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In Michigan, state school-consolidation incentives can give merged districts a temporary increase over the total in state aid that the original districts would have received as separate entities.

But this windfall is temporary, and it applies only when an original entity was receiving less than the state “foundation grant” and, relative to a district’s total budget, comprises only a small amount of revenue.

They also maintain that in consolidation-imposed larger schools, personal attention to individual students suffers, the environment becomes less closely knit, and there are more discipline problems.

Following are several factors that PSC believes should be weighed when considering school district consolidation.

There may be savings from merging middle schools and high schools, which again means fewer administrators are needed. Salary equalization, whereby the teacher and staff salaries of one district are raised to be commensurate with those in the other district, almost always is necessary and usually is costly.

(It is possible, of course, to lower salaries in one district to the level of the other, but this is very difficult politically.) Although the jobs of some higher-level administrators (e.g., superintendent, principals, business manager) can be eliminated because the merged district is relatively large, some additional mid-level administrative staff (e.g., assistant superintendent, assistant principals) may be needed.

Some studies find that per student, consolidated schools have fewer teachers and administrative personnel.Since 1994, however, the state has softened its support of consolidation, as is evident in the omission of consolidation-study money in the FY 1996–97 budget (begins October 1).In Michigan a consolidation may occur only if a majority of voters in two (or more) districts approve.In the 1994 school finance reform plan, incentives, in the form of additional state aid, for school district consolidation were added to the School Aid Act.The state offered them believing that consolidation has “the potential to address administrative, curricular, and organizational efficiencies, providing for a more educationally and fiscally effective system and improved educational opportunities for students, teachers and communities.” Among the incentives were grants enabling districts to study the feasibility of consolidating, and several took the state up on it (Public Sector Consultants conducted three such studies for districts exploring the possibility).

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The new district operates under a single name, administration, and school board.

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