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School closures are just one step

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Editorial, March 16, 2014

ISSUE: Fort Knox school closures

OUR VIEW: Could signal bigger changes

In the world of public education, closing or consolidating schools usually is a contentious, emotional process.

In Defense Department schools, that rarely is the case. Students and families are more likely change schools because they are relocated to another duty station than to deal with the closing of a school.

But for more than 100 staff members, the announcement that four of Fort Knox’s eight schools would close must be jarring. Because they work for Department of Defense schools, the opportunity for transfer likely means a move overseas, and many won’t be in a position to accept such an offer. For many talented educators, the transition won’t be easy.

Sometimes, it seems the U.S. Army is painfully slow to act; othertimes, it moves with lightning speed. Such is the case with the deactivation of the 3rd Brigade Combat team, and its ripple effect which led to the decision to close half of the schools on post.

Deactivation of Fort Knox’s only combat unit originally was scheduled to occur by 2017; but a number of factors led the Department of Defense to alter the timeline, deactivating the unit even as its members are returning from deployment.

That means soldiers with children are leaving, and enrollment in the post’s Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools will decline by some 800 students.

The number of children who attend Hardin County Schools also will drop by approximately 500.

All of this gives more fuel to the rumors that the Department of Defense is trying to get out of the domestic education business.

Much like the influx of students stemming from the 2005 round of Base Realignment and Closure, it would not be a seemless transition if  a public school district were to take over educational responsibilities for children who live on post, even if those students still attend buildings on post.

Public schools are funded by taxes levied on property in each district. But a military reservation is not part of those districts. It’s federal property and does not generate local tax revenue.

School operating budgets also rely on state funding based on a set amount per pupil. Local educators say Kentcuky’s education spending is inadequate.

Some math formulas are easy: Fewer students should mean fewer schools. Others are more complicated: What does it cost to provide quality education to a public school student? Hardin County Schools and others across the nation had better be prepared to start solving for a solution to that equation.

 

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editoral board.