Consolidating school districts new jersey
In a state of nearly 600 districts and more than 2,400 individual schools, the mantra has always been there must be a better — and more efficient — way to run them.With Senate President Stephen Sweeney the latest high-level politician to promote the idea of consolidation, a consensus on how to do so — and how to achieve an outright mandate for it — may be as difficult to reach as ever.
The number of school districts could be sharply reduced simply by regionalizing districts in which the constituent municipalities are already engaging in some sort of sharing arrangement—either a regional high school or a fee-per-pupil sending agreement with a neighboring district.This means that when a new shopping mall or office park opens, the host municipality wins and all of its neighbors lose.Increasing the number of municipalities served by a school district would go a long way toward reducing inter-municipal competition for taxable commercial property (the “ratables chase”).It includes 15 elementary schools, five middle schools and three high schools—all operated by a single district with a single superintendent and administrative hierarchy.Hunterdon County’s population of 128,349 is roughly similar to that of the Central Bucks School District.In contrast, Central Bucks, at a ratio of 9:1, demonstrates that a similar population can be served effectively by a single district.
A single countywide district would still operate the same number of schools, and there would be no impact on the number of teachers.
He concludes that the potential for administrative cost savings makes the idea worth exploring.
A more local comparison might help drive the point home.
Hunterdon County leaders are looking into the idea of consolidating the county’s more than two dozen school districts into a single, countywide district.
Freeholder Director Rob Walton looked at 18 other counties nationwide with populations and land areas similar to Hunterdon’s and found that those with countywide school systems tended to spend less on public education than the ones with multiple school districts.
But Hunterdon County’s 26 municipalities send their kids to a total of 30 different school districts—25 elementary-only districts, four regional high school districts and Phillipsburg High School (in Warren County), where Bloomsbury sends its high school students.