State Rep. John Fillmore, who earlier represented much of Pinal County and now is in a district including northern Pinal plus non-Pinal areas, is again pushing legislation that would consolidate school districts. This is a concept that long has seemed like a source of efficiency but has been difficult to implement because of tradition and the various complexities of education and government. However, it certainly is worth looking at.
Fillmore’s House Bill 2139, which has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with only Republican support, now goes to the full Senate. It would provide incentives for consolidation and also some requirements to force it. Pinal County could have no more than seven districts, and elementary and high schools would not be separate. Pinal Sen. Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, has said the idea is worth pursuing.
The pro and con arguments involve efficiency and better practices on one side and loss of local control on the other. However, many school districts these days lack citizens who want to serve on their boards, which is an indicator of the problems that small districts face.
A few years ago, the Coolidge and Florence districts underwent a realignment that benefited both, although it was complicated and took some real leadership and good consultants. Fillmore’s bill would allow consolidation in some cases without going to voters, which makes the process more complicated now.
The idea is something that should happen either soon or eventually, and the question is whether legislators can fix most of the potential problems associated with it.