Monday, February 8, 2010

So that's where all those school districts evolved

Few public officials have reason to sweat more during the Legislative session than Larry Shumway. By his nature, Dr. Shumway reflects a cool, calm and collected human being.

However, as superintendent of Utah's public school system, during 45-days from late January to mid-March tiny beads of sweat can form above his brow."Little budget tweaks" can have drastic impacts on Dr. Shumways' employees and more importantly on the people he serves: our school children.

As guest speaker at an American Society of Public Administrators chapter meeting last week, Superintendent Shumway addressed the unique education challenges we face in Utah. We strive to improve education excellence among a growing school children population with dwindling revenue resources.

It is similar to improving your family's lifestyle while adopting more children and having your hours reduced at work. It's difficult to make the math work.

At one point Dr. Shumway stepped away from the heart of the discussion and provided a historical perspective of the creation of Utah's 40 school districts. This proved intriguing to me because in my highway travels I often wonder why does rural Summit County have three times as many districts as heavily populated Davis County. And how in the world did itsy, bitsy Eureka (total population of 766 women, men and children) get its very own district?

He noted that three factors contributed to the present day district boundaries. It dates back to 1910 when the state consolidated hundreds of districts that were scattered throughout the state.
  1. County boundaries - This includes Morgan, Tooele, Box Elder, Washington and others.
  2. Cities of the first-class - There are handful of "cities of the first-class" today; however, 248 Utah mayors argue that they all live in first-class cities. But in 1910, Logan, Murray, Provo as well as mining boom towns Park City and Eureka were all cities of the first-class. As a result we have the Tintic School District which educates children from Eureka and a few eastern Juab County communities.
  3. LDS Stake boundaries - Not that Utah lawmakers have ever stepped over the church-state line in our 114-year history, but the predominant religion did influence decision makers a century ago. School districts such as Alpine, Granite, Jordan, North Sanpete, South Sanpete were organized along the LDS stake boundary lines .

I'm unsure what all this has to do with price of taxes in China Meadows. But I thought you might be interested in Dr. Shumway's insight.

Peace, love and all that jazz,


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