When is Small Too Small? Efficiency, Equity & the Organization of Vermont Public Schools
In January, 2015, graduate students from Penn State University released a report on Vermont’s education system, seemingly in an effort to head off proposed changes to state education finance policies that might increase pressure on very small districts and schools to consolidate. Conflating consolidation at the district level with consolidation at the school level, among other policy recommendations, the report suggested that the current small schools grant be increased, not decreased, and also restructured, so as to help sustain small schools. The report also suggested that any lowering of the “excess spending threshold” include exemptions for very small schools so as not to put unnecessary budgetary pressure on those schools.
The Penn State report, however, presents a skewed characterization of the literature on a) school size, and b) consolidation, to support their conclusions. Further, the report fails to appropriately relate data on actual Vermont schools and districts to that literature in any way. Indeed, the report lacked any mention to empirical size conditions in Vermont, whether at the district or school level. As such, the policy recommendations of the report are misguided, at best.