A prominent part of current debates on sprawl involves the relationship between schools and communities. Two key questions on this issue are to what extent considerations about community growth and development influence school boards as they decide, first, whether to renovate an existing school or build new and second, if building new, whether to site the new school in an urban or exurban location. Research on these questions to date has relied largely on case study or anecdotal analysis and has yielded a variety of recommended policy reforms. This paper presents the results of a systematic statewide study of local school board decision making in Michigan. Based primarily on a survey of school district superintendents and a parallel survey of local government officials, along with review of demographic data and selected local plans, the study was designed to test a number of assertions commonly made in the literature about factors influencing school board decision making. The findings suggest that school boards, in general, are influenced most by a sense of competition with neighboring districts and by shifting demographics. Moreover, little meaningful coordination is occurring between school districts and local governments, largely because of the institutional arrangements that shape the school board decision-making process.
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