Group Lobbies for Laws to Divide School Districts

Group Lobbies for Laws to Divide School Districts

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A citizens group is lobbying for a law that would make it easier to split larger schools districts into smaller, more city-specific districts.

A group of West Valley residents and some city leaders have expressed interest in separating from Granite School District to form a new district for the city.

School districts are now allowed to split, but the request to do so must come either from the school board or through a lengthy resident petition process.

The two options leave little room to actually split a district such as Granite with its roughly 69,000 students, resident Laura Pinnock said.

The current law also does not guarantee any share of assets with a startup district, leaving the new entity facing costs of new buildings, buses and materials, she said.

"It comes down to representation," Pinnock said. "You'll have more local control of your schools."

Rep. David Cox, R-Lehi, who was invited to speak to group members and who for years has pushed for legislation to make splits easier, said he is considering a number of options this session.

One possibility could be legislation capping a district at 30,000 students. Once a district reaches that level, the district would have to be split.

That threshold is three times higher than his ideal size of a district -- 10,000 students -- but he's willing to compromise.

Cox, who teaches at Alpine's Sego Lily Elementary, said reducing district size would translate to smaller schools and smaller classrooms.

He said it would also stop what he called the trend of closing "decent schools and opening mega schools."

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, told the group last Thursday not to get their hopes too high for the upcoming session.

There are still a lot of unknowns about splitting districts that make district administrators and teachers nervous, Moss said, including how to reassign teaching jobs and redistribute a district's bond funds.

"There is not an easy fix," Moss said. "I don't think it can be done this session. It takes time to inform people, to allay their fears."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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