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Education Policy Fellowship Program

District Size & Structure in Michigan

May 08, 2006
12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Kellogg Center, MSU

This session will guide a data-based exploration of Michigan's school district history:  how did we arrive at the current 700+ districts? At different times during that history, various rationales justified first an expansion of districts, then a radical consolidation, eventually a perceived minimum-feasible "brake" on the consolidation movement, and more recently an expansion as charter schools overlaid non-geographic districts on top of plat-based ones. In addition, several recent case studies will give insight about local efforts to consolidate that prevailed and others that failed. By identifying the advantages that pushed for change in each case, we will assemble a comprehensive list of pro's and con's for creating larger and smaller districts. Given changes in conditions during the past ten years, we'll also identify creative alternatives to consolidation that districts are using to obtain some of the advantages without accruing the disadvantages of formal status change. And finally, we propose a simulation in which participants, as voters in adjoining districts, will debate and negotiate a proposal to change the size and structure of their district.

Learning Team Members:

Bob Balwinski
Bob Cipriano
Dan Hanrahan
Joann Neuroth
Dan Schab
Kathy Weller

Research Questions:

  • Is there a "right size" for a school district?
  • Is "Bigger/Fewer" likely to bring economies of scale?
  • Or is "Smaller/More Choice" likely to maximize identity and engagement?
  • Why does Michigan have over 700 districts?  Should it?
  • Are there alternatives to consolidation that districts may use?

Agenda: Why does Michigan have over 700 districts?  Should it?

1:15 PM         The History of School District Organization in Michigan
1:30 PM         Exploring Assumptions/Making Projections
2:00 PM         Analyzing Current Financial/Performance Data
2:20 PM         Public Opinion in Michigan
2:35 PM         Break
2:45 PM         Case Study/Simulation
3:45 PM         Break
4:00 PM         Guest Speaker: Anthony Derezinski J.D.
5:00 PM         Adjourn

Resource Persons:

Anthony Derezinski J.D.
Director of Government Relations
Michigan Association of School Boards
1001 Centennial Way, Suite 400
Lansing, MI 48917
(517) 327-5900

Mr. Derezinski is currently the Director of Government Relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards.  He is a graduate of Muskegon Catholic Central High School, Marquette University, the University of Michigan Law School (J.D. degree), and Harvard Law School (Master of Laws Degree).  Mr. Derezinski served as Michigan State Senator from 1975-1978.  He was a member of the Board of Regents of Eastern Michigan University for 14 years.  He served as a Lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General's Corps in the United States Navy from 1968-1971 and as a military judge in the Republic of Vietnam.  He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Association of College and University Attorneys, the Michigan and National Councils of School Attorneys, and the American Bar Association.

Resource Materials:

May 8 06 Learning Team.ppt

Shared Services Work for Two Michigan Districts
In Northwest Michigan, Glen Lake and Suttons Bay school districts are exploring alternatives to school district consolidation.

Larger Deficits May Cause School Consolidation
This article examines the school district consolidation efforts in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, which has three public school districts.   Since 1953, the consolidation of the three school districts (Lake Shore, Lakeview, and South Lake) has been voted down nine times

Schools Need to Consolidate to Best Educate Our Children
Read this strongly worded letter from a concerned citizen that appeared in the Hillsdale Daily News.  He proposes, that due to declining enrollments, Hillsdale County (in Southern Michigan) should move from 8 public high schools in 8 different districts to 2 or 3 county high schools.


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