Consolidation is a viable option for some Michigan school districts, but not all

May 20, 2013

Michigan schools have been in headlines for a while now: For many, the mention of Buena Vista schools instantly calls up an image of a closed public school.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Eric Scoresone, an economist at Michigan State University, and Michelle Richard, a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing.

One of the biggest problems for schools is receiving funding based on a per student basis, Richard said.

"There were 1,000 students at Buena Vista in 2009-2010, and now there are only 400. You can only cut so quickly and if you don't have kids in seats then you are forced to make challenging decisions."

In the in-depth discussion, Scoresone and Richard weighed the costs and benefits of school consolidation and what role that could play in Michigan's education system.

Richard noted that small community schools are a rich tradition for Michigan. 

"Before Michigan was even a state, there were laws requiring communities to form schools if there were over 50 people in the community. In the 1920's, there were 7,000 school districts in Michigan.That deep history of local control and community schools continues to show up today."

Scoresone added that though consolidation might be helpful for some smaller schools that can't manage on their own, it's not always the best solution. Some small schools do operate efficiently on their own. 

He also noted that larger schools probably wouldn't benefit from consolidating.

"As a school gets larger, there's not benefits on an infinite level. As districts get larger and larger there's probably increasing costs. There's no easy or clear answers. Each situation has to be analyzed on its own terms."

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

To hear the full discussion, click the link above.