Dick Palmer: Merging school districts get boost elsewhere

There are times when I feel like I have lost it, completely, unequivocally and without recourse. There are times when I wonder if all this effort is really worth it?...

There are times when I feel like I have lost it, completely, unequivocally and without recourse. There are times when I wonder if all this effort is really worth it?

Why would anyone in his right mind want to write this stuff week in and week out, knowing full well that most readers may agree in concept but really don't care enough about the subject or use the lame excuse that they don't have the time to get involved. That's life, of course, and it isn't going to change much in the years to come. So, I'll just press on, blinded by the reality of the times.

A couple of months back, while participating in the endorsement of local candidates at the Budgeteer, a school board hopeful confessed that when I first began, a few years back, to write about the potential gain of merging some local school districts, he said he thought I was absolutely nuts. Now, he continued, he has changed his mind and thinks such a plan could be workable. He didn't win in the election so a potential ally has been lost, but I will not retreat from my assumption about school district mergers, far-fetched or not.

While surfing the Internet the other day, I ran across a headline in the Arizona Republic, the big league daily newspaper covering most of Arizona. The front-page headline read as follows: "Lawmakers: Cut costs, merge school districts." Needless to say, such a headline immediately grabbed my attention and some interesting reading followed.

It seems the Arizona plan puts the onus on the state legislature with a plan to select a 13-member commission that would re-draw new school district boundaries. If such a plan did not materialize, the decision would go to the voters. It sounds simple enough, but, of course, such an effort would probably stir up a hornet's nest of rebellion from a number of school district operatives, regardless of the positive intent of the proposals on the table


Obviously public education, in general terms, is taking a beating these days. Up in our area, declining enrollments have created several problems for independent school districts confronted with mushrooming budgets. With a lessening student base, state educational aids are reduced as well. Thus, the money shortage is triggering local taxpayer support through special referendums to fund this or that on the educational menu. There is no end to this challenge unless someone takes a stand and suggests ways to cut costs within the system without cutting student opportunities.

The Arizona plan, similar to what I have been talking about for years, seems like a logical approach. Arizona is looking at saving millions with its consolidation plan. I suspect Minnesotans would also gain considerably by merging smaller area school districts, eliminating administrative costs from top to bottom. This could very well put more money into the classroom setting, especially in these smaller districts.

Here in this area, we have Cloquet, Wrenshall and Carlton school districts that could very well work within one administrative grouping. Proctor and Hermantown could share administrative efforts as well and still keep their individual identities intact. Duluth could be in a support role for all area districts.

In this way all area districts could share teacher talents, facilities and other educational tools. Transportation costs would certainly be a challenge to look at seriously.

I know, I'm still nuts, but I can't help but ponder the fact that educational challenges are getting more severe and the money tree can only take so much shaking before the branches fall off.

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 729-6470 or by

e-mail at .

What To Read Next
Get Local