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Lawmakers offer shaky support for regional high school bill

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ALBANY – Legislation authorizing the creation of regional high schools is getting dubious support from north country lawmakers at the start of the 2013 state legislative session.

State Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, said Wednesday she hopes to see rural school districts use existing opportunities for creating efficiencies, as opposed to legislating regional high schools.

“I don’t think that we actually need more legislation,” Mrs. Little said.

Instead of legislating a new means of consolidation for rural schools, Mrs. Little said school districts should be investigating resources that are already on the table.

Mrs. Little said she believes rural school districts looking to maintain their individuality – and, crucially, their own school board – should begin working out the details of a tuition plan whereby they send some or all of their high school students to a regional hub.

But, she cautioned, the idea should be carefully investigated before any action is taken.

“We have to keep in mind that every time we do that we lose jobs,” Mrs. Little said.

Senator Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said, “In the north country the school is pretty much the hub of the community.”

Last year two bills were introduced that would have allowed schools to form regional high schools.

Senate bill 7486, introduced late in the 2012 legislative session by Sen. John J. Flanagan, R-Smithtown, with the blessing of the state Education Department, failed to gain any traction.

While she is waiting to see what the leadership in the Senate does, Mrs. Ritchie said she “thinks [regional high schools] would be an option…. I would be hopeful that there would be some movement on that [in 2013].”

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