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School District Restrucuring Plan Advances

By T. McDonald

Bismarck, ND – An interim legislative committee may be ready to develop a bill that would eliminate the current school district system. Tom Decker, of the Department of Public Instruction, says the committee is looking at two possible plans. One would develop 62 Administrative Districts, which would oversee several campuses with it's zone, the other would create a district center, giving neighboring districts the choice of deciding who they would attach to. He says the plans have both supporters and detractors?
"I'm really surprised and encouraged at the number of people who are saying this is overdue? that this is something the legislature needs to do, we can't do this on the local level. On the other hand you have those people who fear change, and believe their district is not in the position to probably come out of this well."
Decker says the move would allow many of the smaller districts to see increased opportunities. He says it would also make overdue changes to the school funding structure?
"If we roll 22 districts in to 62 districts ? even if we kept them on the same formula it would affect the funding formula. But this also provides us with the opportunity to rethink the formula and deal with a number of those issues that go us into a lawsuit in the middle-90's that have really not gone away."
Decker says as student populations decline from the current 105-thousand to below 90-thousand in 2007, the new system would also give the state better control on what schools need to continue to operate.