Effective Government

Too Many Washington School Districts

Why does the State of Washington have 295 school districts! Why not use a model employed by other states - base school district boundaries on county boundaries for most counties and on student population for counties such as King County. It probably would not be prudent to combine Seattle School District with other districts, given its existing student population.


As an example - Thurston County has 8 school districts with School Superintendent salaries totaling $961,000/yr. (source: WA School District Personnel Summary Profiles - 2005–06 - Final) for a total county population of 251,000 (source: Wikipedia) across 727 sq. mi. (source: Wikipedia). In contrast - Washoe County School District, Nevada has one superintendent paid less than $200,000/yr. (source: preliminary estimate based on phone conversation with retired Nevada school administrator) serving a population of 410,000 (source: Wikipedia) across 6,551 sq. mi. (source: Wikipedia)


Both states rank similarly (i.e. dismally) nationwide on class sizes and amount spent per student.


I submit that, if Washington's current 295 school districts ( and educational service districts) were consolidated into perhaps 50 school districts, hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved annually.


The current paradigm is an artifact of the strong populist sentiments (keep control in local hands and don't place too much power in an entity) at statehood and of how difficult travel was.


May Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Governor display leadership by bringing this suggestion to the forefront for research and public discourse, especially in light of public education consuming 25% of the GF operating budget.


Terry Graham, Tumwater, WA


Edit – 7/27/2010 -- This recommendation is not directed at consolidating schools, rural or otherwise. It’s important to keep students in their neighborhoods or rural communities for schooling. I’m simply suggesting that district administrators and staff could be trimmed via district consolidation thus drastically reducing statewide school district expenditures for overhead and staff. I would also recommend redirecting some of the savings toward reducing class size and increasing amount spent/ student. Washington nationally ranks toward the bottom on both accounts – 48th for class size (Sources: NEA Rankings and Estimates, December 2009) and 45th for $$/student (Source: Education Week, January 2010).

Terry Graham, Tumwater, WA



251 votes
Idea No. 1396