A University of Northern Iowa expert says the number of school districts in the state has been in a continuous decline for years and that will continue regardless of any action taken by state leaders. David Else, the director of the Institute for Educational Leadership at U-N-I, says the first big drop in the modern era came in the early 1950s. He says in that period one-room school houses had to be attached to a high school district, so there was a siginificant drop in districts. Then in 1985-86 we had 436 schools districts and then 10 years later we dropped to 384 districts. Today there are 367 districts. Else says the economy and the departure of people moving out of rural areas continues to put pressure on school districts. He says combining a district with another is not an easy decision. He says the evidence is there in the A-C-T scores that the schools have done an excellent job. He says in many of the smaller areas the culture is built around the schools. Else says residents of a school district have to look at one thing. He says they have to ask if they can provide the educational opportunities that the children ought to have. He says if they can do that, they should keep their schools open as long as they can. But Else says the pressure on schools to combine will continue if the budget remains tight in the state. Governor Vilsack recently came out and said the state should look at combining more schools to increase the opportunities for kids in the smallest schools. Vilsack admitted it is going to be a tough issue to address.
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