Over the period 1938-1980, the local administrative units of American education were transformed from small and informal community arrangements into large, professionally run bureaucratic organizations. This paper explores the causes of this structural change in American education by analyzing variation among states in the speed and extent of school district consolidation. It argues that the growth and formalization of district organizations through consolidation stemmed in large part from the expanding role of state bureaucracies. Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of the numbers of school districts per state support this argument.
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