For Good Of Students, Small Schools Need To Bite The Merger Bullet

Bret Apthorpe is absolutely correct to be frustrated with the amount of state aid the Jamestown Public Schools is projected to receive in 2018-19.

Apthorpe recently told members of the Jamestown school board that the district will see an increase in aid of about 1.37 percent compared to an inflation rate of 2.1 percent. The picture is similar in Falconer, which is projected to receive about 1.1 percent more in state aid.

If only there were a way for New York state to create an education budget that it can live with and which is equitable to children.

Oh wait, there is a way — but no one wants to hear it.

We’re talking, of course, about the need for there to be fewer small schools in New York state. A look at the feasibility study of a merger between the Clymer and Panama school districts found a first-year cost savings of $1,346,800 had the districts merged. Voters defeated the merger, but it doesn’t change the fact that there were demonstrable cost savings to be found in merging the districts.

Apthorpe and Penhollow are right to be frustrated, but the answer isn’t simply more money. New York state can’t fund schools at the level requested by advocacy groups and the state Board of Regents without bankrupting the state.

Part of the answer to this problem must be fewer school districts. Spreading the meager state aid increases proposed by the governor each year across fewer school districts would be much more helpful to students than continuing this yearly state aid charade.