The hazards of being classified as small, rural, and wealthy: two case studies
Barnhart, Linda Kay Arnold
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Small, rural, wealthy schools experience many hazards. One specific hazard occurred in 1999 for two such schools following actions by the 76th Texas Legislature. The focus of this dissertation is to tell the story of these affected districts. On one level, the dissertation examines the districts’ understanding of the finance system and its effect on their district, their reaction to the plight of their districts including the placing of blame, and the actions taken by the districts to combat the problem. On a second level, the dissertation presents the stakeholders’ perceptions of hazards that small, rural, wealthy schools experience. The purpose of this study is to broaden the understanding of the researcher and the reader. The sites of the study are one district in Central Texas and one district in the Texas Panhandle. The author of the dissertation served as superintendent of the Panhandle site. The study utilizes the qualitative case study design written from the interpretivist paradigm and a multi-voice construction. Data collection was primarily through the use of eighteen interviews. However, documents and observation were also used. Trustworthiness is achieved through member checking, triangulation, and replication of findings. Some of the findings of this dissertation are (a) While key stakeholders in each district had a high level of understanding of the Texas school finance system and the ways it affects their school districts, several board members held only a basic understanding, and several community members held only a limited understanding. (b) Most of the stakeholders in the two districts blamed the Legislature for their problem. (c) Stakeholders in both districts supported some actions to “save their schools,” but not others. (d) Stakeholders in one of the districts expressed concern over fighting the present system for fear that a system less advantageous to their school might be the result. (e) Most stakeholders perceived that being small was a hazard because of diseconomy of scale. (f) Stakeholders perceived that a lack of advantages could occur in a small school in the area of curriculum and extracurricular activities. (g) Many of the hazards perceived by the stakeholders could not be classified under just small, rural, or wealthy.