Letter to the Editor

Won't save money

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dear Editor,

I take issue with anyone who thinks closing Class I schools will save money. It won't.

District 8, a Class I outside of McCook, operated for a comparable per pupil cost to McCook, sometimes for less, had a quality program, and usually had some money left over at the end of the year.

When the schools merged last summer, McCook received a sizeable amount of cash reserves, thanks to the thriftiness of taxpayers and school supporters.

Theoretically, consolidation might save money, but if you talk to everyone who has consolidated schools, they tell you it never saved any real money.

According to research of records of the Nebraska Department of Education, today Nebraska has 339 fewer school districts than in 1999, and also 1,500 fewer students. Despite that, Nebraska employs nearly 700 more teachers and 100 more administrators.

The cost per pupil has skyrocketed. There are fewer districts but the costs are higher, and too many children are still struggling to learn to read.

District 8 school did not offer all of the programs that McCook offered but we had a good school. We built it by concentrating on academics and being thrifty with our spending.

At times we offered band. We had computer instruction and art and after-school program that supervised children until parents could pick them up around 5 p.m. after they got off work.

District 8 did what all good schools do -- helped students learn and helped teachers improve.

Despite the so-called protections for Class I schools in LB 126, enrollment at District 8 was slashed from 42 students to two students, a preposterous development that violates the trust in good government.

The grades that the school offered were reduced from K-8 to K-4, which certainly appears to go against both the letter and the intent of section 40 of LB 126.

It is amazing and depressing to us that we would even have to think about going to court with a school district over the law.

This is really important. This is not just a Class I issue. It will carry on to other schools. LB 126 has trumped the right to vote and protection under the law. What the Legislature did was wrong.

Everyone, even critics of Class I schools, should have the right to vote. That is fundamental And the worst thing is that this momentum will go on if we don't check it.

District 8 rarely if ever turned down an option student. We provided parental choices in public education. The controversy over the McCook reading program probably would be less if District 8 were still operating as it was. The school was a quality choice for some concerned parents and students with special needs.

Our opponents have spun the issue so negatively, piling criticism from a few random examples without taking a good look at them.

Let's be positive. The best thing for education is for people to work together locally to do what needs to be done. People actually do the work and get the job done. Parents' involvement in public education is a value that Nebraska has always supported, for good reason.

Vote Repeal on Referen-dum 422, and let's work to really improve education and send the ladies and gentlemen in Lincoln a message they will finally hear.

Richard A. Klein,

former president,

District 8 board

of education

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