Report shows consolidation of Texas schools may be detrimental

Oct 10, 2014 by

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The consolidation of large school districts in Texas would raise the costs of education and likely cause student performance to fall, according to a new study co-written by researchers at Texas A&M University.

The study, “Anticipating the Consequences of School District Consolidation in Major Metropolitan Areas,” was co-authored by Lori Taylor from the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Timothy J. Gronberg and Dennis W. Jansen with the Department of Economics at Texas A&M, along with a researcher at Utah State University.

The analysis was conducted for the Texas Education Agency through Senate Bill 2, which was passed during the 83rd legislative session last year to gain insight on large school district consolidations to see if they would lower the expected per-pupil cost of education.

Texas has no historical experience with consolidation on a medium- to large-district scale; there have been only 20 school district consolidations since the 1994-95 school year, the report says, and in all but two of the cases, a single campus was folded into another. None of the consolidations involved more than two districts merging, according to the report.

The four researchers examined the five largest counties in Texas: Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Travis, which include the cities of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and Austin. Were each of the school districts in these counties consolidated, they would create the largest districts in the state and compete with the sizes of largest districts in the country, Taylor said.

But the researchers discovered consolidating districts of these sizes would reduce school choice, and lead to large, very bureaucratic districts.

“So the idea is if you have a single bureaucratic monopoly as your only school of choice, you would observe that it has no particular incentive to be very responsive to taxpayer, voter or parent needs,” Taylor said.

Prior research has shown the cost per student of operating a small district is much higher than the cost of students at a much larger district, so those five district are currently large enough to take advantage of economies of scale, Taylor said. But consolidating districts already operating at their optimal limit would likely require extra layers of administration to achieve the same academic results, she added.

The report found that cost savings would be expected for consolidations involving small districts, but costs are expected to rise as the size of the consolidated district increases past 3,200 students. While many small counties in Texas would see benefits from consolidating, these existing counties would lose incentives to operate efficiently with less competition and extra layers of bureaucracy, according to the report.

“There is no reason to believe that this proposal would lead to improvements in student performance, and good reason to believe student performance would fall,” the report reads. “The bottom line is that bigger is not always better in Texas.”

via Report shows consolidation of Texas schools may be detrimental – The Eagle: Local News.

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