Larger Districts Are Less Efficient

Published December 1, 2002

Rather than benefitting from economies of scale with larger school districts, a 1999 study for the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution by Mike Antonucci concludes the American public school system suffers instead from “penalties of scale.” Antonucci found that as school district size increases, the percentage of the budget spent on student instruction — teachers, books, and teaching materials — goes down.

According to the report, the average U.S. school district spends 61.7 percent of its budget on instruction. But Florida’s Broward County–the nation’s sixth largest district–spends 55.7 percent of its education budget on instruction. Maryland’s Baltimore County, the 24th largest, spends 55.3 percent, while Orange County, the 16th largest, spends barely half of its budget (52.2 percent) on student instruction.

For more information …

Mike Antonucci’s November 17, 1999, report “Mission Creep: How Large School Districts Lose Sight of the Objective: Student Learning,” is Alexis de Tocqueville Institution Issue Brief No. 176, available on its Web site at