Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Merging School Districts: Benefits and Costs

edited 12/30/18

Edward Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania, wants to reduce the State’s 501 school districts into a substantially smaller number. One reason he gives is that this will reduce duplicated and top-heavy administrative costs of public schools. But what are some other costs and benefits?

The Digest of Education Statistics reports that in 1939-40 there were 117,108 school districts distributed among the then 48 states. In 2005-6 there were 14,166 school districts distributed among 50 states. What educational benefits were gained, what costs suffered by this substantial consolidation? Clearly, the more localized the governance, the easier it is to suppress diversity. And if there is some – or, even, a lot -- of private dipping into the budget – this is Pennsylvania, after all -- fewer people are likely to find out and even fewer to get something done about it.

But consolidation also brings about an extension of resources to more kids: access to libraries, gymnasia, science labs and exciting daily bus tours of the school district on the way to and from school.

In addition, consolidation expands the target of curricular possibilities, superstitions and fads, always more or less fresh from University or governmental theorists, e.g. brain-based learning, Suggestopedia, language labs, computer past-times, learning styles and other Proposals to uplift our Paideia, leave no child behind and prepare them to excel in the global economy of future centuries.

And what is the Charter School movement about, if not deconsolidation? Every charter school success provides evidence that consolidation is the wrong direction to move in. Yet persistent Charter School inadquacies caution us to rush to change.

To examine these issues further, see Really Want Change? Deconsolidate the Schools!