A state senator from Des Moines is suggesting that school districts with fewer than 750 students be closed and be forced to merge with another, but the idea’s drawing fire from a northwest Iowa lawmaker.
Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, ridicules the idea of "rapid" school consolidation. "We might as well say not only is Iowa closed for business concerning some of the labor issues that are coming up in this legislature, we’re closed for education," Johnson says.
But Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, defends his idea. "I’m a little surprised that Senator Johnson would rise to defend big government, inefficiency and waste in the system," McCoy says, "because that is essentially what you’re doing."
McCoy says too many small Iowa school districts are unable to maintain a high school. "It’s probably time that this legislature start discussing this issue," according to McCoy.
McCoy says it is a "travesty" that students in rural Iowa are often unable to take the kind of classes as their peers in urban Iowa. "We know the system’s inefficient and yet rural Iowa is in such a funk out there and they’re so afraid of what is happening that they won’t even recognize the shift that has occurred in their communities," McCoy says. "…They’re continuing to defend a system that is inefficient, that does not provide equal opportunity to all students and does not meet the needs of a modern educational system."
But Johnson suggests the state’s biggest schools — in the Des Moines area, where McCoy lives, are doing worse rather than better than small schools. "Well, I wonder what kind of inefficiency we’re talking about here," Johnson says. "If we’re talking about Polk County, we know where graduation rates are. They’re going down the tube, but I would dare to say that in northwest Iowa our schools are at a 100 percent graduation rates."
McCoy says teachers and principals in Des Moines-area schools are working "very hard," but they cannot overcome lack of parental involvement in many cases.
McCoy promises to introduce a bill on the issue Click on the audio link below to listen to Johnson and McCoy’s comments this morning in the Iowa Senate.