Economist: Largest districts offer chance to find savings
BY BYRON SCHLOMACH
Knowledge is power and liberation, but knowledge is always in short supply especially in Oklahoma’s education funding formula. One common myth is that consolidating small school districts in the state would greatly improve the overall school finances, however this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The state doesn’t make it easy to assemble data from its 545 school districts and charter schools to make comparisons, but after taking the time to do this, here are a few insights.
Oklahoma has a lot of small school districts — often by geographic necessity. Including charter schools, which are funded via a formula similar to regular school districts, there are more than 300 districts with fewer than 500 students each. That alone sounds like a powerful argument for consolidation. Besides, the highest-spending districts on a per-student basis are generally among the smallest of all the districts.
There’s only one problem with this logic. Those 300 districts and charter schools spend less than 13 percent of all money spent by public schools. That means that if there were substantial cost savings of 5 percent from consolidating these districts, there would be less than 1 percent savings in public education spending in the state as a whole, or about $43 million in 2014.
That’s not chump change, but it creates the need to consider other possibilities for saving money.