In recent years, communities along the Wasatch Front have been torn apart by the Balkanization of school districts. Some opposed to splits have called supporters elitists, while supporters of such splits claim that large districts create unfair drains to communities. Meanwhile, others advocating for school district breakups simply claim that a school district that works best works when small and nimble. Regardless of where one falls on the issue of any particular school district split, one thing is clear; the process is very messy.
Over the past few legislative cycles, attempts have been made by lawmakers to help clean up and clarify the process to provide a more even playing field for all parties involved. In particular, efforts have been focused on school district size, the collection and reporting of facts, and the process of actually getting a request on the ballot. All of these efforts, it is felt, provides the citizenry with the information it needs to make an informed decision.
Currently, the only thing that could really stop a split (or theoretically a merging) of school district boundaries is if the proposal fails to get a majority of votes from citizens in the old and new district.
Representative Craig Hall (Republican – West Valley City) wants to add another condition to school district creation – money.
With HB 93 – School District Amendments, Hall is adding the wrinkle that will make it more difficult for school districts to be split apart simply because some residents want more money to stay in a small local district, as opposed to a larger, more diverse district.
Under Hall’s proposal, a financial feasibility study must be commissioned for the proposed new school district. If the study finds that the proposed new district generates, on average over five years, revenues 5% or more above expected costs, the option to split up the district will not be presented to voters.
In short, Hall is trying to take away the profit motive for splitting up a district and trying to avoid the creation of rich districts at the expense of poorer areas.
School districts could still be split under Hall’s proposal, of course, but the claim that districts are being split to support the “have’s” at the expense of the “have-not’s” becomes harder to make with Hall’s law in place.
The plan will no doubt generate controversy, insomuch as any discussion of school district splits generate such discussions. But Hall should receive credit for approaching the issue from a different perspective that cuts to the core of education and education funding in the state.
With legislation, it is often said that perfect is the enemy of good. Hall’s bill may not be the silver bullet to fix the inequities that have bubbled up with the rapid division of school districts, but it is a step in right direction. Over time, this legislation will no doubt have to be tweaked as the practical realities of the bill become evident, but by reducing the economic impact of school splits, Hall is being proactive.
To contact Representative Hall, click here or call 801-573-1774.
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