Delaware won't consolidate school districts (Matthew Albright)

No surprise, the school district task force studying “possible consolidation of school districts” is not going to recommend such a move. This will annoy many Delawareans, as shown by comments like this one: “the school system should be made more efficient before they ask for more of my money.” It’s probably healthy for taxpayers to view government spending skeptically, but school district consolidation would save a lot less money than people think and the savings “certainly wouldn’t be worth the political slugfest it would take to make consolidation happen.” Teacher salaries in the school districts would have to be leveled up – not all that many school administrators and the school level administrators couldn’t be eliminated anyway – adjustments in feeder patterns – messy and controversial – enormously disruptive – big fight(s). “If we’re going to have a big fight in education, let’s have it over something with more concrete benefits [and higher cost for taxpayers] – like weighted funding for high-needs schools, or improved teacher training and development, or, as the task force suggested re-assessing property taxes to eliminate arbitrary tax inequities.” A non-economic case could be made for redistricting in some cases, e.g., creating a consolidated Wilmington school district, but “it’s near impossible to pass such a plan through the General Assembly.” Still possible to combine some back-office functions as the task force suggested, maybe that will save some money. But “we should stop tying ourselves in knots talking about consolidation. When it comes to schools, Delaware has much bigger fish to fry.”

Offhand, we don’t recall reading about the task force’s report – has it been issued and were the details reported by the News Journal? While the indicated result was predictable given the composition of the task force, we question whether the study conducted was either comprehensive or objective. For example, reduction of the top-heavy administrative layers could (and we believe would) contribute to enhanced educational quality as well as cost savings. And to our knowledge, the task force did not consult with other states where much larger school districts are being operated and educational costs per student run substantially lower. Will school district consolidation task force make the grade? 10/1/17.
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