On Saturday, McHenry County Blog published a thoughtful analysis by Cary Grade School Board President Scott Coffee about the situation facing those wishing to consolidate Crystal Lake High School District 155 with its four feeder grade schools. You can read it here.
Under that article was a thoughtful comment by Lakewood bond analyst Steve Willson, which is posted below:
Bigger Is Not Better in Government
People often argue from analogy,
“businesses achieve economies of scale as they grow; so should government.”
The problem with this statement is, of course, that the incentives of business and government are diametrically opposed.
Businesses have an incentive to save money.
Governments have an incentive to spend as much as possible.
Think about it from your own experience:
have YOU found that big governments are less bureaucratic or more bureaucratic than smaller governments?
And this is true of school districts.
If you consolidate four school districts, you lose three superintendents.
You gain six assistant superintendents, assistant principals, assistant curriculum coordinators, etc.
Now, if my contention is true, then it should show up in the data.
And it does.
I’ve examined the data on expenditures for all the school districts in Illinois.
I’ve performed this analysis for several years’ data.
I always leave out Chicago because it is such an outlier, although if I include it, it simply reinforces the conclusions.
And here are the conclusions:
There is no statistically significant correlation between expenditures per pupil and outcomes as measured by graduation rates and test scores.
Some schools spend $9,000 per pupil.
Some spend up to $28,000.
Here in McHenry County, the range is around $9,000 to $18,000.
There is no statistically significant correlation between teacher wages and outcomes.
There is no statistically significant correlation between teacher experience and outcomes.
There was only ONE statistically significant relationship:
bigger districts spend more per pupil than smaller districts.
And in addition to the wage issue, which will almost always be resolved in favor of the higher wage scale, the bureaucratic factor is overwhelmingly against consolidation.