Several west-side leaders, lawmakers and mayors in Jordan School District have decided to step into the Jordan District transition process, possibly asking the Legislature for a timeout if the east- and west-side teams can't reach a consensus over the next month.
State leaders including Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan; Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan; and Rep. Steven Mascaro, R-West Jordan, along with West Jordan Mayor Dave Newton, attended the Jordan-west transition team meeting Thursday.
Those discussions spurred the idea of getting the west-side mayors together, along with lawmakers, to settle on a plan of action perhaps seeking a special legislative session to delay the district split three to five years.
"The path this whole split is going on is nothing short of total tragedy, it will probably end up being the worst education public policy we've ever made," Buttars said. "We are all scrambling to put this thing off as far as implementation until we get it straight because we are nowhere close to a resolution we are traveling down the road of lawsuits and forced arbitration."
Newton said Thursday that he and other west-side legislators are preparing a resolution that will ask Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to call for a special session where legislators could vote to delay the formation of a new east-side school district until the transition teams' issues can be resolved.
East-side residents voted in November to split from Jordan and form their own school district. Since early spring the transition teams representing the east and west sides have been trying to agree on a plan to adequately split the district's assets and liabilities. A number of proposals have been presented, but no agreements have been reached. And last month each side retained legal counsel to prepare for arbitration, though they are still trying to work out an agreement.
"Something's wrong here that needs to be fixed," Newton said. "If the Legislature didn't expect it to happen this way, and they're the ones that put this into play, maybe we ought to give them the chance to tell us, what did you mean? Maybe it's time we step back and see if there's a fix for this instead of spending millions of dollars on lawyers and appraisals that would just take money out of the system and really hurt our kids."
The biggest disagreement is how to divide the district assets. The east side wants all of the district's buildings to be appraised and the monetary value of all of the buildings divided equally between both sides. That approach would likely result in the west side paying the east side money to even the score.
The west-side transition team wants to take a different approach, splitting the value of the common buildings currently used by both sides of the district and dividing the value according to the percentage of students each side has. That could be around 60/40, as the west side has more students.
Newton says the whole split should be put on hold indefinitely until a fair solution can be found.
"Let's hold off, instead of butting heads and getting lawyers involved and let's maybe step back a little and take another look at this," Newton said.
Buttars said the request for a special session is just one of a few ideas that could be a part of the west-side group's plan of action. He knows many people would support the idea, but whether there would be enough is yet to be seen.But getting the legislators and leaders together to form a strategy and a goal is a "big jump forward."