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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.

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His work doesn’t include closing any buildings or shifting any students.

“Many people hear consolidation and they think about closing schools, but that doesn't have to be the case," he said.

The MSU report discusses the political and practical turmoil that comes with forced mergers, and notes many local school leaders "abhor" the idea.

But researchers said Michigan has in place good regional educational networks: the 57 intermediate school districts drawn roughly around county lines.

But there are other, smaller, sources that help pay for special programs and buildings. The MSU research team, led by professor Sharif Shakrani, agreed to predict statewide savings for the two options of shared services or complete county-level consolidation into about 57 intermediate districts based largely around the lines of one county or more.