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State Legislative committee looks at school unifications
Written by Greg Ruland   
Saturday, 06 August 2011 03:00

Yavapai County is well represented on a committee created under Arizona law to take another look at unification and consolidation of school districts.

The Joint Legislative Study Committee on School District Unification and Consolidation, which includes Yavapai County Superintendent Tim Carter and Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Business Manager David Snyder, met for the first time July 27 at the State Capitol to lay out the ground rules for its work going forward.

The purpose of the committee is to make recommendations about how to proceed with unification or, in the alternative, to adopt another option that will accomplish the same goals of improved student performance at reduced cost.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Business Manager David Snyder, second from front, listens to comments from members of the Joint Legislative Study Committee on School District Unification and Consolidation, which met for the first time July 27 at the State Capitol. Snyder and Yavapai County Superintendent Tim Carter are members of the committee created by the Legislature and signed into law by  Gov. Jan Brewer in March. The group’s purpose is to make  recommendations on consolidation before the next legislative session.“It’s such an honor to be asked to participate,” Snyder said. “The idea is to have recommendations ready in time for the next legislative session.”

Approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in March, House Bill 2219, the brainchild of Arizona Rep. John Fillmore [R-District 23], calls on the committee to develop legislation that sets up a regional or local process that allows school district governing boards to develop their own unification or consolidation plan.

Arizona currently evaluates public education using three district types. This makes it nearly impossible to identify common flaws and common success, Fillmore said.

The committee wants to develop a strategy for comparing administrative costs and student achievement that makes sense. Not only will this result in cost savings and better outcomes for students, it will make education more accountable and transparent, Fillmore said.

“The idea is to get as much money into the classroom as possible,” he said.

Carter told the committee he believes voters look at education in two ways: Who is making the decisions, and how much does it cost?

“They want the governance piece as close to home as they can get it,” Carter said.

As for services, efficiencies can be created through the use of intergovernmental agreements that call on districts to share costs, he said.

As head of an education services agency, Carter said listening to the needs of Yavapai County School Districts administrators is key to the success of his office.

“I’m a facilitator. I don’t tell districts what they need. I listen to what they need and try to get it for them,” Carter said, urging the committee to avoid a top-down approach to reform.

Carter asked the committee to come with a list of approved options for school districts to consider. The pros and cons of each option would be provided to help districts make their own decisions about how to proceed.

At the next meeting, yet to be scheduled, the committee will discuss various modes of consolidation and unification and identify those most likely to succeed, Arizona Sen. Rich Crandall [R-District 19] said.

Intergovernmental agreements and education services agencies will be discussed at the following meeting, Crandall said.


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