Thus, three important patterns:
- The growth tilted toward the larger districts, with smaller districts on average seeing declines
- The growth was faster in the county systems (taken as a group) than in independent systems
- The growth was concentrated outside Appalachia (using the Appalachian Regional Commission's designation of 54 counties and adding the 18 independents in that part of the state)
Here's a second table counting the districts seeing the various kinds of changes, with one twist on the earlier patterns:
- Even though independent districts had slower growth as a set than counties as a group, a majority of independents expanded while a majority of counties shrank.
When thinking of those 88 districts with declining attendance, bear in mind that even small losses can bring big challenges. For example, even if layoffs are avoided, people who retire may not be replaced. Over time, as those who remain grow in seniority, payroll still creeps upward, making it hard to maintain existing programs and harder still to invest in innovations. Most Kentucky districts are working in that difficult zone, even while public education as a whole expands.