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School Consolidation in Nebraska: Economic Efficiency vs. Rural Community Life

Introduction

We examine the factors driving rural school consolidations, focusing our analysis on Nebraska. We consider statutory and case law, the school financing formulas that drive consolidation and the efforts by rural citizens to challenge those financing formulas in courts. We analyze how rural school consolidations have been framed in newspaper coverage, in order to see the dominant understandings of the cost-benefit tradeoffs in consolidating rural schools. Finally, we study three cases of rural Nebraska school districts for the insights these cases provide as to the challenges of sustaining rural community schools and the effects of consolidation on the students and the communities. Our conclusion is that schools play a vital role in sustaining rural community life, although the costs to the community when schools are consolidated are more difficult to quantify than the economies of scale that motivate those consolidations.

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School Consolidation in Nebraska: Economic Efficiency vs. Rural Community Life
Joan M. Blauwkamp, Peter J. Longo, and John Anderson