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Does Consolidation Make It More Difficult for Rural Schools to Pass Tax Increases?

Compare the tax levies passed for rural and urban Ohio school districts, and a funding gap emerges.

It's been more than 30 years since some rural counties have been able to get community support for a tax levy, while counties with big cities, such as Columbus, Ohio, have found more success.

One of the reasons for the disparity can be traced back to the consolidation of smaller, rural schools, according to new reporting from StateImpact Ohio, a collaboration of public radio stations.

Reporter Ida Lieszkovszky found decisions to consolidate schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s have had a lingering effect, specifically a loss of community identity and lack of public trust in schools.

She found teachers hear the same concerns, but that hasn't changed districts' needs. The inability of schools to pass tax hikes has resulted in shut down buildings, frozen teacher pay, and a loss of full-time positions, according to the article.

Advocates of school consolidation say it saves money and improves economies of scale, but its critics cite evidence to the contrary.

The article seems to jive with some of the research on the ramifications of consolidation. One report that analyzed a body of research on consolidation found its impact on the vitality and well-being of communities might be the most dramatic, but least-discussed, effect.

"Put simply, the loss of a school erodes a community's social and economic base—its sense of community, identity and democracy—and the loss permanently diminishes the community itself, sometimes to the verge of abandonment," according to the National Education Policy Center report.

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