"Policy-makers and analysts should be very careful about any assumptions they make regarding spending and size," according to Mike Antonucci, director of the Education Intelligence Agency. Analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data from 47 states, Antonucci finds, "Only eight states had their largest district's spending fall within 3% of the state average."
These findings square with decades of national data and Arizona-specific data contained in a Goldwater Institute analysis of proposed school district consolidation. Antonucci's analysis showed Arizona's largest district, the Mesa Unified School District, spent nearly 7 percent below the state spending average. However, the Goldwater analysis found 18 smaller districts spent less on administration than the Mesa district, and Arizona's best small districts averaging 300 students and medium districts averaging 2,400 students keep administrative costs as low or lower than Arizona's 10 largest districts averaging about 34,000 students.
When it comes to saving on administrative costs, it seems bigger is not always better.