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Minnesota could learn lesson from its neighbor

September 21, 2012
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

In Iowa, the state Department of Education tries to instill common sense in the public school system in a critical way: It pushes together small districts so that they operate efficiently and are able to offer more services to those they serve, namely students.

We have seen the obvious success of this policy just across the border in northern Iowa, where Armstrong-Ringsted, North Kossuth and Sentral school districts now work together as North Union. Kids from the different districts are finding they are very much alike. They are making new friends. Students and their parents can appreciate the stronger academic and extracurricular offerings. Taxpayers know they are getting a better deal through consolidation of services.

Given our view on this side of the border, we have to say that the state of Minnesota could learn a thing or two from Iowa. Minnesota's smallest schools need incentives to join forces, or punishments for failing to do so.

As things stand now, several school districts in the Fairmont area have been shrinking significantly in student population. Their taxpayers are paying too much to keep these schools going. Some may be willing, but not all. And in the meanwhile, there are larger districts that can offer students more opportunities, and those larger schools would benefit greatly from an influx state aid dollars. At the very least, the smallest schools should be combining operations.

By these measures, public education in Minnesota is out of whack. Our lawmakers and state education officials should be doing more to make the system make sense.



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