Would combining school districts (MPCSD, Las Lomitas, Ravenswood) result in reduced costs?
This question has been asked for years by many people in many different contexts. It is true that the cities of Menlo Park and Atherton have a unique structure. There are actually five districts serving parts of Menlo Park and Atherton. They are: Ravenswood, Menlo Park City (us), Redwood City, Las Lomitas, and Sequoia Union High School.
The simple answer to the question of combining districts as a cost savings measure is: Even if the MPCSD community was interested in this occuring, MPCSD couldn’t make it happen alone. And, there is no proof that combining districts would actually save money. Combining districts would require the coordination of many different agencies including all local school boards, all local collective bargaining units (unions), local elected officials, the San Mateo County Office of Education, and the California Department of Education. It’s not impossible; it is simply out of MPCSD’s ability to make it happen.
It is possible that combining the districts wouldn't actually save money. While counter-intuitive, the following factors could actually make combining districts a more costly gamble:
- As Community-Funded Districts, MPCSD and Las Lomitas keep all their local property tax revenue because property tax revenues are greater than the state guarantee. A combination of districts could move the new district below the “basic aid” threshold.
- As a State-Funded District with a large percentage of English Learners and students from low income backgrounds, Ravenswood receives a great deal of supplemental and concentration (education terms) funding above and beyond their base funding. Joining with two small “basic aid” districts could deny the new combined district millions of dollars in supplemental and concentration funding.
- Big districts require much larger infrastructure and administration to operate.
- Salaries of all employees would likely need to rise to the highest common denominator for all employees of the new combined district.
The bottom line is that a great deal more research would need to be done at a much higher level than our small district to determine if combining districts would prove to save money. Additionally, such an effort would take years to accomplish and wouldn’t address the current structural deficit. MPCSD stands ready to be an active partner with any and all entities who want to further research the issue.
Be assured that residents only "pay" for districts in which they reside; thus, if you live in MPCSD, your taxes only pay for MPCSD and the Sequoia Union High School District (Menlo-Atherton High School is not a part of MPCSD).