Crane School District board members voiced their opposition to an Arizona house bill that would consolidate school districts in the state during Tuesday’s monthly board meeting.

HB 2139, sponsored by Republican Rep. John Fillmore, would see the consolidation of over 200 school districts in Arizona by July 1, 2024. Under the law, which was passed by the house with a 47-13 vote in late February and is currently making its way through the Senate, Yuma County would only be allowed to have seven school districts.

During a discussion of what issues the district should prioritize when heading into the Arizona School Boards Association’s annual conference later this year, board members expressed their concern that the legislation was picking up steam.

“I was on a committee, gosh I don’t know, a long time ago, where they were trying to get this on the ballot, and I just think it goes against everything that we know and believe in in terms of local control,” said Crane Board President Brenna Paulin.

Yuma currently has two elementary school districts and one high school district. Surrounding communities including Gadsden and Somerton also have their own elementary school districts, while some share a high school district with Yuma.

“We’re one of the ones that they always single out,” said board member Dan Farar. “We have four elementary districts and one high school district overlay and they want to make that one K-12 district.”

HB 2139’s supporters contend that having this many districts wastes resources, but some on the Crane board believe that students are better served with the way things are now.

“I kind of like the way our district runs compared to other districts that we might be paired with,” said board member Jim Colby. “And I thought that was our function, to do the best for the kids in our district.”

The board also voted unanimously during Tuesday’s meeting to raise the per-day substitute teacher rate to $95, in order to meet minimum wage requirements as Proposition 206 raises it to $12 an hour in January 2020.

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