Some U.S. school districts have become so large and unwieldy that parents and taxpayers feel they have no ability to influence them. To restore local, democratic control, it’s time to break up those big districts.
Public schooling was largely decentralized a century ago. A movement to standardize and professionalize K-12 education began in the Progressive Era. Consolidation may have accomplished some of its goals, but America’s largest districts today tend to be among the lowest-performing. For the most part, they are located in big cities and their ring suburbs. The nation’s three largest districts serve the nation’s three largest cities: New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. Many large districts also spend vast sums per student: San Francisco and Atlanta spend more than $17,000 a pupil; Washington spends more than $22,000; Boston more than $25,000; and New York more than $28,000.