School Consolidations

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Milford Smith has an analogy to explain the efforts of small-school advocates.

Smith said they are like salmon swimming upstream.

And they have more swimming ahead with a new proposal in the Legislature that would force the state's 241 elementary-only schools to merge with larger K-12 districts.

Smith is director of a coalition of school districts with less than 600 students. Small-school advocates have been more than vocal against the bill.

The proposal, introduced by Senator Ron Raikes, does not force any school buildings to close. Raher, local school boards of the K-12 system could choose to shut them down in an effort to consolidate resources and bring students together.

Raikes said the proposal makes good sense for property tax payers who are paying to keep schools open for very few students.

Opponents said as schools get bigger, people forget that small schools can be better for children, even if they are a bit more expensive to run.

In 1996 there were 367 Class I districts in Nebraska. This year there were just 241.

That mirrors an overall decrease in the number of schools in Nebraska, which has dropped from 1070 in 1980 to 501 at the start of the current year.