Below is a submission from a LYS Superintendent:

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a candidate who is running for the District 85 seat of the Texas House of Representatives.  During our conversation the candidate indicated he favored going to countywide school systems in order to save money.  I indicated I didn’t think countywide school districts would save much money at all, and in addition had the potential to cause harm.  Whether you are for or against county school districts, let’s cogitate on the issue.

The concept of countywide school systems is not alien, even in Texas.  Years ago, Texas had countywide school systems.  A brief history can be found at:

Interestingly, the TEA link says cities and towns wanted more control of their schools, hence independent school districts were formed.  It seems that even as early as the 1880’s local control was of key interest for Texans, and that was before we spent the past three decades relocating school authority to Austin.  Obviously, I think local control is a compelling reason NOT to consolidate back to countywide schools.  Consolidation of independent districts into county districts results in large, centralized government versus small, local government. Our country was founded on the latter, and the former, arguably, is sucking the life out of Nation.  Again, like Senator Hegar has said, our state is drastically different from region to region.   But even within the same county, school districts often have vastly different cultures and priorities.  I know, people in favor of countywide schools say the local communities can keep their schools, traditions, culture, and priorities.  Consolidators say they simply want to have one central administration for all the local schools.  But the superintendent of an independent school district is the executive arm that maintains the culture and priorities of the district in tandem with the locally elected board. Take away the superintendent and the locally elected board and the ability to maintain a community’s culture and priorities will be seriously impacted.  Also, the consolidators will not stop at simply consolidating central administration into countywide administrations.  Once the consolidators have taken the first step, the second step will be easier.  And the second step is the closing of buildings and schools deemed not needed by the county administration.  With the central administration of the independent school districts removed, local control is removed, and the culture and priorities of the community will be supplanted by the needs of the larger collective.  Let me clear: consolidating into countywide school districts is step one; step two is the consolidation of districts by the process of closing buildings.  Once the consolidators win round one, they will not stop.

The main argument for eliminating independent districts and forming county districts is to save money.  Personally I think the de-centralized government argument allowing more local control is the best reason not to consolidate into county-wide schools, but in order to give due diligence to the finance argument, let’s explore it.  There are five independent school districts in my rural county.  The county enrollment is about 8100 students and my best estimate is there are about 21 superintendents, assistant superintendents, and directors in the county.  Looking at a school district like College Station ISD with about 10,000 students, I count about 28 people with the word “superintendent” or “director” in their titles.  So, should my county be consolidated into a countywide district with only one superintendent, I suggest not a single dime would be saved.  In fact, the consolidation just may cost more money, unless you shut down the local school buildings and bus kids to centralized locations (step 2, remember?).  In my county four “fat cat” superintendents would likely become deputy superintendents, assistant superintendents, or directors for the larger collective, and their salaries may very well all go up.  Indeed the larger collective will be significantly more complex, therefore the four displaced superintendents may not be enough to fill all of the senior administrative jobs needed, we may need to hire more.  This idea is explored in the following 2011 publication:

These researchers suggested there are likely benefits to de-consolidating school districts, especially very large ones.

In conclusion, I must say I am not strictly against school consolidation.  If two Texas school district’s duly elected boards decide it is in the best interest of their children and communities to consolidate, I think that’s great.  I simply don’t think Austin should be making that decision.  The fact that few districts choose to consolidate tells me the idea is not too popular with Texans.  Also, Premont and North Forest both fought like Spartans to keep their districts from being forcibly consolidated.  The idea of saving money can easily be discredited, both by logical inspection and published research.  Truly I suspect the real intention of consolidators is to further their agenda to end public education.  Once we have countywide collective districts the cultures and priorities of individual independent districts will begin to deteriorate, with only the needs of the collective considered.  Eventually schools will close, communities will die, and the collective will be complete.  Once the consolidators have a collective that is no longer connected to individual communities, there will be little opposition or outcry as the consolidators continue with their true plan, which is to dismantle public education and replace it with a system of charters and vouchers.  

Again, if consolidation is what communities want, they are free to choose that now, and when done forcibly, districts seem to fight it to the bitter end.  I tell you all, however, to be weary of the skullduggery of those who attack the central administrations of local independent school districts based upon the idea of “saving money”.  Little to no money will be saved, saving money is not their intention, and we all need to be aware of the facts before rushing into consolidation.  I am tired of passing bills in order to find out what’s in them.

Mike Seabolt

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