Many people have suggested consolidating Utah's 40 school districts so that there would be only one for each of the state's 29 counties. This idea is usually offered as a way to save money by reducing overhead.
But the plan is not a blanket quick fix for all education woes. Like most such things, the issue is complex. Consolidation of districts might work very well in some places and not well at all in others. There are questions of tax base, size, and local control.Weber and Ogden districts have been cited as possibilities for merger, as have Cache and Logan, Murray and Granite or Jordan, and the three districts in sparsely populated Summit County.
Most district officials oppose consolidation. That may be a form of protecting their own turf, or it may be that consolidation would cause new problems and not save significant amounts of money.
The superintendents of the Weber and Ogden districts have asked that the issue be put on the 1989 ballot in their area and the Legislature has agreed to examine the possibility.
This is a smart tactic for the superintendents, if nothing else, even though they may oppose consolidation. If the issue goes on the ballot, the chances are it will be defeated. At least that is the fate of proposed mergers in the past.
Consolidation of school districts raises the same kind of passions that closing schools or redrawing boundaries does. That can be emotional indeed. People usually fear losing control of their own district in some kind of merger with a neighboring entity.
But putting the issue on the ballot - if the Legislature agrees - will take the superintendents off the hook. And it will quiet the criticism - justified or not - against what is seen by some as too much administrative overhead.
If voters agree to consolidation, well and good. If they follow the pattern of the past and defeat any proposed merger, the issue will at least have been laid to rest.