Consolidating Ohio Schools

Tuesday was not a good day for educators in many areas of East Ohio. Voters rejected school tax issues in the Bellaire, Switzerland of Ohio, Indian Creek, Edison Local, Buckeye Local, Jefferson County Joint Vocational School and Conotton Valley Union Local districts.

That was not surprising. Many voters throughout Ohio, not just in this area, have not been receptive to increasing their taxes to pay for schools during the past few years. On Tuesday, only about half the nearly 200 school tax issues put before Buckeye State voters were approved.

Voters tend to approve renewal of existing school levies in most regions of Ohio, but turn cold when requests are for new money. Here in East Ohio, every one of the seven rejected issues involved new taxes.

Forced during the past several years to adjust their own spending habits to a new economy, many Ohio voters seem to be demanding more efficiency from public schools. As we have pointed out, some districts, such as Bellaire Local schools, already have made massive cuts in spending.

Not enough, many voters appear to think.

Yet one method of making public schools more efficient – consolidation – is rejected out of hand by some Ohioans. When asked why, they often bring up high school sports. They simply don’t like the idea of eliminating schools and athletic teams.

Clearly, however, thought needs to be given to some form of consolidation in Buckeye State public schools. Belmont County, with 70,151 residents, has seven school districts. Jefferson, with 68,828 people, has five districts. Surely students in such counties – and there are many in Ohio – could receive better educations at less cost if more economies of scale were employed.

In Belmont County, for example, merely eliminating some of the redundant administrative posts could save hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars a year.

Ohio is served by about 613 school districts. Even reducing that by one or two hundred, consolidating school districts where no reasonable argument can be made to keep them separated, would be enormous progress.

As state officials continue to ponder basic education reform for Ohio, it is time for them – and their constituents – to begin thinking about school consolidation.