The Boston Globe's Peter Schworm writes about the state's efforts to nudge tiny school districts in Massachusetts into merging with their neighbors. There's some pushback from residents in small towns, which isn't surprising given New Englanders' obsession with local control. (Not to mention our class consciousness; some towns fear that if they merge with poorer communities, they'll end up paying more in taxes in order to educate "those" kids.)
What struck me was this caveat to the idea that bigger is better:
A study last year from the state Education Department found that districts with fewer than 1,500 students spent about $1,000 more per student than districts with between 1,500 and 3,000 students, a range that educators call a sweet spot. Larger districts spend more per student, researchers found.
That sounds plausible. Bigger districts have are more likely to have students of every conceivable type, including those from troubled family backgrounds, those with special needs, etc. It can cost more to tailor programs to cover a wide variety of subgroups. Larger districts probably also have higher transportation costs.
But while I can imagine organized campaigns for "bigger" and "smaller" districts, I can't imagine any kind of push (either from government or from citizens) for districts that total between 1,500 and 3,000 students. There may be mountains of data to support the idea of a sweet spot in the middle, but it's awfully difficult to move our A vs. B political system over such a specific target.
Are there "sweet spot" solutions in other issues that seem to defy tug-of-war politics?