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Seeking Consolidation

If the federal government can close military bases, Arizona can make do with fewer public school administrators and school boards, argues Scott Bundgaard, a Republican state senator who is pushing a plan that would slash the number of districts in Arizona from 229 to 90.

"It appears to me that we can consolidate some of this administration, achieve efficiencies in management, and send more money to the classroom," Mr. Bundgaard said. "At this point, we're trying to stretch each dollar because we have limited resources in Arizona."

Scott Bundgaard

The legislator's plan originally called for the number of districts to be cut to 75 over a five-year period. But the Senate education committee raised the cap to 90 districts last week before passing the bill.

Inspired by the federal government's famous initiative to close or realign military bases, Mr. Bundgaard wants the new district lines drawn by an independent commission. Lobbyists, legislators, and school officials would not be welcome on the panel.

"I want to take the politics out of the process," the Maricopa County lawmaker said. "The school boards and superintendents have a vested interest in the system [as it is now]."

Some of those same vested interests have voiced concerns about Mr. Bundgaard's plan, arguing that it would diminish local control of schools.

Despite a new provision in the bill that would require a vote by the public before the independent commission was created, the Arizona School Boards Association opposes the plan.

"If this bill passes, the authority for local district electors to have input and vote on the resulting recommendations is taken away," it warns on its Web site. "The commission has the final say."

But Mr. Bundgaard insisted local control is at the heart of his plan, which is expected to come to the Senate for a full vote early next month.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Vol. 20, Issue 23, Page 12

Published in Print: February 21, 2001, as State Journal

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