State audit takes-on school district consolidation
The De Soto School District found itself in the middle of the state of Kansas' performance audit report for K-12 education, released Monday.
The audit focused on the reorganization of Kansas school districts as a means for potential cost savings.
While the district did not take part in the study, it was used as an example of how the state could save money by consolidating school districts in one of two options.
The audit identified two sets of options to identify districts for possible consolidation.
The first would combine districts that had fewer than 400 students or that covered less than 200 square miles. That would reduce the number of districts from 293 to 266, close 50 schools and eliminate 230 teachers and administrators.
The second option would merge districts with fewer than 1,600 students with equal or larger districts. That option would reduce the state's districts to 152, close 304 schools and eliminate 1,532 teachers and administrators.
The state’s costs for school districts would drop by about $17.9 million under Scenario 1, and by about $138.4 million under Scenario 2.
The merger of districts 232 and 491 would fall under the second scenario with Eudora 491 being the district with fewer than 1,600 enrollment. The districts would be merged to create USD 2034 De Soto - Eudora.
According to the audit, after consolidation the new district's enrollment would be 7,448.1 students, covering 147 square miles. The percentage of free lunch would be 11.1 percent and 3.3 percent of students would be considered bilingual.
The assessed valuation per pupil in the new district would be $61,043.
The last major reorganization of Kansas school districts occurred in the 1960s. As a result of the actions the Legislature took at that time, the total number of school districts was reduced from about 2,600 in 1960 to 304 by 2000.
Since 1999, several voluntary consolidations have reduced the number of districts from 304 to 295 in 2008-2009. In 2008-2009, 10 districts had fewer than 100 students enrolled.
The audit concludes, "The analysis we performed in this audit showed that reorganizing the system so there are fewer school districts has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of the system overall. Equally significant issues would need to be addressed before any widespread reorganization could happen, including the impact on students, individuals districts, and local communities."
Alvie Cater, director of communications for USD 232, said the district only found out about the report on Tuesday.
Cater said the district was not contacted for input or discussion on the audit.