-money-backed conservative and executive’s son from Harvard, not an everyday person.

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  30. john says:

    A few facts:
    some of the biggest impediments to school consolidation have been:
    - Geography. St. LAwrence County has a population density of about 6 people per square mile. MAny of these, “small” school districts cover many, many square miles to achieve the attendance that they have.
    -State law allows elementary age children to be bussed for up to 30 minutes each way, per day … high school is allowed up to 60 minutes each way, per day. HAve you ever driven from star lake to Colton or Cranberry Lake toEdwards-Knox? Hammond to Ogdensburg or Heuvelton?
    - Consolidation requires BOTH districts to agree by referendum to consolidate.
    - Dissolution- One district can agree to absorb another district, if that other district has a referendum and approved dissolving. The absorbing district must take over all of the debt and properties of the dissolved district.
    - If efficiency means regional high schools, how efficient will it be to build 200 million dollars worth of new facilities to accomplish that goal?
    - HAs anyone followed what happened recently when CApe Vincent tried to consolidate a small elementary school within it’s OWN district? Ain’t gonna happen! Now try and convince two communities that they will lose their teams, their colors, their history, their community center, their local activities for the greater good of New York State by merging two districts into one.

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  31. hermit thrush says:

    oh bret, there’s so much misunderstanding and misinformation in your 9:06 comment that it’s hard to know what to object to and what to let pass. but i think i’ll just go with this: “sky-high taxes” is a total, total myth. the u.s. is a low-tax country, and federal tax receipts in particular are at historic lows (specifically, last year was something like a 60-year low). but no, the taxed-enough-already partiers assure us that taxes are unbearable and unsustainable! and there’s nothing anyone can say that will convince them otherwise.

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  32. scratchy says:

    john says,
    “Geography. St. LAwrence County has a population density of about 6 people per square mile.”

    You realize how small that is? According to the census, it’s 41.8.

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  33. Walker says:

    Bret, I’ll just add that, yes, the deficit is not something we should be proud of. But what exploded it was Bush II’s tax cuts for the wealthy (and Regan’s cuts before that) combined with excessive military spending, compounded by the effects of the Bush Bubble.

    And bad as the deficit presently is, it is not as great a threat to the national economy as the Republicans are making it out to be. They very intentionally ran up the deficit just so that they could say, “Oh, the deficit, we’d better cut social spending right away!” Of course, that was before the Bush Great Recession cut receipts even further.

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  34. Mervel says:

    The answer is not consolidating random willing districts in SLC here and there, which is very hard as shown above. The answer is one school district for the entire county with individual schools in each community. It would be great for staff as they could then transfer easily between schools, there would be more opportunity for growth and you could consolidate high cost areas such as special Education and expensive sports and of course you could massively consolidate administration.

    We have many states in the US that are far more rural than the North Country, how do they handle this issue? This would be a starting point. I would doubt they start with the concept of paying someone 100K to manage a 100 person school “district”. It is ludicrous on its face to say that an entire school district would only include 100 kids. For most public schools in the US this would be one class of 7th graders and a small class of 7th graders at that.

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  35. Tightwad says:

    One has to appreciate Mervel’s comment at 4:22 as a well reasoned and sensible alternative to the current top heavy, self serving (administratively) system we currently have.

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  36. Pete Klein says:

    Last comment here.
    NO and again NO it is not time for our little schools to vanish!
    With all the Tea Party junk and the horrible attempt to recreate the Confederate States to now win over the Union, the question might better be: “Is it now time for the poor, the middle class, the young and the elderly to VANISH and stop bothering those who want their pre-Civil War country back?”

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  37. Jim McCulley says:

    Walker, health care cost are driven by by non market forces. Such as insurance and government intervention. Health care is the poster child for free market look at lasik eye surgery it is the only medical procedure that is coming down in cost. Why? Because it is not covered by insurance.

    Peter, look at New Zealand went from 27th in the world for education to 7th in 10 years after allowing school choice. If we can keep the micro mangers out of it, choice will work well. The current system is a complete failure and making parents become involved is whats best for their children, I think is our only hope.

    It is also interesting that children who are home schooled do far superior on standardize testing. They also seem to mature in a much healthier manner, sense their self esteem is not torn down by peers through out their formative years. Also in studies home school children are happier than their peers that went to public schools. This is one reason I am a bit skeptical about combining schools and allowing more students to be influenced by destructive peer pressure.

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  38. Walker says:

    Jim, I would be careful where you’re getting your data from on home schooling’s “far superior” test results– I suspect you’re looking at cherry-picked results. From Wikipedia:

    “Although there are some studies that show that homeschooled students can do well on standardized tests, some of these studies compare voluntary homeschool testing with mandatory public-school testing. Homeschooled students in the United States are not subject to the testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Some U.S. states require mandatory testing for homeschooled students, but others do not. Some states that require testing allow homeschooling parents to choose which test to use. An exception are the SAT and ACT tests, where homeschooled and formally schooled students alike are self-selecting; homeschoolers averaged higher scores on college entrance tests in South Carolina. When testing is not required, students taking the tests are self-selected, which biases any statistical results. Other test scores (numbers from 1999 data in a year 2000 article) showed mixed results, for example showing higher levels for homeschoolers in English (homeschooled 23.4 vs national average 20.5) and reading (homeschooled 24.4 vs national average 21.4) on the ACT, but mixed scores in math (homeschooled 20.4 vs national average 20.7 on ACT, although SAT math section was above average 535 homeschooled compared to 511 for national average of 1999)”

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeschooling

    They go on to point out that “home educators expend only an average of $500–$600,” far less than public schools cost, without mentioning the lost wages of the stay-at-home parent.

