James V. Shuls

Readers of the Show-Me Institute’s blog may remember me highlighting the tiny school district of Gorin R-III. With just 19 students, Gorin was the smallest district in Missouri and spent more per pupil than any other school district in the state, $26,821. Gorin will no longer have either of these titles in the 2015–16 school year, because the district no longer exists.

Unbeknownst to me until yesterday, voters in the Gorin School District approved a plan to be annexed by the Scotland County R-I School District. The vote was 49 in favor, 13 against. (Those are the actual votes, not percentages.)

Gorin voters made the right move, and they will immediately see the benefits. For starters, the property tax levy for schools in Gorin was $4.3744 per $100 of assessed valuation. Residents will now be taxed at the $3.36 rate of the Scotland County School District. Undoubtedly, students will receive a wider variety of educational options than before.

While I applaud the move by the voters of the Gorin School District, Missouri still has a glut of small school districts. 

2014-15 Student EnrollmentNumber of Districts
Fewer than 10046
100 - 19959
200 – 35086
  
Total with 350 or fewer students191

 

Of these, just 50 raised more than half of their funding through local sources. By and large, small school districts are expensive to operate and require a lot of financial support from the state.

Previously on the blog, I’ve asked, “Is school consolidation an issue of local control?” Whether you believe that it is or you believe that small schools should be consolidated by the state, maybe we can agree on one thing—state taxpayers should not be forced to pay extra for the decisions of small school districts. Currently, school districts with fewer than 350 students are guaranteed a specific amount of money. Remove this hold-harmless provision and chances are we’d see more districts like Gorin making a wise decision to consolidate. 

About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls
Distinguished Fellow of Education Policy

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.