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Should officials explore school system consolidation?

Staff Report • Apr 9, 2012 at 9:14 AM

It’s not worth the effort. That’s what Richard Bales, Johnson City’s superintendent of schools, thinks of the idea of studying the possibility of consolidating the two school systems in Washington County.

As Press staff writer Madison Mathews reported recently, the idea of school consolidation came up at a recent meeting of the City/County Liaison Committee. That’s when Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge suggested a merger of city and county schools might be a solution to the budget problems both school systems now face.

Bales said he was more than a bit surprised that school consolidation is being brought up yet again.

“I know they are struggling to find answers to the deficit, just as Johnson City is, so this is just one more thing I guess they want to explore,” Bales said. “Although, I think it’s not worth exploration based on what we looked at last time when this became a possibility.”

The idea of consolidation last came up in 2006. That was the year Johnson City residents voted down a non-binding referendum on school consolidation. The Johnson City Board of Education conducted a publicity campaign against school consolidation, telling voters it would cost every taxpayer in Washington County an additional 97 cents on the property tax rate.

“The city would have to say they want out of the school business for consolidation to happen, and I can’t say what they might do, but I know most of them are very conscientious about not only the students in the school system but the voters of Johnson City,” Bales said.

For his part, Bales does not think consolidating city and county schools is the answer.

“I don’t believe in lowering our services and standards in Johnson City for these students, and I’m not sure how you could make the process work to where somehow that didn’t occur,” he told the Press.

Tell us what you think. Should Johnson City and Washington County officials explore the idea of consolidating the two school systems?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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