Hendricks School Board members are upset after being informed a bill had been introduced in the state Legislature by Democratic Rep. Andrew Falk to abolish the Hendricks School District and absorb it into the Ivanhoe School District.
The text of the bill begins: "(a) Independent School District No. 402, Hendricks, is dissolved. All territory of the district is attached to Independent School District No. 403, Ivanhoe."
The bill further provides that the bonded debt of the district must be paid, the obligations of taxable property in the district would remain unchanged, and all assets and liabilities would pass to District 403, Ivanhoe.
If passed, the bill would become effective on July 1, 2012.
The bill states that all teachers and staff, excluding the superintendent, of School District No. 402 would retain their positions.
According to Hendricks School Board member Angie Schumacher, a person who did not want to be identified informed her of the pending bill HF 2594, introduced by District 20A State Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL, Murdock, and directed her to the state Legislature's website.
Schumacher then informed board Chairman Tom Olson on Wednesday night.
"This was the first any of us had been aware of it," Olson said. "We're kind of shocked, it doesn't follow any past precedent for dissolving a school district. There's no benefit to it, except maybe to 403. We've got great test scores."
Board member Lisa Schmidt said she contacted the chairman of the Educational Reform Committee, District 16A Republican Rep. Sondra Erickson.
"I wrote to the head of the committee and she said, 'There is no chance of this happening on my watch,'" Schmidt said.
According to Schmidt, the email from Erickson said her committee would not hear the bill without input from the Hendricks School Board.
"There's got to be something behind this and we'd like to know what it is," Olson said. "I've talked to constituents and there have been floods of emails and phone calls to Andrew."
According to Schmidt, Hendricks and Ivanhoe are currently in discussion over a contract dispute.
Previously, the districts had an agreement that Hendricks provided K through six-grade schooling for both districts, and Ivanhoe provided seven through 12. Starting in June, Ivanhoe has been running its own K through sixth-grade program.
Messages left for Falk by the Independent on Thursday and Friday were not returned.
He did, however, submit a letter to the editor to the Independent on Friday afternoon explaining why he introduced legislation to dissolve the Hendricks School District.
"Please know that I have not made this decision haphazardly," Falk wrote. "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)."
Falk argues that operating two K-12 schools so close to each other equates to a loss of resources because of potential duplication of services. He also cited concerns about the loss of sparsity revenue, interstate reciprocity agreements between Hendricks and Ivanhoe, and whether or not Hendricks' online high school can be classified as a high school education.
Falk said he authored the bill to ignite discussion on the matter.