Giving Compass’ Take:
• The 74 discusses a new report that shows how states are often powerless to align struggling school districts with wealthy neighbors: Most mergers are voluntary and there are plenty of obstacles.
• What can we do to address the root causes of inequities among districts, so that those trying to help poorer students aren’t left to rely on slow-moving policy? Through targeted local investments, the private sector can step up to make sure communities feeling a financial crunch have a path to greater prosperity.
For more than two decades, students at a small Pennsylvania school district loaded into school buses every morning for an eight-mile commute — to attend classes in another state. Midland’s school district fell into a financial decline after the local steel mill closed shop. With a withering tax base, the district’s entreaties to join forces with a better-off public school system right next door were rejected.
With few other options to escape and needing to slash costs, the district shuttered its high school and shuffled its students across the state line to a district in Ohio.
A report released recently on school district consolidations highlights the roadblocks Midland and other financially fraught districts across the country face when school leaders try to merge with more stable neighboring districts. Lawmakers in nine states have granted a state-level entity authority to mandate school district consolidations under dire circumstances, while mergers remain voluntary in most parts of the country. The report was done by EdBuild, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on public school funding equity.
In states where consolidation is voluntary, however, community members and school leaders in wealthier school systems have few incentives to help out their struggling neighbors.
Read the full article about struggling school districts left stranded by Mark Keierleber at The 74.
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