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Report cites financial waste among small school districts

ESSEX COUNTY - New York State is wasting money on too many small school districts.

That's the conclusion of a report by the state Commission on Property Tax Relief.

The commission has called for the mandatory consolidation of all school districts with fewer than 1,000 students.

That includes every school in the Ticonderoga area.

State Sen. Betty Little applauds the commissions intent, but expressed concern about mandatory school consolidations.

"For many years, I have been a strong advocate for sharing services and, where it makes sense, consolidation of programs and organizations to save tax dollars," said Little.

"That said, I am not a proponent of consolidating school districts on the basis that they enroll less than 1,000 pupils," she continued. "There are many factors that need to be considered and the quality of education for every student has to be at the top of the list. One concern that immediately comes to mind is transportation and the reality that in the Adirondacks some children would be on the bus for an hour or two if small districts were consolidated.

"These are decisions that require input of local communities, parents, teachers, school boards and administrators," Little said. "Where the state should be helpful is removing obstacles, giving local districts more control and flexibility and encouraging them to reach out to neighboring districts to share costs either with each other or through BOCES."

New York State has 697 school districts outside New York City with an average enrollment of 2,540 students, according to a commission report.

More than 200 districts, 28 percent, have fewer than 1,000 students.

The national average for school district enrollment is 3,400. Maryland school districts average 36,000 students; North Carolina 12,000 and Virginia 9,000.

"Smaller school districts have two basic flaws: 1) they are more expensive on a per pupil basis compared to larger districts; and 2) the educational opportunities they provide are more limited than those offered by larger districts," according to the report.

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