Governor Pushing For Merger Of School Districts

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS/AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed a plan to merge the state’s current 868 school districts into no more than 300, a move aimed at saving $100 million.

The governor discussed the school consolidation plan in his budget address earlier this week and a spokeswoman for his Office of Management and Budget confirmed that the proposal would involve mandatory mergers rather than voluntary ones, as districts have done previously.

“Yes, it would be something imposed by the state,” said OMB spokeswoman Kelly Kraft.

Quinn said his plan could save taxpayers $100 million annually through elimination of administrators and improved efficiency. His administration says 247 Illinois school superintendents currently make more than the $177,400 salary Quinn receives as governor.

The Illinois Board of Education, which supports the consolidation plan, notes that 200 Illinois districts contain only one school.

Quinn says he plans to appoint a commission to review the issue but had not done so by Friday evening.

Although the plan remains incomplete, Quinn’s budget director David Vaught said part of it would be to draw new school boundaries in much the same way as the General Assembly draws lawmakers’ district boundaries after a census. Boundaries would be drawn by the commission and the Board of Education.

Although Illinois has eliminated 140 districts through consolidation since 1983, it still trails only the much more populous states of California and Texas in its number of districts. By contrast, New York, which had nearly 7 million more residents than Illinois in the 2010 Census, had only 684 districts.

School administrators and legislators expressed mixed reactions to news of the plan.

Assistant superintendent Ron Graham of the North Mac district, which was formed recently in the Springfield area from the consolidation of the former Girard and Virden districts, said he approved of the idea.

“The consolidation has been a positive thing,” Graham said. “High school students have seen an increase in class offerings.”

But in Palatine Elementary District 15, board member Jim Ekeberg said consolidation would save money, but could cause other complications.

“What it can do is remove local control,” said Ekeberg. “It sounds great on paper, but does he really have a plan?”

And Terri McHugh, a spokeswoman for Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54, which has 14,000 students and 2,000 employees, said she wasn’t sure the plan would give Quinn all the savings he is expecting.

“When you have a district this size, you still need people to manage it,” McHugh said.

State Sen. Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville, said he’s open to the idea, but only if it is approached carefully.

“I think we need to be keenly aware and listen to the people of those districts,” McCann said. “The concept of the State Board of Education coming in and dictating all over the state which districts should consolidate, I don’t think that is a very good idea.”

And State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said forced consolidation would be a mistake and inject politics into the issue.

“I think most school districts would go along with it as long as it isn’t their school district that’s being abolished,” Bomke said. “There’s no question we probably have too many school districts. The other thing without question is the most difficult animal to kill is the school mascot.”

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Rich

    I wonder where all the unneeded superintendents and school boards will go for high paying jobs? Teachers however, should like the consolidation. They will be able switch from one school to another and if they are all in the same district, their wages will remain unchanged.

  • John

    I believe the city of Chicago just announced that it was going to change grading standards. And I don’t think they were going to raise the bar. Thereby devaluating the value of A’s B’s. I would not want my hard work being devalued just to make some other student feel all warm inside. Also there’s a matter of funding. I would not like to see my tax money being redistributed.

  • With Quinn Nobody Wins

    Quinn needs to be impeached and removed immediately! We have a small but safe school district where 99’% of our children graduate from college with Masters degrees or better. This goes back to their solid foundation of elementary, junior and high school educations. What happened to the lottery money going to the schools? Total mismanagement in Illinois gov ernment shouldn’t effect my children’s education. The larger school districts around us have gang problems, pregnancy issues, etc. We DO NOT want any of that which is what a larger district or merger will bring. Quinn can take his tax hikes and his district consolidations and move to the Middle East as far as I am concerned and the sooner the better. Can’t we recall his vote yet???

  • Illinois Governor Proposes Merger of School Districts | Illinois News Press | Illinois News TV and Directory | Illinois Headlines – Breaking News

    […] partial of his bill proposal, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn enclosed a plan to combine the state’s some-more than 860 propagandize districts into a limit of 300 districts. The […]

  • lyndia

    what ever you do, please do not merge any school with cps. If he does, take you kid and put him/her in a private school. You do not want your child in that district. ARE YOU PEOPLE IN THE SURROUNDING AREAS LISTENING? Oak Park, Morton Grove, Maywood, Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn.

  • EAHRK1

    I am a teacher and I agree with Quinn. Some of our districts are incredibly low paid and others are high paid within miles of each other. Many places like LA COUNTY do this and it leads to more equitable education and equitable funding for districts. I think Suburban cook and suburban DuPage should merge and I think these high paid administrators should go back to the classroom and put their money where their mouth is. Larger districts save money and lead to equitable education among students right now our education system is terrible and teachers have horrible pay in some districts and student funding is much less. Why should your zip code determine the quality of your education?

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