Tuesday, April 28, 2009
State Senator John Wozniak says he will introduce legislation to create a commission to study the possibility of consolidating the state’s 500 school districts. The commission will eventually make recommendations on how to improve the finances and educational outcomes of Pennsylvania schools. The commission will include; The PA Secretary of Education, the Chair of the State Board of Education, the minority and majority chairs of the PA House and Senate Education Committees, members of all 4 caucuses, a teacher, a parent, a school board member, a school administrator and a business owner. The commission will hold 10 hearings to gather information about possible cost savings and educations improvements associated with consolidation. The commission will then draft recommendations. Those recommendations would then be made public and subjected to another series of 10 hearings. Wozniak says this is not about all of the emotional issues associated with school consolidation such as school names, sports rivalries and mixing of neighborhoods. He says the commission will only look at money and education issues. Wozniak says he thinks he can get the bill passed in the House and Senate but he knows it will be a much harder sell to get the commission’s recommendations passed. He says, “Many people say they want government to act more like a business, until government acts like a business.” The senator says this review and recommendation process will take about 2 years to complete. When asked, “why start something like this when the current governor will be gone before the final vote is cast?” he answers, “it should have been done 25 years ago and if it is not done now it will be another 25 years before it is discussed again.” The last time there was substantial changes made to the state’s system of school districts was in the 1960’s. In his budget address the Governor called for the state to consolidate from 500 to 100 districts.