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Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014

In our opinion: Jordan stays the course

Deseret News editorial

Published: Mon, Aug. 18 12:00 a.m. MDT

(Shutterstock)

It’s been just over five years since the Canyons School District officially began operations of the Jordan School District, of which it had previously been a part. There are many lessons to be learned from that experience, and those who remember the past would recognize that breaking away from an existing district is an arduous undertaking that should only be done under exceptional circumstances.

Recently, a handful of elected officials were calling for the Jordan School District to be divided even further, but, thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. The Jordan District looks like it will remain intact for the time being. However, the challenges that served as the catalyst for district-splitting discussions still remain, and they require immediate attention. The state needs to find ways to ensure that Utah’s educational system is equipped to serve the needs of all of Utah’s students, regardless of the school district in which they find themselves.

The most recent call for a break-up was driven largely by financial concerns. Last year, the district made a $495 million bond request to build new schools to accommodate a flood of new students. Many considered that to be a significant overreach, which is likely why the request failed. But equalization funds that were granted to the Jordan District in the wake of the Canyons split will dry up in 2016, and the district is scrambling to find ways to compensate for that loss. A bill that would have extended those equalization funds for another four years was defeated in committee in the last legislative session. Local lawmakers argue that increased local control will be necessary if the likely tax increases necessary to fund those schools will be borne primarily by local residents.

What’s interesting to note, however, is that some opponents of SB91, the bill that would have extended the Jordan District equalization fund sunset into 2020, were critical of the measure not because it ended equalization payments, but because it would postpone dealing with this challenge on a statewide basis. “We need to step back and solve the larger problem,” state Sen. Aaron Osmond told the Senate Education Committee. He insisted that it’s time to “put on our statewide hats and come up with a solution to address this problem on a more macro-level.”

He’s exactly right.

Canyons District broke away from the Jordan District because residents wanted to see their property taxes funding their local schools rather than subsidizing poorer neighborhoods. But public education ought to provide equal services to children of all income levels, and the only way to do that is to find ways to equalize school funding statewide, not district by district. Doing so will require a great deal of effort and innovation, but just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.

Recommended
1. The Educator
South Jordan , UT,
Aug. 18, 2014

As someone who has paid attention to this, I want to tell you that this situation was created by a handful of vocal minorities. These minorities:

A. Wanted to benefit financially from the split. Either via school board positions, district positions, etc.
B. They wanted to advance their radical right wing purposes. The Eagle Forum is strong out here. So many of these vocal minorities actually want public education to fail. They take their "smaller" and "more local" is better mantra to the extreme.

The concern for the students? Wasn't ever there. Never once did I hear any concern for the students.

It was all, "well my tax dollars... It's my money... It's my school... Local control..."

Never once did I hear about the children.

The vast majority of those in the community did not want to see the split. But when you have one of the largest special interest group in Utah falling for it and exploiting the insecure and selfish interests of others, that's when it became a serious concern. Jordan school district is a fine district. The vocal minority need to leave it alone.

2. The Real Maverick
Orem, UT,
Aug. 18, 2014

Anyone else notice this:

"Canyons District broke away from the Jordan District because residents wanted to see their property taxes funding their local schools rather than subsidizing poorer neighborhoods."

This sums things up perfectly not only for our school system but for America. "I got mine now forget you!"

This never was the case during our fights against fascism and communism. Unfortunately, these threats have been eliminated and many feel like we no longer need to stand together anymore. Everyone is trying to get as rich as they can as fast as they can no matter the moral implications.

Remember, our country is only as strong as it's weakest link.

3. Ogrepete
Sandy, UT,
Aug. 18, 2014

"Canyons District broke away from the Jordan District because residents wanted to see their property taxes funding their local schools rather than subsidizing poorer neighborhoods."

Really? I live in one of those "poorer neighborhoods" that happens to exist on the East side of the Salt Lake valley and I didn't want to help pay for brand-new schools on the West side while my kids attend a 40-year old elementary school (without air conditioning) on the East side.

I think the author needs to check his/her sources and re-write this story.

4. Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah,
Aug. 18, 2014

Put it on the ballot. Let those who pay decide what to do. It would be nice to sit in a glass tower and decide what us best for society, but real people who have bills to pay should decide how much of their income goes to government, i.e. school districts, and how much goes to other obligations.

When a school district tries to pass a bond measure that defies all logic, the people in that district have an obligation to get out of that district before the "school district" bankrupts them.

5. GiuseppeG
Murray, Utah,
Aug. 18, 2014

Two words from someone who otherwise dislikes most taxes: Impact Tax. If you are going to rush out and move to newly developed areas hoping for larger homes at a price break, great...also be willing to fund the additional infrastructure your influx is creating rather than passing those costs off to everyone else.