There are around 115 local school districts in North Carolina. Here in the Triangle, we are used to fairly large districts. Wake County has 155,000 students. It is one of the largest in the nation.
The top five school districts in North Carolina - Wake, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Guilford, Cumberland and Winston-Salem/Forsyth - together enroll around a third of the 1.5 million public school students in the state.
But mostly, North Carolina’s local school districts are small.
According to data kept by the Department of Public Instruction, almost 80 of the school systems in North Carolina have less than 10,000 students apiece.
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It is possible that these small school districts are very efficient, and can make the case that there are no great savings to be had with consolidation. But I would think it’s worth the legislature’s time and energy to look at this. The state pays a big chunk of K-12 costs in North Carolina, around 60 percent, and in exchange for that, the legislature has a right to poke around and ask questions.
Now, if consolidation were easy, we wouldn’t have 115 school districts. Everyone likes to run their own shop. Imagine the negotiations between two or three school districts over who gets what job, how dollars are allocated for buildings and ballfields, etc.
But here’s the thing. More than 25 school districts in North Carolina have less than 3,000 students each. That’s what Wake County’s enrollment grows annually.