Mega school districts would increase costs, TEA says

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Creating ‘mega-districts’ will increase costs and would not improve student performance, according to a study released by the Texas Education Agency. The study looked into district consolidation in the state’s five largest counties, which includes Travis County.

The study was mandated by the Texas Legislature as part of Senate Bill 2, and required the TEA to provide “an analysis of whether the performance of matched traditional campuses would likely improve if there were consolidation of school districts within the county in which campuses are located.”

The analysis applied to counties with at least seven school districts and at least 10 open-enrollment charter schools, and showed consolidation would create districts with enormous enrollments by both state and national standards.

Enrollment in Travis County ISD would be 145,856, making it among the 20 largest districts in the U.S.

Consolidation is usually expected to reduce the cost of education, the study says, based on research demonstrating the per-pupil cost of running a very small school district is much higher than a larger district. The study says while consolidating small districts can save money, grouping larger districts would actually increase costs. “As the size of the consolidated district increases past 3,200 students, costs are expected to rise, not fall,” the analysis showed.

The study also showed combining districts would raise per-student costs by 2.8 percent in Travis County. Researchers added it was unlikely student performance would increase, especially given the lack of cost savings.

Booming Enrollment Numbers

  • With an enrollment of just over 803,000 students, the consolidated Harris County ISD would become the second largest district in the country (behind only New York City Schools).
  • The consolidated Dallas ISD (with an enrollment 437,642) would be the fourth largest school district in the country – ahead of the Chicago Public School system, but smaller than Los Angeles Unified School district.
  • The consolidated Tarrant County ISD (with an enrollment of 341,855) would become the seventh largest school district in the country.
  • The consolidated Bexar County ISD (with an enrollment of 321,072) would become the eighth largest school district in the country.
  • The consolidated Travis County ISD (with an enrollment of 145,846) would be among the 20 largest districts nationwide.
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