An Analysis of State Policy Implementation on School Consolidation: Working From the Bottom Up
Meyer, Alan L.
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The Problem: The problem of this study was to provide an analysis of Iowa's state policy on whole grade sharing and school consolidation. The study was designed to ascertain if the policies of the state of Iowa were effective in encouraging small rural school districts to whole grade share and follow up with school consolidation. Procedure: Four whole grade sharing school districts were chosen for the study. District administrators were interviewed. Questions were asked to determine the influence of state policies in aiding or impeding the districts to consolidate. Findings: The findings were that mandates from state agency levels do make a difference on how a school district may plan, but not always in the manner that the state agency may desire. Inducements from the state level could influence how school districts reacted to state mandates, but not every school district responded in the same manner. Local conditions within local school districts influenced how the local districts responded to state initiatives. Community traditions, concern for educational quality, district financial health, district facilities and the state efforts combined to produce outcomes that were desired by the state and outcomes that defied state intentions. Conclusions: Policy makers can provide mandates and inducements that cause citizens at local levels of government to make changes in the makeup of local school districts, however not all state attempts will be successful. Local control and values still play a strong part in the decision making process at the local level. Recommendations: Studies of the process of sharing, whether or not it led immediately to consolidation should be conducted five and ten years after the successful mergers to see what has changed, especially assessing whether long term conditions have changed sufficiently to support a different outcome or reinforced the present outcome. Since state policy can make a difference, mandates and support, carefully measured, can cause change, but not always. In the final analysis, this issue is like so many other state policy issues in being about how we govern ourselves in a federalist democracy.
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