School District Mergers Save Little, Carry Big Political Risks

Courtney Williams's picture
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

With barely 100 students, this patch of eastern Williamson County makes up a tiny piece of the "crazy-quilt pattern of small school districts" that, according to the Texas Supreme Court, blankets the state.

More than 60 percent of Texas' 1,029 traditional school districts have fewer than 1,500 students, and the court has repeatedly questioned whether that makes sense when budgets are tight.

"The large number of districts, with their redundant staffing, facilities, and administration, make it impossible to reduce costs through economies of scale," the court wrote in a 2005 school finance ruling. "Bigger is not always better, but a multitude of small districts is undeniably inefficient."

Efficiency will be the watchword as new school finance lawsuits make their way through the courts during the next year or so.

The court cases could once again focus attention on the question of whether combining some small districts might save Texas taxpayers money.

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