Wednesday, August 24, 2005


On the surface, getting rid of all those tiny schools in rural Nebraska makes sense. The idea is to cut down on administrative costs and nonclassroom spending by conglomerating as many kids as possible into fewer, larger districts. Then we could pay teachers more, because there would be a bigger tax base behind them and larger class sizes per teacher to justify the added salary.

But that’s just how it looks on paper. In the heart and now in the mind, too, thanks to a Class I schools defender who is also a good writer, it is clear that it would be a mistake.

George Lauby of Lexington wrote an op-ed published Monday that made many good points in support of the petition drive to repeal LB 126, the consolidation bill, but here was the best one:

The Legislature passed LB 126 to consolidate Class I school districts into the town schools mainly on the claim that it would streamline administration. But that has already happened to the max: in the 1960s, the Nebraska Department of Education was overseeing 2,000 Class I school districts. Today, there are 200, Lauby wrote. That’s only one-tenth as much to oversee, and heaven knows the NDE staff has grown since then. So the claim’s a red herring. But we knew that.

Lauby made some other good points, notably the huge loss of local control and the un-American specter of wiping out 200 elected school boards in one fell swoop, against their wishes. Here’s another key factor:

The academic achievement of the kids and spending levels of the grown-ups are just fine in Class I schools, meeting or exceeding state standards and averages. Problems with achievement or spending would be the only legitimate reasons to consolidate. Since they aren’t there, it’s clear that this is simply a power play that is not child-focused and family-focused . . . but bureaucracy-focused and, frankly, union-focused.

Lauby didn’t say so, but it’s a pretty good bet that the union is behind the Class I assassination in order to get the basis up for teacher pay statewide. Teachers in tiny country schools do a bang-up job for lots less than their urban counterparts. Why? It’s not because they’re worth less. It’s because a lot of the budget authority in the Class I schools has been transferred to the corresponding town schools, so the Class I school boards simply don’t have the money to pay. Also, obviously, the cost of living is much less in a rural area, so you don’t have to pay a high salary to be fair to a teacher.

The union hates this, so it works through legislators, whose political campaigns the union has helped fund, to kill the Class I schools so that union members can get their hands on more dough – whether or not that’s what’s best for children and their families.

You think this isn’t real, real important to the union? It’s back to school time. Go to the Nebraska State Education Association website and see what their lead item is. Not anything to do with starting the school year off right, improving academics, making teachers better, improving relations between school and home . . . but just take a guess:

Gov. Heinemann and GOP gubernatorial candidate Dave Nabity have both signed the petition in defense of country schools. That’s admirable. Efforts are going on feverishly to come up with signatures of 10% of the electorate in order to get the bill repealed. Let’s hope they prevail.

Lauby is a Class 1 board member in Dawson County and regional coordinator of Nebraskans for Local Schools,
www.nebraskansforlocalschools.org Also see www.class-1s-united.org, run very ably by Marilyn Meerkatz.

Right On!

I know for a fact the teacher's union is for LB 126. However, teachers from the Class I schools for the most part are against LB 126. They know that they don't make as much money as those from the town schools, but they prefer to work at the Class I's and get less pay. They like the smaller classes and students that are more well behaved. (One substitute teacher told me that she would not sub at the town school because the kids were so out of control.)

The town's schools have definitely tried to sway teachers away from Class I schools. We have several from our school that have been offered jobs in town. However, they have all turned down the offers. They prefer the Class I school.

The town school sees how well the kids at the Class I's are doing. That don't like the fact the students from Class I's go to their high school and do better than those that attended town school in elementary. It makes them look bad and they resent it.

Some of the reason our students do better is because of our teachers. But the main reason is because of smaller class size and parent involvement.
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