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Timing is right

April 29, 2014 - Linda Lobeck
I’ve always said that our local schools are all good and provide a wonderful education to our young people. I said that when my own sons were in school and believe it still today.

But with that being said, it’s hard to see so many school districts locally and throughout the U.P. suffering from financial woes. Your financial situation is directly impacted by how many students you have in your district. That number is then multiplied by how much state aid is given that year for each student.

It’s a simple formula and one that’s going to make or break a school district today. There are no deep fund balances lying around anywhere. If there were, schools would not have to go to the voters for bond proposals and sinking funds.

There are only so many people and children living in Dickinson County. And we can see the big disparity in the number of students coming in at the kindergarten level compared to the class sizes that are graduating right now. It’s a reality — class sizes are getting smaller and unless there is a big baby boom, that’s what the future holds.

We live in an area thankfully that has a variety of successful industries to employ the people living here. In March, Dickinson County had the lowest unemployment rate in the U.P. at 8.1 percent. And this county is typically one of the three lowest in the U.P. each month. Despite going through rough times, businesses are holding their own.

Most recently, the question of supporting the idea of one county-wide school district was put out there for people to mull. A poll was also put on The Daily News website asking people whether or not they would support it. The most recent results from our poll were 61 percent yes, 30 percent no and 9 percent not sure. Even though this isn’t a scientific poll, the results are surprising. When I first came to the area 30 years ago, there was some talk of having one school in the area. But circumstances were vastly different then and many people were against it. At that time, school districts had larger student populations, more aid came from the state and decent fund balances were available to get them through any difficult times. In addition, many of the school buildings were in good shape or had recently been built and technology was just beginning to take off. But circumstances in the four county schools have changed drastically since that time. Most recently a group of concerned citizens have brought up the idea of conducting an opinion survey in each district to find out really where people are at concerning consolidation. I think we are at a place right now where that makes sense. Let’s find out what people think about one county-wide school system. The timing is right.


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