Michigan consolidating schools

There are 545 local school districts in Michigan and 56 Intermediate School Districts, or ISDs.

Around 50 of those districts were in the red at the end of the last school year.

This is astonishing, especially since the creators of the 2001 study concluded, "We find no support for the use of state tax dollars to encourage consolidation among districts with 1,500 or more pupils." Though more than half of Michigan's school districts exceed 1,500 pupils, Shakrani's report fails to mention this limitation.

Syracuse Professor William Duncombe, one of the authors of that 2001 study, told Michigan Capitol Confidential that the MSU report was "not an appropriate use of scientific evidence." A much more appropriate use of the New York findings would have been to extrapolate the savings figures to small rural districts.

State politicians and media are suddenly abuzz with the concept of consolidating school districts. Jennifer Granholm wants to spend million to "incentivize" districts to merge, and she's getting air support from a new Michigan State University study claiming that 2 million could be saved by consolidating Michigan's 551 school districts into 83 single-county districts.

Policymakers should approach this study with extreme caution.

MSU says it's investigating, but from a public policy perspective the more immediate issue is the study's fatally flawed assumptions and methodology.

It states that charters are "not considered for potential inclusion in school district consolidation since they are intended to function independently..." But the data set it used include charters, further inflating the savings estimate. Capital costs are not considered, even though the New York source study found them to rise significantly after consolidations.

Additionally, some spending categories were incorrectly defined and misapplied.

After months and months of debate, Healthy Michigan is here.

That's the official name for the state's newly expanded Medicaid program.

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