Sunday, April 16, 2006


Many of you may have heard or read about the idea being bantered around about allowing Florida's largest school districts into smaller systems with a minimum of 25,000 students each. Currently, Florida law mandates one public school district for each county, although the Polk County town of Lake Wales has basically circumvented that in forming it's own charter school district contracted with the Polk school system.

Supporters of the idea claim it will give parents more of a voice in their children's education, as a large school district makes them feel alienated, and allieviate concerns that some neighbourhood schools do not receive the funding or quality of staffing received elsewhere in the county.

Those on the other side of the argument say that multiple school districts will mean multiple administrative staffs and the high salaries that come with them, taking funds that could be used on student services. And there are concerns as to how the multiple districts would look like, affecting racial and ethical numbers which would lead to possible litigation.

Maybe we should take a look at the current situation in Omaha, Nebraska.

Last week the unicamaral (one house) Legislature passed a bill which would break up Omaha's school district into three systems, and the measure was signed by Republican Governor Dave Heineman, who released a statement.

In the Omaha scenario, the issues seem to be primarily racial. It's nearly 46,000 students are 46 percent white, 31 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, and three percent Asian or Native American. The most noted concerns are that schools with predominately minority students often lack the resources and quality teachers found elsewhere within the system.

State Senator Ernie Chambers, the unicamaral body's only black member and a longtime critic of the Omaha district, supported the proposal. His argument was that the OPS was already segregated, as the district ended the practice of busing to achieve intergration and requires students to attend their neighbourhood schools. Chambers also said that the black students in his North Omaha legislative district would be better served if minorities had more control over their schools.

The arguments seem to have won over his collegues, who passed the proposal three times last week before winning final passage on the last day of the 60 day session.

Although the law does not take effect for two years, there will undoubtably be litigation in the opinion of Attorney General Jon Bruning, who believes the plan violates the constitutional mandate of equal protection. However, one idea is that all parties will now have time to come together and work out a comprimise to address concerns and allow the legislature to repeal their measure before it is scheduled to take effect.

Could this scenario take place here in Florida is the idea of breaking up it's larger countywide school districts become reality? IMHO, is almost a guarantee, especially in Miami-Dade or Hillsborough. It is something deserving of consideration and discussion.


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