Last modified: Friday, December 19, 2008
Media Advisory: Analysis available for school consolidation recommendation
District reorganization in governor's government reform package announced today
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 19, 2008
EDITORS AND REPORTERS: Terry Spradlin, the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy's (CEEP) associate director for education policy, is available to comment on the Indiana governor's recommendation for school reorganization presented this morning as part of a local government reform package. Gov. Mitch Daniels outlined proposals he is forwarding to the Indiana General Assembly for its 2009 session.
Daniels is recommending school districts be reorganized to achieve a minimum student population of 1,000, slightly changed from the original proposal of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. The governor is also approving recommendations to promote joint purchasing by schools and conduct non-partisan school elections during November in even years. The governor did not recommend a proposal that would have required school corporation bonds be approved by municipal or county governments.
"I am encouraged to learn of the modified recommendation announced today by Gov. Daniels regarding school district consolidation," Spradlin said. "Although there was little solid evidence that consolidation of school districts with fewer than 2,000 students would result in tangible financial savings or academic gains (the Local Government Reform Commission's original proposal), a case can be made to consolidate school districts with fewer than 1,000 and some cost efficiencies result."
He added a cautionary note to Hoosiers about immediate savings. "To be realistic, the citizens of Indiana should not expect considerable financial savings from this level of consolidation," Spradlin said. "We have approximately 45 school districts that would have to consolidate under the new proposal, but they have less than 4 percent of the statewide student population enrolled in their schools."
Spradlin has studied the topic of school district consolidation since 2005, when the Indiana General Assembly commissioned CEEP to study the issue of school district administrative consolidation. On Tuesday, Spradlin spoke at the Indiana Association of School Business Officials' School Finance Seminar, and offered the following conclusions and recommendations to superintendents and school business managers regarding consolidation, many aimed at state legislative policy:
- Consolidation has no proven positive impact on student achievement (and may negatively impact student achievement). Some research suggests optimal school and school corporation sizes exist (i.e., smaller schools in bigger districts); however, research is inconsistent and inconclusive.
- At best, the limited research available that indicates meaningful cost savings are realized from consolidation on a systemic basis.
- Thus, consolidation should be encouraged on a case-by-case basis only, not mandated on a wholesale basis (e.g. state of Maine). In particular, consolidation may be beneficial for the smallest school corporations with proper strategic planning. A case can be made to consolidate districts with fewer than 1,000 students; evidence is less compelling the bigger the target population.
- School corporations should be encouraged to participate in the school consolidation feasibility study program funded by the Indiana General Assembly in 2007.
- The Indiana General Assembly should offer implementation grants after feasibility studies are concluded to provide additional incentives for school districts to consolidate administration or services.
- Schools should be safeguarded for two years, via a "hold harmless" provision, to ensure that their accountability standings under the federal Adequate Yearly Progress system and the state's PL 221 performance categories do not drop as a result of consolidation; the impact of district funding should be addressed also so districts do not immediately lose per-pupil funding (a disincentive to consolidation).
- Shared services hold considerable promise and should be a point of emphasis.
- School corporations should be given incentives to save by allowing inter-fund transfers of documented savings from other funds to their General Fund to provide more money for classroom instruction.
Spradlin is available at 812-856-4781.