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No Benefits to Merging Texas' Large School Districts, Report Says

Not everything should be bigger in Texas—at least that's what a new report found regarding school district size.

Consolidating large school districts in Texas would increase costs and cause student performance to fall, according to a new study written by three researchers at Texas A&M University, along with a researcher at Utah State University.

The study was done for the Texas Education Agency, after a state Senate bill approved by Texas' legislature last year asked state education officials to find out if merging large school districts would lower the per-student cost of education. Researchers looked at the five largest counties in Texas, which include some of the state's major cities, such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. If each of the school districts in those counties were consolidated, they'd be the largest districts in the state and among the largest districts in the country, according to the newspaper The Bryan-College Station Eagle.

The cost per student at a small district is much higher than the cost of students at a large district—but the study found that Texas' large districts are already at their optimal point in size.

Consolidating the large districts reduces school choice and school costs would rise, the study found. Districts might operate less efficiently with added bureaucracy and less competition.

"So the idea is if you have a single bureaucratic monopoly as your only school of choice, you would observe that it has no particular incentive to be very responsive to taxpayer, voter, or parent needs," said one of the study's authors, Lori Taylor, to the Eagle.

We've reported before that research shows that states could save millions of dollars consolidating small school districts. And the number of school districts across the country has fallen about 90 percent in the last 70 years—but research seems to agree that consolidation is not one-size-fits-all solution.

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