Home | Features | Education | Deconsolidation not a Dead Issue

Deconsolidation not a Dead Issue

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

Board hears rebuttal

     Members of the Hope/Clark Fork Coalition for Quality Education met in Coeur d’Alene last week with a representative of the Attorney General’s office in an effort to convince the Idaho State Board of Education to allow voters in the Bonner County area to determine whether the local school district should deconsolidate.
    The official part of this process began last fall, when Coalition members asked the local board of education to develop a feasibility report on the possibility of allowing the schools in Hope and Clark Fork to become their own school district. Dave Teeter of MGT was hired for that process. Several months and $30,000 later, Teeter’s report was given to the local board and the recommendation was forwarded to the state Board of Education on splitting the school district.
    In April this year the state Board placed the request on their agenda, but decided against allowing the proposal to go to local voters, citing concerns that residents of the east end did not support local supplemental levies for education, a lack of understanding as to how deconsolidation could benefit students, and the potential that east end residents were not wealthy enough to afford public schooling—in particular, administrative salaries— without support from a larger district.
    It could have ended there but, after three and a half years of work to improve educational services for students at Hope’s elementary and Clark Fork’s junior/senior high school, the Coalition for Quality Education was unwilling to take “no” for an answer.
    “We believe deconsolidation would result in better educational services for our students out here,” explained Terry Stevens, president of the Coalition. “We also believed the state Board of Education did not have all information in hand in order to make an informed decision on this request. That’s why we appealed their decision.”
    Stevens said the group did not want this process to become “adversarial,” so the Coalition did not launch a legal appeal under Idaho Code. Instead, with the support of local Representative George Eskridge and Senator Shawn Keough, they made an informal request to the state Board to reconsider. This summer, the board agreed to appoint a hearing officer to gather testimony regarding a reconsideration of the decision.
    Kent Nelson, a deputy Idaho Attorney General, heard testimony from deconsolidation supporters and detractors at a special hearing held in Coeur d’Alene last week. He will now gather all information presented for a report to the state Board of Education, who will determine whether they wish to reconsider their decision. Nelson indicated that if they do, they will likely make their decision of whether to allow local voters to decide about deconsolidation at the same meeting.
    “There was a lot of disappointment in the community when the board refused to allow this question to go to the voters,” Stevens explained. “Even people who didn’t have an opinion one way or the other regarding deconsolidation were upset that they would not be allowed to vote on the issue. We are very pleased that the state Board has shown us the courtesy of appointing this hearing officer, and we hope that with all information in hand, they will forward this issue on to the voters of this school district.”
    The state Board has not yet agendized this issue for discussion but, should they decide in favor of the continuation of the deconsolidation process, things could move very quickly. Department officials have received a ruling from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office stating that a vote of this nature requires only a 21-day public notice before taking place.
    “I’m sure our local board would not move that quickly,” Stevens said. “We as a Coalition recognize that, if voters are allowed to determine this issue, our real work begins—getting information out to the voters on why they should support deconsolidation. Everything we’ve heard from our local board suggests they will allow plenty of time for the public to become informed about this question before they go to the polls.”
    The Coalition has gathered close to 300 signatures on a petition asking the state Board to allow voters to determine whether Hope and Clark Fork becomes its own school district. The proposal is opposed by a majority of the staff at both schools, who cited concerns with the amount of funding that would be available to a small district and its impact on local education. Deconsolidation supporters maintain that, given how public education is funded in Idaho, deconsolidation would increase the amount of money available for education in the two schools.

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (0 posted)

total: | displaying:

Post your comment

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Quote

Please enter the code you see in the image:

  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Author info

Landon Otis

Tagged as:

education, Lake Pend Oreille School District, Clark Fork, deconsolidation, Terry Stevens, Hope/Clark Fork Coalition for Quality Education

Rate this article