Monday, May 19, 2008

Merging School Districts

I'm aware of three very interesting, very heated debates around schools in Western PA. I'm sure there are many others, but the three I am aware of are; the merger of the Monaca and Center School Districts, the construction (or not) of a new Mt. Lebanon High School and the destruction (or not) of Schenley High School. The press on these issues highlight several things that make doing ANYTHING in school districts hard:
  • There will always be VOCAL people who think the schools cost too much and that cost savings should be focused on.
  • There will always be VOCAL people who think that every advantage (no matter how irrational) should be given to their children.

There are also at least a few things that show how difficult it would be to do even a partial consolidation of school districts in association with the City/County merger.

  • These stories show there are at least three very different kinds of districts in Allegheny County (there are probably more like 5 or 6 that I can think of off the top of my head).
  • Even merging two small, similar school districts is proving very difficult. Regardless of how much sense it seems to make.
  • High School is not a level playing field (see previous post), and people paying to live in the Mt. Lebanon's of Allegheny County have no interest in leveling it.
  • Many of the schools in Allegheny County are old and in disrepair, even the ones of "nicer" school districts.

At the end of the day, I think (and I believe its a widely held opinion) that trying to include schools in any city/county merger would make it a sure failure as a referendum. So for now let's focus on the things that are win/win (trash collection, snow removal, supply purchasing, etc...) and then we can see where we are in 10 or 20 years when it comes to schools.

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