A new state study indicates that consolidation of school districts in the five largest counties in Texas– including Dallas and Tarrant – would only increase operating costs and not improve student performance. The study, released Wednesday by the Texas Education Agency, was mandated by the Legislature in 2013 to determine if there were any educational or financial advantages to merging school districts within the largest urban counties. The analysis was confined to counties with at least seven school districts and 10 independent charter schools.
Researchers noted that consolidation of districts in Dallas County would create the fourth largest school system in the country with an enrollment of more than 803,000 students. Harris County would be the second largest district and Tarrant County would be seventh largest. The study was requested based on the belief that school consolidation usually reduces expenses because the per-pupil cost of a very small school district is generally much higher than the per-pupil cost of a larger district.
But the TEA study, conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University, found that cost savings results only from consolidation of small districts, not from medium and larger districts typically found in the urban counties. Consolidation in Dallas County, for example, would cause per pupil expenses to rise nearly 5 percent, according to the study. In Tarrant County, expenses would jump more than 6 percent. Researchers said that given the lack of costs savings, it is “highly unlikely” that student performance would improve if school districts were merged in any of the five counties.