Districts are trying to balance budgets by cutting non-instructional costs and asking taxpayers for more money to try and avoid layoffs of teachers, even though classroom personnel are, by far, the greatest expense facing schools.Two Wayne County districts have taken cost-cutting a step further, without actually merging.The Brookings-Greater Ohio study recommended merging districts smaller than somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 students, which would leave about 400 districts.

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Recker expects significant savings by reducing duplicated services such as transportation and administrative expenses.

Arcadia, for example, employs two principals and one superintendent.

“In most cases taxes go up in the ‘losing’ district,” Ebright said.

Ebright thinks the goal of merger proponents is to have one county-wide district in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The last voluntary mergers were in 1988 (three) and 1989 (one), but the trend more recently has been for districts to split, Ebright said.

Bitterness around forced consolidations has been given as a reason for why levies fail in some newly consolidated districts. Americans have always been fond of their local schools.

Fordham Institute analyzed district pupil-administrator ratios and found the state average is 150.2 pupils per administrator, with the most top-heavy district (Bettsville Local) at 37.4 and the leanest, New Albany-Plain Local, at 308.6.

The analysis found, not surprisingly, that the smallest districts had fewer students per administrator than the largest districts. The newspaper compared administrative spending by the Westerville City Schools with that of eight smaller districts in Tuscarawas County that together serve about the same number of students as Westerville.

In November, voters in two tiny Hancock County communities will go to the polls and decide if they want to investigate the possibility of merging their equally small school districts.