    I’m sure that some parents do a great job. I’m also sure that some do not. I suspect, though, that if we “gave every student $10,000 and choice” the results overall would be disappointing. There must be some red states doing something like this already, though, no?

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  39. Jim McCulley says:

    Walker, go to the chart at this link. As near as I can tell every country that is above the USA in education. Has some type of voucher/school choice how much longer are we going to deny what we are doing now is an expensive failure?

    http://4brevard.com/choice/international-test-scores.htm

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  40. Walker says:

    Jim, I think that the very positive reports you’re referring to are covered at the end of that Wikipedia article. It all sounds fine.

    But I would worry about all of the children of parents whose own education has left them unprepared to educate anyone’s children. You could say, fine, send them to public schools (and you have to hope that the parents _realize_ that they aren’t equipped to home school their kids). But that would leave the public schools to deal exclusively with the children of poorly educated parents– it’s a short steep slope from there to a multi-tiered educational system in which children of the poor are dumped into schools that no one cares about.

    Is this the best that the United States can do to educate its citizens?

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  41. Jim McCulley says:

    Walker, you telling me that if a capable group of say 4 teachers took on 15 kids each. That the number they want in their class room size according to the NEA. That $600,000 split between the 4 of them would not be enough for a good education? They could easily rent a place and they would shop for their own health care and retirement and each pocket $90,000 per year easily. They would want return business for the following year so they would also do a great job. Imagine a place like Lake Placid 10-15 of these micro schools producing and excellent education and private sector spin-off jobs. While giving the taxpayer back 2/3 of their tax dollars.

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  42. Walker says:

    Jim, it’s a huge leap to go from “every country that is above the USA in education has some type of voucher/school choice” to an assumption that voucher/choice is the reason that they are ahead of the US.

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  43. Walker says:

    Jim, you make it all sound so easy. Let’s see it work somewhere, statewide, without leaving a whole lot of students behind.

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  44. Walker says:

    The four teachers/sixty students micro-school sounds great IF you assume that everything is going to go perfectly.

    What I immediately imagine is that all those $600,000 pots are going to cause some slick operator to set up something called EduSolutions, Inc., that would create these micro-schools at a nice profit, immediately pulling 45% off the top, to pay their CEO a nice salary, cover their legal and insurance costs, and especially to fund their slick marketing campaign. The teachers would, naturally, be paid as little as possible. If the results are terrible, and the parents pull their kids out in droves, no problem, declare bankruptcy, move on to another state under another name, keep the thing rolling.

    That, of course, is what happens IF they do such a poor job that the parents realize what’s going on. A lot of them would do a good enough job that no one would know just how poor it was until years later.

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  45. Sue Montgomery Corey says:

    I am a graduate of the first freshman class at Northern Adirondack Central School My dad taught there (after having taught at a small community school). My sister still teaches there. These days, I am the Supervisor of the Town of Minerva which has a wonderful small rural school which has worked hard to share services and programs with other small rural schools. The school is not just a place where we send our kids to study. It is the heart of our community. It is important to recognize that closing small rural schools will have a devastating impact on small rural communities. When I compare the quality of the education that I received at the big regional high school and the education that my kids received at the small rural high school, I’d have to say that both of our children were better served by being students at Minerva Central School. As someone who has lived both in a community served by a small rural school and one that is part of a consolidated school district, I’d have to say that the quality of life is stronger in a community when there is an active, engaged and local pubic school. Bigger isn’t always better.

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  46. Jim McCulley says:

    Walker, its also a huge denial to not admit they maybe on to something. Also yes their will be groups that try to skim money from the system to line their own pockets. Right now it’s called teachers unions, the only thing different under my plan is teachers and parents will have a choice in who gets their money. Also their would still be standardize testing done by the state to gage where your children are compared to others. You would need this to provide incentives for teachers to teach.

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  47. Walker says:

    OK, so where’s it working on a scale large enough to prove that it’s not going to leave some students much worse off than they are now?

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  48. Mervel says:

    We have choice now in many respects.

    We have the choice to move to better school districts, less costly school districts or better performing districts. We also have the choice to pay for private school although that is a very limited choice in the North Country with only a couple of alternatives. We also have the choice to home school either within the family or in groups of families.

    Finally we have the choice to pay more local property taxes to support our small schools.

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  49. Bret4207 says:

    OA- I don’t know or care about the “bathtub” comment, that wasn’t what I was talking about. I’m talking about the Tea Party type organizations that have been harping on taxes and spending for years. The charge that this is all something dreamed up by billionaires is simply untrue.

    HT- Our taxes are SKY HIGH! As our dollars value shrinks it takes more dollars to purchase items, and that leaves us with less to pay our taxes with. Our taxes may be low compared to some countries, but they are higher than needed and hut us. The only people who seem to think taxes are not high enough already are those receiving some benefit from the taxes, ie- the takers of the world.

    Walker- the problem is SPENDING. And it wasn’t just Reagan and Bush that caused the deficit, at least try and be honest about it. This goes back decades and is a simple problem of the Federal Gov’t operating in ways and in areas it shouldn’t be. To charge that only the Republican side of the House and Senate created this mess and only Republican Presidents signed it into law is factually dishonest, that is- you’re lying.

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  50. Bret4207 says:

    I take back the “You’re lying” comment, that’s too harsh. I’ll modify it to “You aren’t telling the whole story”.

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