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School consolidation vs. decentralization: Trends, issues, and questions

Abstract

The author examines two opposing administrative/policy trends that have simultaneously influenced the size and shape of American school districts. First,consolidation of school districts has dramatically reduced the number of districts from 130,000 in 1930 to 15,500 in 1990. State officials have viewed this as cost-effective approach and a way of reducing overlapping services and expenses. Local school and community people have seen this trend as a means of undercutting their local identity and pride. Second,decentralization has usually taken place in an urban school setting and involves reducing the size of the school district by dividing it into smaller units. This trend reached its peak in 1980, when 91% of the school districts with 100,000 or more students (n=22) reported some form of decentralization. By the 1990s, both school trends had slowed down; nevertheless, 20 questions are delineated for school administrators and school board members to consider in the event they wish to consolidate or decentralize.

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Author information

Correspondence to Allan C. Ornstein.

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Ornstein, A.C. School consolidation vs. decentralization: Trends, issues, and questions. Urban Rev 25, 167–174 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01137797

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Keywords

  • School District
  • Education Research
  • Board Member
  • State Official
  • School Setting