What happens when a school district can no longer afford to operate?
New report finds that the vast majority of states across the country do not have the power to merge school systems across borders, even when districts become financially distressed.
Contact name: Zahava Stadler Phone: 201- 685-7884
JERSEY CITY, NJ – A new report finds that only nine states have laws to allow for state-mandated consolidation, even when school districts can no longer afford to operate.
Stranded: How States Maroon Districts in Financial Distress surveys the policies related to school district consolidation in all fifty states and finds that the vast majority of states are abdicating their responsibility to provide for the most vulnerable students.
When a school district becomes financially insolvent, there are often few options for intervention. States could step in to provide ongoing relief in the form of extra state aid, or those districts can access a broader tax base by consolidating with a better-off neighbor. But only nine states have laws that give them the power to merge districts across borders in a manner that would provide relief to children in struggling communities, even when state funding is insufficient. This forces districts to petition their neighbors to voluntarily provide help that most often doesn’t come.
“In a funding system that relies on local wealth, changes in the economic condition of a community can lead to significant financial distress,” said EdBuild CEO Rebecca Sibilia. “Across the country, states are leaving the futures of children in our neediest communities to the whims of their neighbors and the will of the wealthy.”
Stranded highlights two examples of how the lack of intervention affects children, including in Midland, Pennsylvania, where a lack of resources and repeated denial from neighboring districts forced students to be bussed across state borders to Ohio for over twenty years to receive an education.
This report is the third in a series from EdBuild that highlight the negative impacts of school district borders on needy students and communities. Prior reports include Fractured: The Breakdown of America’s School Districts, released June 2017 and Fault Lines: America’s Most Segregating School Districts, released August 2016.
EdBuild is a 501(c)(3) organization working to bring common sense and fairness to the way we fund education. Founded in 2014, EdBuild has worked actively with state leaders and stakeholders to accelerate change and spark dialogue. For more information, visit www.edbuild.org.
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