There's nothing wrong with paying people a nice wage and having small school districts," Watkins said.
"But that's as if Ford and GM behaved as if Honda, Toyota and Hyundai didn't exist.
Maine, especially, has taken a hard look at consolidations to resemble countywide districts in place in Florida, Maryland and Virginia. Michigan has the nation's fifth highest number of school districts.
And with shrinking state revenues and rising legacy costs in the state, top leaders such as state Superintendent Michael Flanagan and business advocacy groups are calling for shared services.
But researchers said Michigan has in place good regional educational networks: the 57 intermediate school districts drawn roughly around county lines.
This "shared services" model puts all public school transportation, food service and operations and maintenance at the county level.
In Washtenaw County, “shared services” would get about .7 million in savings.
Districts get a minimum of ,162 per student from the state government, though some receive a little more, a holdover from the days when each district set its own levy.
Most of the state money is raised by a 6 percent sales tax and lottery proceeds. And if you threaten cuts, people will say you're against the kids," said Watkins, who led Michigan schools from 2001 to 2005 and consults internationally in business and education.
They were created to provide services to member districts that would be too expensive or unwieldy for local districts to offer on their own.