Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Short Course on School District Consolidation

After a careful and thorough review of the Michigan Department of Education's most recent Bulletin 1014 for 2007-08, one can easily conclude that the four combined Wyoming public school districts are considerably more economical to maintain as separate districts rather than a large consolidated one. The evidence is contained in the cost factors associated with the twenty Michigan school districts that would be in the same group as a consolidated Wyoming district. These twenty districts have full time equivalent enrollments ranging from 10,000 to 19,999 and are located in ten different counties within the lower half of the state. They include suburban and urban districts similar in many respects to the Wyoming area. Because a consolidated city-wide district in Wyoming would have a combined enrollment of more than 12,000 students, it is logical to assume that this new district would incur similar costs by being forced to operate as a large single district over a broad geographical spread. You can almost see in your mind's eye the eventual bureaucratic growth and resulting added costs that would quickly follow any such merger.

Using per-pupil revenues and expenditures to make a valid comparison, the four Wyoming districts are much more economical to operate separately than the twenty Group C districts. Comparing the Group C districts with the combined revenues and costs of the four Wyoming districts on a per-pupil cost basis illustrates the stark differences:

  • The Wyoming districts received a combined $8 million less in total general fund revenues from all sources ($690 less per pupil).
  • Despite receiving less total general fund revenues, the Wyoming districts expended $388,000 more on instructional programs ($32 more per pupil).
  • Total instructional salaries on a per-pupil basis were $1.9 million less for the Wyoming districts than the Group C districts ($157 less per pupil).
  • Total instructional support expenditures on a per-pupil basis were $3.1 million less for the Wyoming districts ($257 less per pupil).
  • All four non-instructional-related expenditures were less for the combined Wyoming districts than the Group C districts:
    • Business & Administration = $1.4 million ($118 less per pupil)
    • Operations & Maintenance = $3.3 million ($274 less per pupil)
    • Transportation = $755,000 ($62 less per pupil)
    • Total Support Services = $8.6 million ($711 less per pupil)
  • Total support services salaries on a per-pupil basis were $12.8 million less for the Wyoming districts than the Group C districts ($1,060 less per pupil)

SchoolCenter Picture

This chart illustrates the difference in non-instructional expenditures.

So while the four Wyoming districts combined, on a per-pupil basis, received less general fund revenue, they also had considerably less in general fund expenditures than the Group C districts. Teacher salaries were lower in the combined Wyoming districts by more than $2.7 million in total per-pupil costs ($228 per pupil) as well. It makes perfect sense to continue to operate the four Wyoming districts separately rather than adding a twenty-first district to the same level of expenditures as the existing Class C districts. In fact, the four Wyoming districts with their existing separate structures should be considered a bargain.