The number of school districts in 1940


The number of districts in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau


Percentage of public school revenues derived from local coffers in 1939-1940, according to the U.S. Department of Education.


Local dollars as percentage of public school funding in 2006-2007.


State dollars as a percentage of public school funding in 1939-1940


Percentage of school funding provided by states in 2006-2007.

For all the talk among congressional Republicans such as House Education and Workforce Development Committee Chairman John Kline about a return to school district-based local control in education, the reality is that local control has been dissipating for decades. School funding lawsuits, property tax relief efforts and declining enrollments in rural communities has made states the lead decision-making venues in education. School consolidations that began in the 1950s have also reduced the power of local districts. In fact, the failures of districts as both education providers and operating entities all but suggest that they should go out of business; full state funding would also end the local funding justifications for opposing school choice.

But there is still indecision over whether school district/local control model of education should be continue to exist or should be abandoned altogether. As a result, districts can often behave with little accountability, declaring that they shouldn’t be subject to federal or state oversight (and accountability measures such as the No Child Left Behind Act) even as they become more dependent on the funds. It is high time to end the debate and move to end the pretense of local control altogether.