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A unified school district (in Arizona, California, Oregon, Kansas) or unit school district (in Illinois) is a school district that generally includes and operates both primary schools (kindergarten through middle school or junior high) and high schools (grades 9–12) under the same district control.
This distinction is predominant where elementary school districts and high school districts are, or were, generally separate. The Los Angeles Unified School District is a major example of a unified school district in California. In Illinois, unit school districts must not be confused with consolidated or union school districts, which are generally formed by the consolidation of multiple school districts of the same type.
In Kansas, the unified school districts emerged from legislation passed in 1962. This legislation intended to reduce the number of rural school districts. After the law's passage the number of districts in Kansas dropped dramatically. In 1947, there were over 3,000 districts. After the unification law, the number dropped to under 400.
In Arizona, unified school districts have 5 school board members compared to common school districts that have 3 members.
Distinct uses of the term
Some other states use the term "unified school district" distinctly. For example:
- In Connecticut, a unified school district is a statewide school district serving students under the jurisdiction of a state department:
- In Vermont, a unified school district is a type of union school district in which "the town school districts (and school boards) are abolished and representatives from the former districts are elected to form one school board."
- In Wisconsin, a unified school district is one type of school district. Its school board has "the powers and duties of the school board and annual meeting in a common school district."