The building committee promoting consolidation of the South Portland middle schools is not providing accurate information. Instead, its goal is clearly to score “free” state money. Such issues as actual costs, quality of education and community life have been swept under the rug with anecdotes and misleading presentations.
Not since 1980 has a significant study reported actual benefits from school consolidation. Take a look at the review of all past such studies by the National Education Policy Center, an organization the superintendent has said he respects and consults.
According to its report, school consolidation has resulted in increased expenditures for transportation, operation, management and supervision, security, and guidance; lower academic achievement, especially for the disadvantaged; dangerous school environments; reduced student participation in activities; negative impact on the well-being of communities, and fewer opportunities for families to participate at school.
Unfortunately, those who know the most about the issue can’t speak out. Building committee members had to sign an agreement never to disagree publicly with the superintendent’s committee.
Our only way to get accurate information to balance the promotion of school consolidation may be to add a second committee that can in good faith investigate options for maintaining and renovating our local schools.
Otherwise we may some day find ourselves looking back and asking, “What were we thinking? Why did we throw away a proven system of good education for the allure of a shiny new school?”