Thomas Warman

Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Jared Schlenker


Equitable school district funding is a constant challenge for state legislatures. When budgets must be trimmed, the panacea for state legislatures has traditionally been approached strictly through the lens of economic efficiency. Since small rural schools typically have a greater per pupil cost, they are often forced into consolidating with nearby districts based on size alone. This research looked at how North Dakota should approach any changes to N.D. Cent. Code § 15.1-12 (n.d.), dealing with mandatory consolidation. Two theoretical frameworks were used in this research. The first, isomorphism, examined definitions of proper school district size and have been defined by consolidation and the desire to optimize economic efficiency. Place attachment, as a second theoretical framework, shifts away from purely economic models to highlight how consolidation mandates impact human beings living in rural areas. South Dakota chose to close schools with fewer than 100 students because they believed schools smaller than this were inefficient. This research, however, showed that there are several small school districts in North Dakota that are efficient, and targeting inefficiency rather than size would be a more beneficial course of action. Through participant interviews of rural school alumni, this research showed the value alumni of one small rural school district in northwest North Dakota has placed on their school. Results of this research showed that positive experiences people had in school strongly influenced how graduates felt about the importance of maintaining their small rural schools for generations to come. Recommendations for state policy were included in this paper based on results. Keywords: place attachment, isomorphism, consolidation, per pupil expenditures