While the means is open to debate, the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has the right intent in trying to persuade the state's smallest school systems to consolidate with neighbors.
Given the high cost of education, it makes no sense to have small school systems serving less than 1,000 students carrying the same administrative expenses that a system several sizes larger would expect, including a superintendent, a human resources office, administrative support staff and a facility manager.
The governor proposes a stick approach by reducing state education aid to small school districts where spending exceeds the per-pupil state average by 10 percent or more. State aid to these small, inefficient school systems would drop by $100 per pupil in the first year, up to a maximum of $500 if the situation doesn't change.
There is also a carrot, albeit not a large or tasty one, in the form of state grants to help small-town school systems study consolidation.
The Connecticut Council of Small Towns and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities both said they don't like the use of penalties to coerce towns into working together to form larger school districts. These organizations say they would rather see more incentives provided.
We suggest both. The state's small school systems should know they will pay a price, in the form of reduced state aid, for continuing business as usual, but it would also help bring about change if the legislature can come up with increased assistance for towns that do consolidate, at least during the transitional stage.
Connecticut is truly the land of steady habits. There is a strong propensity here to do things one way because that's the way those things have always been done. But forming larger school districts can provide students with more diverse curriculum options, cut administrative overhead and provide property tax relief.
The time has come for change and the Malloy administration has the right idea in trying to expedite it.