Administrative Issues Journal


Historically, the number of public school districts in the United States has decreased despite a dramatic increase in the number of students enrolled. Although public school district consolidation has impacted districts of all sizes, since the late 1930’s smaller rural districts facing dwindling community resources have merged or consolidated with each other, resulting in fewer school districts. When school districts consolidate, all aspects of the newly-formed district are affected. Each year, lawmakers and rural public school district officials face dwindling finances, and each year these decision makers question whether to consolidate to avoid fiscal perils. Proponents tout the benefits of fiscal efficiency, a broadened curriculum, and a projected increase in student achievement. Critics argue that the community suffers when the community school closes, students are burdened with new transportation issues, increased academic opportunities do not necessarily impute to greater student performance, and a host of tangible and non-tangible arguments are put forth. This ex post facto quantitative study examines the fiscal efficiency of small, rural, consolidated school districts by comparing per-pupil expenditures with matched non-consolidated school districts in the state of Texas. The study also examines student achievement levels by comparing passing rate percentages on all Texas state assessment tests for 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade students attending these schools. For before and after consolidation comparison purposes, rural community public schools were matched according to Texas state designated “paired” protocol. Districts meeting Texas Education Agency (TEA) Snapshot criterion for Absorbing districts were matched with Joining districts. Expenditure and student achievement data for Absorbing and Joining districts were collected for the ten-year period from 1999 to 2009. A paired samples t-test measured differences in the district’s efficiency, and the Lawshe-Baker Normative t-test measured differences in student achievement. Four null hypotheses were examined with an a priori alpha level = 0.05. This study, when the data for the joining and absorbing districts was subjected to appropriate t-tests, supports other research that suggests per-pupil expenditures increased and student achievement decreased for the absorbing district.