The minor boundary change process took its first step towards change on Tuesday (1/26).
“We believe it’s a good resolution for stabilizing district boundaries,” ASBSD Director of Policy and Legal Services Gerry Kaufman testified, adding that delegates from ASBSD member districts passed a legislative resolution in support of the bill’s proposal in November.
SB 5 would remove the provision in law that allows for school district boundary changes to be petitioned and put the decision solely in the hands of school districts to initiate. In addition the land being swapped between school districts must be contiguous.
The bill does not affect open enrollment or district reorganization.
An amendment to the bill removed a section requiring land being swapped by districts to be within an appraised value of 10 percent. Committee members expressed faith in school boards to make a decision related to land value that was best for their district.
“Over the last couple of years we have seen an increase in the number of (minor boundary change) lawsuits,” Sen. Deb Peters, the bill’s sponsor and MBC Task Force member, said. “What should the school district’s priorities be: protecting the tax base or educating the children?”
Tri-Valley Superintendent Mike Lodmel, also a task force member, backed up Peters’s statement, testifying that his district had to spend more than $53,000 in a minor boundary change legal battle.
“We need to put the control back in the hands of our locally elected school board officials,” Lodmel said.
School boards initiating a school district boundary swap will still be held accountable for the decision as the bill maintains the public hearing requirement and the final decision would be referable for vote, if petitioned by district patrons.
Ultimately, SB 5 initiates a new measure of protection for school districts.
“The intent of (SB 5) is to keep school districts from being harmed,” Rep. Herman Otten said.