Legislators of both political parties are rejecting the Governor’s call for forced consolidation of small school districts with fewer than 100 high school students. House Democrat Leader Dick Myers of Iowa City is rebuffing Vilsack’s idea, even though he and Vilsack are in the same party. Myers says democrats are not going to support legislation that requires mandatory consolidation. He says everytime he hears that he thinks about a kid being on a bus an hour and a half one way. House Republican Leader Chuck Gipp of Decorah acknowledges getting involved in the school consolidation issue could be political suicide for some lawmakers. He says they need to talk to some of the school districts that consolidated. He says “you can’t the bitter feelings there are out there.” Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows says consolidation should be a local decision, not something the state decides. He says he’s the product of a small school and spent years on the school board. He says he’d be shocked if there would be enough votes to pass a law setting a specific number of students there has to be in a school to be viable. The director of the Iowa Department of Education has proposed a series of incentives to encourage schools to merge, and small schools with fewer than 100 students that don’t merge in three years would have to go before a state board which would force them into consolidation plans. Legislators say there’s already a big incentive in state law because starting next year, schools will no longer be guaranteed the same level of state aid they’ve been getting. That means small, shrinking schools will find it increasingly difficult to have enough money to hire teachers.
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