School District Secession Is a Pretty Minor Issue in 48 States

The 74 reports that we’re seeing an epidemic of suburban areas seceding from big urban school districts:

EdBuild argues that residents who push to create their own school systems are often motivated by one overarching factor: school funding. “We are seeing over and over that it’s about the money,” said Zahava Stadler, director of policy at EdBuild, a think tank focused on education funding equity.

….When one district splits into two, the move often creates a wealthy school system that leaves behind one with high poverty and poor funding. Since 2000, at least 128 communities have launched campaigns to secede from their local school districts to create their own, smaller education systems. Of those, 74 have been successful, 11 of them finalized in just the past few years. Another 16 secession efforts are currently underway.

Secession efforts of any kind are almost always about money.¹ Rich areas want to keep their money to themselves, and the way to do it is to secede. They generally also want to stay white, and secession paves the way for that too. The whole thing is loathsome and offensive.

However, it’s not really very widespread. It turns out that of the 74 school district secessions, 47 are in Maine and Alabama and another six took place in Shelby County, Tennessee, a year after a school district merger. Outside of that, there have been 21 secessions since 2000, or about one per year in a country with more than 13,000 school districts. In other words, we might have a Maine and Alabama problem, but in the other 48 states there’s not really much going on.

¹On a national level, language often plays a role too. But even then, there’s usually a money angle as well.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate