Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Big Trouble for Small Schools

from the desk of Kim Preston and John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs, kimp@cfra.org or johnc@cfra.org

An analysis of the proposed changes to Nebraska’s school finance and school structure shows that many Nebraska rural schools could suffer from imposition of a “small by choice” factor. Although research has consistently shown that smaller schools have some advantages over larger schools. The Nebraska Legislature is ignoring these virtues.

The Center for Rural Affairs’ recently released analysis of policies adopted and proposed by the Legislature, Big Trouble for Small Schools,focuses on schools with an enrollment of 390 students or fewer - the very schools that will be targeted for consolidation through decreased funding if state legislation introduced in 2005 is enacted.

The report provides grim insight into how 2005 legislation and legislative proposals for the 2006 Legislature are putting our state and our rural communities on a path of extensive school consolidation through deprivation of much needed state funds. The full report can be obtained by contacting the Center or at www.cfra.org/resources/issue_brief_BigTroubleV.htm.

State K-12 policy in the past two legislative sessions shows a consistent policy direction for schools to maintain an enrollment of at least 390 students. Ultimately, the “carrot and stick” combination of state policies that punish schools with fewer than 390 students and provide incentives for merging districts may leave many rural schools in a financial corner with no alternative but to succumb to consolidation.

This is not progress. Weakening many rural communities and, in many cases, weakening public education, just for the sake of attaining an arbitrary and capricious minimum school size is irresponsible. We can do better than this.

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