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Falk explains reasoning behind his bill to dissolve Hendricks School District

March 17, 2012
Marshall Independent

To the editor:

I am writing in regards to the situation with the Hendricks (ISD 402) and Ivanhoe (ISD 403) school districts.

First and foremost, you are probably wondering why I have introduced legislation to dissolve the Hendricks school district. Please know that I have not made this decision haphazardly. It has come through careful deliberation and ultimately out of concern for what is in the best interests of the students of Lincoln County. I am responsible for drafting this bill. It was not brought to me by any party, entity, or interest group.

The Hendricks (ISD 402) and Ivanhoe (ISD 403) school districts had been in a long-standing academic pairing program that recently came to an end. The reason for the dissolution is not my major concern, however, the ramifications from it are. Namely, the loss of sparsity revenue (funding to pay for the added costs of operating geographically isolated small schools) eligible to those students, the implications related to interstate reciprocity agreements, and the questionable status and the legality of the online high school established by Hendricks (ISD 402).

First, the sparsity revenue previously eligible to all students in Hendricks (ISD 402) and Ivanhoe (ISD 403) ceased to exist when Hendricks (ISD 402) opened their own high school (albeit an online one). Because the Hendricks (ISD 402) high school is within seventeen miles of the former site of Lincoln High School and the current site of the Ivanhoe (ISD 403) K-12 school, that sparsity revenue is no longer eligible to either Hendricks (ISD 402) or Ivanhoe (ISD 403). It is off the table. Ivanhoe's loss is not Hendricks' gain; it is a net loss to both. Losing this funding makes absolutely no sense.

Secondly, the dissolution of the academic pairing agreement between Hendricks (ISD 402) and Ivanhoe (ISD 403) has implications related to interstate reciprocity agreements. Ivanhoe (ISD 403) may not be able to receive reciprocity payments from South Dakota students who enroll in the Ivanhoe (ISD 403) school district. Once again, this is not additional money that Hendricks (ISD 402) receives; but it is money that Ivanhoe (ISD 403) loses. It means lower total dollars accessible by all students in the community.

Thirdly, serious questions have been raised about whether or not the Hendricks (ISD 402) online high school constitutes a qualified high school education. Serious concerns exist about whether or not required hours of study are being met, the ability to garner enough credits to earn a Minnesota high school graduation diploma, and ultimately, if the students are being honestly prepared for post-secondary education and civic life after high school.

Finally, operating two K-12 public schools in this close proximity forces valuable resources to be expended in duplicative ways. Is it fiscally prudent for the State of Minnesota to continue to spend incredibly limited education resources in this manner? Is it fiscally prudent for the community as a whole? We need to ensure that any arrangement between Hendricks (ISD 402) and Ivanhoe (ISD 403) leads to the greatest amount of resources actually going into the classroom and not being wasted.

It is my hope that Hendricks (ISD 402) and Ivanhoe (ISD 403) will be able to enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement (like the one that previously existed) that brings the maximum amount of resources to the students. That said, if current management stands in the way of this cooperative effort, then it is dependent upon the school boards to either assert that management cooperate or find new management or a new way of operating.

This situation needs to be resolved. I request that all sides work together to find a mutually agreeable solution. I authored this bill to start a discussion and that is happening.

I am available to help and prefer not to advance my bill to dissolve the Hendricks (ISD 402) school district unless all other options have been exhausted.

Andrew Falk

State Representative



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