Press Release: Policymakers Should Disregard New School-District Consolidation Report

William J. Mathis, 802-383-0058,
Craig Howley, 740-590-8612,
Jerry Johnson, 904-620-1804,

BOULDER, CO (August 26, 2013) –The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently released a report intended “to spark a conversation” about closing and consolidating small school districts. The report, titled “Size Matters,” concludes: “Across the nation, we found that small, nonremote districts might represent as much as $1 billion in lost annual capacity” (p. 2). Unfortunately, two major problems fatally undermine the report’s usefulness: it makes limited and misleading use of existing research, and its own problematic analysis results in misguided recommendations.

The extensive research in this important area was summarized in a 2011 policy brief authored by Craig Howley, Jerry Johnson, and Jennifer Petrie and published by the National Education Policy Center. That 2011 brief concluded that, while the merits of consolidation should be examined on a case-by-case basis (a position also adopted by the CAP report), consolidations are “unlikely to be a reliable way to obtain substantive fiscal or educational improvement.”

Since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008, many states have proposed eliminating school districts as a way of realizing savings. However, past waves of consolidations have already captured most potential efficiency and educational gains, so further systemic consolidation could prove counter-productive. For instance, decades of cost analyses demonstrate a U-shaped relationship between district size and costs, with inefficiencies in large districts as well as small districts. The CAP report, however, ignores the source of most of the size-related inefficiencies which are found in very large school districts (mostly in metropolitan areas) rather than in very small districts. Although very small districts are numerous, they enroll far fewer students, so any savings will be quite limited. In very large districts, inefficiencies can pack a much stronger punch.

URL for this press release:

Read the entire article Consolidation of Schools and Districts: What the Research Says and What it Means from the National Education Policy Center at

Find the CAP report, “Size Matters: A Look at School-District Consolidation” at:

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