by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
There’s been speculation that North Carolina lawmakers might recommend breaking up our state’s two largest school districts — Wake and Charlotte/Mecklenburg. The two are behemoth, serving more than 100,000 kids each. The average is much lower. But as Lindsay Marchello reports for Carolina Journal, a legislative committee has adopted a draft report that does not recommend splitting the two giants into smaller districts.
“There was not a clear connection between the size of the LEA and the performance of the schools,” Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg and co-chair of the study committee, said.
Previous meetings covered insurance, transportation, school nutrition, information technology, and legal implications of breaking up large districts. Researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill presented scholarly literature on deconsolidation. Their findings offered little guidance.
“The data was really all over the map,” Brawley said. “There does seem to be a strong inference that smaller schools do better than large schools.”
Brawley said more studies are needed, and the same goes for the size of school districts. There wasn’t enough time to responsibly craft a procedure for deconsolidation, he said.
It’s a positive step that lawmakers are looking at data as they seek to improve achievement and ensure every child has an opportunity to learn. There’s been much focus on teachers, with the average North Carolina teacher salary now topping $51,000, and on classroom resources, with total North Carolina public school appropriations nearing $9 billion.
Resources are important, but they’re one piece of the puzzle. The key component of a strong and vibrant education system is that acknowledges every child is different and parents are key. Those are the underlying principles of school choice.