Some Political Ranting Ahead...
You see, here in the mountains we've had a bit of a decline in school populations. Some have left the area. Some have moved to the private, Christian school. And some are in the charter school. The local district has half of the population they did back in 1995. Half.
And the same number of schools.
Which means we're now talking about school consolidation. That's euphemism for school closure. Shuttering schools.
Ordinarily, that would make sense, right? Why have schools open if you don't have the students to fill them?
Here's the problem: these are RURAL schools. We're not talking about areas where the next elementary school is a few blocks down the road. We're talking about, in some of the worst case scenarios, busing kids on curvy mountain roads during the winter for 45 miles one-way.
In the winter, with chained buses, that equals a 1.5 hr bus ride each way at the minimum.
We're also talking about pushing school capacities over their maximum to squeeze two schools into one--to save on the utility and janitorial bills.
What this means is that class sizes are going to go up dramatically. It's possible that we will no longer have room for our school library. Never mind that we've had bare-bones staffing for that library. There may not be a physical place for it because it is needed for classroom use.
It costs a lot more per student in rural areas than it does for urban areas, just in overhead. Partly due to transportation costs, but mostly because we need more schools than other areas due to the geography of where we live. This added expense used to be supported through the sale of timber on USFS land. Changes in federal law resulted in the Secure Rural Schools Act. Essentially, a plan to exchange the idea of cutting down trees equaling money for schools to a plan that reimburses counties for the lost property taxes due to high percentages of federally owned land.
That bill was not reauthorized and this year is the last year for any additional money from the feds.
Given the financial reality in California, this has resulted in a huge hit for schools everywhere, but especially in the rural areas of Northern California.
The situation is grim here in the West. I know education is suffering everywhere, but in this county, we'll have several vacant schools to serve as visual reminders of where our priorities as a country seem to be.