Dissolving a School District

In an advisory referendum held yesterday, a majority of residents in the Palmyra-Eagle School District voted in favor of dissolving their school system:

Of the 2,298 votes cast in the Nov. 5 advisory referendum, 1,218 (53%) voted in favor of dissolution; 1,080 voted against it, according to unofficial results released Tuesday night by the school district.

These residents had a right to have their opinion heard on the issue explicitly (and not implicitly through a failed spending referendum).  For it all, they’ve decided poorly: unable to control spending on their local district, they’ve decided they should have no local district at all. They’ll now find their children traveling farther, certainly for high school, to districts that absorb the territory that was once the Palmyra-Eagle School District’s.

These residents should have been able to manage their own public education system without ending local control entirely. They’ve almost certainly made their communities less attractive to homebuyers with children who will shun a community where their children won’t have a locally-controlled school.

Whitewater’s school board recently voted to petition the Wisconsin legislature to allow a three-way consolidation whereby the Whitewater and Mukwonago School Districts would absorb the Palmyra-Eagle School District without the need for a state advisory board to carve the dissolving district up.

That petition was presumptuous – we’ve not had in Whitewater a community discussion about what splitting Palmyra-Eagle with another district will mean. Like all libertarians, I strongly support people moving or going where’d they’d like to go, so if Palmyra-Eagle’s parents want to send their children to Whitewater, we should welcome them (as I surely will). See School Board, 10.28.19: 3 Points.

It was not, however, our school district’s proper place to petition the legislature for a deal with another district to carve Palmyra-Eagle as they saw fit without significant community consultation in all affected areas.  Nothing like that community consultation has happened.  We don’t know with confidence what Palmyra-Eagle’s parents want for their children – where they want to go matters as much as what we want.

Palmyra-Eagle’s students won’t feel welcome here if they’re treated as reallocated headcount, for goodness’ sake. In these months ahead, our school board owes our community – and Palmyra-Eagle’s, too – much more than a petition: circumstances call for outreach to residents and parents in both communities. This is as true whether one gains students under consolidation or by assignment under a state advisory board.

One truly hopes that many of the parents in the Palmyra-Eagle School District choose, happily and even excitedly, Whitewater and the Whippet Way. There is no other community in all the world in which I’d rather be; those genuine feelings come from free choice, not compulsion. 

Honest persuasion and respectful outreach matter most.

2 comments for “Dissolving a School District

  1. J
    11/06/2019 at 1:26 PM

    This is a good educational perspective. It’s good to call for communication. It’s true that is a value on its own. But you are right about WHY it matters. In this case the why is not wanting a place for students but to WELCOME them. That’s correct. Integrating any new students the right way has to come with outreach before they get assigned and feel controlled by a process they did not choose. That’s a more sympathetic outlook than asking for a quick result. Kudos for thinking the deeper consequences through. (Appropriately free choice/libertarian, I suppose.)

    11/06/2019 at 3:30 PM

    Legislatures and boundary boards compel; persuasion invites.