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Surveying voters was the first step

July 31, 2014 - Linda Lobeck
Some interesting information was gained from the survey conducted by the Dickinson County Citizens Committee on the idea of a county-wide school consolidation as well as the consolidation of two local school districts — Iron Mountain and Breitung Township.

I’ll have to admit that with everything I’ve heard about from people in the past 30 years, the results were surprising. Iron Mountain residents surveyed were more in favor of the idea (61 to 34 percent) and the Breitung Township residents were slightly more in favor than against it (51 to 44 percent).

And I must agree with committee member Bill Verrette that just conducting a survey about county-wide consolidation was ‘historic’ for Dickinson County.

I had expected some of the reasons why people would be in favor of consolidation to be directly related to the lack of school funding going on in Michigan for all districts. And the opportunities for students to have more class offerings and chances at college credit were also on top reason for people interested in this idea. That is encouraging -- it's so important to give students the best opportunities they can get in high school to prepare them for the future.

Although information had been presented about school debt and the fact that it remains in the school district unless voted on to change it, a lot of people were still confused. From people on both sides of the street, that was a concern. No one wants to inherit the debt of another district.

Michigan law talks about consolidation as a process to merge two or more existing districts into a new district. A formal request must be made to the state Board of Education by voters in each district or the local boards of education. If the state board approves the request, the question of establishing a consolidated school district is submitted to the voters.

To consolidate, approval must be by a majority of the voters in each district. If that happens, the intermediate school board is required to appoint members to the new board and at this point, the new district begins to function.

What voter approval does not mean is that the debt of the districts is consolidated. That only happens if voters in each district approve the other district's debt.

With that concern out in the open, it seems like the number of people in favor of consolidation would have probably been higher in both the county-wide and two-district surveys.

The four area school districts -- Iron Mountain, Breitung Township, Norway-Vulcan and North Dickinson -- all have this information now to look over and see if any further action will take place concerning consolidation.

But it really is up to the voters in each school district to decide if this is something they see value in pursuing for the children living in Dickinson County.

I want to thank this committee of business leaders who had the vision to look into this idea and have the surveys conducted by the Lansing-based survey research firm of EPIC-MRA.

You would have never known where the voters of the county were at concerning school consolidation unless they were asked. That was the first step and a very ‘historic’ one for Dickinson County.

 
 

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