Implications of reorganization incentive aid in New York State

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching and Leadership


Joseph B. Shedd


rural schools, incentive aid, New York State

Subject Categories

Educational Administration and Supervision | Finance | Public Administration


Consolidations of rural schools and school districts are arguably the most successfully implemented educational policy in the last 50 years (Sher & Tompkins, 1976). One reason they have been so successful in that states like New York provide powerful financial incentives to reorganize. After two districts in New York State merge, reorganization aid flows to the district, tremendously increasing financial resources. Five years later, reorganization aid begins to diminish and eventually runs out after 14 years. This study focuses on one aspect of the reorganization process that has received virtually no attention from researchers: What happens in New York State's school districts when state aid, provided to encourage districts to consolidate, dramatically increases, then declines, and eventually runs out?

A multisite case study design was employed using three pairs of upstate New York school districts which reorganized in the early 1980s. Multiple interviews were held with 15 district leaders including former and current superintendents, business officials, and board of education presidents. In addition, merger studies, budget brochures, and financial records were reviewed. Sample districts were compared to 19 other districts in the same BOCES region using enrollment and expenditure data.

The study concludes that although reorganization has been helpful and sometimes necessary, the amount of reorganization aid and the way it is paid creates serious negative financial, political and educational consequences for the reorganized district. The direct costs of reorganization are much less than the aid provided by New York State. Educational opportunities increase temporarily for newly reorganized districts, but not necessarily more than those of non-merged districts. Reorganization aid is used to decrease taxes substantially over a significant period of time. The initial success of the reorganization increases community expectations that are difficult to modify as the loss of reorganization aid forces districts to raise taxes, cut programs, or both. Attempts at economy and efficiency result in increased class sizes and an ebb in educational opportunities. Attempts to wean residents from dependence on incentive aid results in political upheaval.

The study concludes with recommendations for districts considering reorganization, districts recently reorganized and policy-makers in for New York State.


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