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Tax rates only one part of consolidation

Our Take

The Metropolitan School District of Wabash County school board played its hand on Tuesday when, after months of debating whether a consolidation study was necessary at all, Board President Kevin Bowman suggested meeting with a data firm to possibly study consolidation tax rates.

This comes two weeks after the board voted 3-2 to conduct an intensive public opinion survey rather than participate in a consolidation study. While we think the board should survey public opinion before making a final decision, facts are needed first.

The tax rate study would be a step in the right direction, but taken on its own the study may serve to mislead the public.

Tax rates are only one part of consolidation. There are many other questions that need to be addressed, such as: What would a partial or full consolidation model would look like? What legal mechanisms exist? How would a consolidated district manage another school corporation’s debt? How many elementary and high schools are need?

The most important question, of course, is the impact consolidation would have on the quality of education in our county.

The Plain Dealer is neither pro-consolidation nor anti-MSD. We do believe, however, that a study is needed so that the school boards – yes, even Manchester – can make an informed decision regarding how best to address declining enrollment in our county. It is unwise for three school corporations to continue fighting over a dwindling student population without first considering other options that may exist.

Consolidation, however unpopular it may be, is one of those options. Certainly, other options exist and should be explored as well. A study is simply that, a study.

Once the facts are revealed, the boards should seek public input before making a decision to move forward with consolidation talks or an independent alternative. Asking for public comment on consolidation before the facts are known will only serve to spread more rumors and panic.