Kansas May Take Up School Consolidation

Last Updated: September 29, 2009

This article appeared in the September 2009 Rural Policy Matters.
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School consolidation may be on the agenda in the next Kansas legislative session. The Republican-led House Appropriations committee has been working during the interim between sessions to investigate a number of possible cuts in state spending. The committee has created a list of items they say constitute government overspending. School district costs are on that list and some members are proposing consolidation as a solution. Democrats have criticized the list because their input was not included.
Kansas law already provides financial incentive to districts that consolidate, but only a handful of districts have accepted the funding each year.
The state currently has 293 districts, ten of which enroll fewer than 100 students.
Proponents of consolidation point to declining enrollment as justification. About 65% of Kansas school districts are experiencing declining enrollment, a trend across urban, suburban, and rural districts.
In addition to the House Appropriations committee’s list, the Legislative Post Audit Committee plans an investigation of potential consolidation targets as well. The scope statement for that study mentions the ten smallest districts and says the study will try to identify a link between per-pupil costs and district size.
A 2001 study by Augenblick and Myers recommended consolidating districts in several ways, one of which was to establish criteria related to spending and student performance. The Post Audit review will revisit those recommendations.
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Read more from the September 2009 Rural Policy Matters.