May 25, 2016

States See Rise in Number of “Fragmented” School Districts
Governing magazine describes “fragmented” school districts as those with a very small number of students that are “prime targets for consolidation.” According to the magazine, 2013-14 federal data shows that nearly one-third of all local school districts serve only one or two public schools, and 46% of districts nationally serve fewer than 1,000 students. Many states have considered legislation to combine these types of districts to achieve budget savings.
Proponents of merging districts or combining their administrative duties believe that consolidation will lead to the more efficient use of limited resources. They argue that consolidation could also cut overhead costs and allow districts to offer a greater variety of subjects.

Opponents believe that smaller districts can be more efficient than larger systems because their educators perform multiple duties. Parents who fear consolidation believe that it will lead to the closing of schools and argue that parents should have the choice to keep their children in smaller schools just as they have the choice to enroll their children in charter schools.

Oklahoma’s legislature is currently considering bills addressing fragmentation. Massachusetts and New York have examples of fragmentation at the regional or metro level. To learn about various states’ approaches to this topic, visit the April issue of Governing.