Given the current economic climate, the commissioner said, taking the necessary measures to better prepare students for success after high school will require schools to regionalize more than they have been and make difficult choices about where they invest their limited resources.
Following his presentation, King responded to questions and comments from the audience, including concerns that some regionalization efforts, such as establishing regional high schools, are impractical in the North Country because of the length of time students would spend on buses.
“I would not suggest that regionalization is the right answer for every region of the state,” King said. “It’s not the right answer for every district.
“That said, you could have a fair amount of distance between two districts and have it make sense for them to participate in a shared business office, and that is a place where we can save money.”
Schools should also look to technology, he added, to find ways to share student learning opportunities with other districts.
Regionalization is not the answer to saving all of the money needed to cover districts’ costs, but, King said, schools must look for every place where they can better leverage resources.
“The reality is I don’t think we’re going to have new resources, and we’re going to have to make hard choices about how we organize ourselves.”
Asked what would be done to eliminate inequity in the way school districts are funded throughout the state, King replied that his department advocates, and will continue to advocate, for the equitable distribution of state funding to districts.
However, the challenge of attaining such equity is less about needing the support of political leaders, he said, and more about needing that of citizens.
“At the end of the day, unless we can persuade all of our fellow citizens about the value of investing in young people in the rest of the state, we’re not going to make progress.