Consolidating school distrcts

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They were created to provide services to member districts that would be too expensive or unwieldy for local districts to offer on their own.

“In Michigan, the ISD system is greatly underutilized.

Former state Superintendent Tom Watkins, Flanagan's predecessor, is a forceful voice for outright consolidations.

"Maybe the way things are set up now was good public policy and made sense 20 years ago, when the money was there.

In Washtenaw County, getting rid of the 10 traditional school districts and reinventing them as one county district would save about $18 million.

“County boundaries are arbitrary as well,” said Saline Superintendent Scot Graden.Thurston Elementary School students board a waiting Ann Arbor school bus last winter.Short of consolidation, Michigan school districts could save substantial money by sharing services, such as busing.This "shared services" model puts all public school transportation, food service and operations and maintenance at the county level.In Washtenaw County, “shared services” would get about .7 million in savings.Michigan has 550 public districts -- and nearly that many superintendents, business managers and transportation directors.Trim that management layer, erase district boundaries and recast administration around county lines, and state taxpayers save 2 million a year after three years -- all without closing a school or losing one high school mascot.Districts get a minimum of ,162 per student from the state government, though some receive a little more, a holdover from the days when each district set its own levy.Most of the state money is raised by a 6 percent sales tax and lottery proceeds. And if you threaten cuts, people will say you're against the kids," said Watkins, who led Michigan schools from 2001 to 2005 and consults internationally in business and education.“What we’re finding makes sense is regionalism.” He said that’s particualry true in places where there’s a large difference between large districts with high labor costs and smaller more rural districts with lower labor costs.But Graden also said consolidation should be looked at, especially as the number of students continues to drop.

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