* The uproar over Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to force consolidation of local school districts continues unabated, even though passage of such laws has been rare in the past. Quinn defended his plan yesterday…
Quinn said the state could save $100 million by cutting the Illinois’ 868 school districts to about 300. Illinois has the third-most school districts in the nation behind Texas and California, and about 200 districts have just a single school.
“It’s just do we need so much of a layer of administration?” Quinn said. “I think I saw somewhere where there are 270-some school superintendents who make more money than the governor. I’m not so sure we need so many of them. Some of these school superintendents are supervising one school.”
He said he has assigned Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon to work on the consolidation issue.
“She’s from downstate Illinois and is sensitive to the importance of maintaining our schools, but not necessarily having more school districts than you can shake a stick at,” Quinn said. “Sometimes you have a grade school district and a high school district in the same place. And all these buildings and all these administrators and all these people who work for the administrators. We don’t need as many folks at the top level. We need folks on the front line.”
* Senate President John Cullerton thinks that the state should offer more financial incentives to prompt schools to consolidate, rather than apply force…
For example, the state could help two merging districts build a new high school, as well as establish a way for the state to help retire any debt from a financially strapped district that wants to consolidate with a wealthier district.
“If you try to force this on schools and communities, I’m afraid it will go nowhere in the legislature,” Cullerton said in a release Monday. “Ideally, we want to be able to make certain school districts an offer they, in effect, can’t refuse.”
Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said Cullerton’s ideas won’t spur enough consolidation.
“The incentive based approach has been in place for at least a decade and even though it had early success, this approach has not led to the consolidation the Quinn administration feels is needed to bring about more efficiencies in the operations of schools as well as a reduction in administrative costs to save taxpayers money,” Kraft noted in a message Monday.
* But wait until the school advocates get fully riled up about this bill which isn’t going anywhere…
A bill to dissolve all 869 school districts in Illinois by July 2012 and create 102 countywide school districts has created a firestorm of protest among local school officials.
They aren’t mincing words regarding House Bill 1886, introduced by state Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island).
“It’s one of the worst ideas I ever heard of,” said Dean Casper, school board president in Community School District 146 in Tinley Park. “It’s overreaching and destructive.” […]
Under Rita’s plan, Chicago Public Schools would remain a district and the other 144 school districts in Cook County could be consolidated into one or two districts.
* Quinn defends call for merging school districts: Quinn also stood by his proposal to cut state support for school transportation expenses. He said that would allow schools to transfer $95 million to education programs. [Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the state Board of Education] said transportation already has been cut significantly. It was reduced by nearly $140 million this fiscal year. The board requested a $134 million increase in school transportation funding, which still would have fallen short of the fiscal year 2010 school transportation budget.
* Speaker Madigan, GOP Leader Cross meet on state fiscal woes: “We’ve been meeting, four or five times so far,” Mr. Cross says. “I think we both realize we have a huge problem.” … Mr. Madigan’s spokesman admits to “maybe a couple” of sessions and says they dealt less with pensions than imposing overall state spending limits. But even that is a change.
* Immigrant advocates rally in Springfield for state funding
* Former Illinois House speaker calls human services cuts ‘disastrous‘
* Illinois unemployment drops slightly: The Illinois jobless rate dipped slightly, to 9 percent, in January, the 12th straight monthly decline. The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percent from the December rate, and is appreciably lower than the year-ago’s revised 11.2 percent unemployment rate in January 2010.
I support this. IL wastes a ton of money on these district offices which ar pure administrative overhead. Toss in huge salaries for the superintenents and deputy suprintendent, their staffs, buidling costs, etc etc. These are un-needed.
Redirect the money to hire more tachers. One reason home schooling works so well, better student/teacher ratios.
Quinn is right, there are way too many overpaid administrators in this state. Yet, it’s the teachers who are being attacked as a drain on taxpayers? Look at Zion, a separate high school district, with superintendent and administration, for one school? Ridiculous.
I believe that the growth of adminstrators and other non-teaching positions has been one of the major factor behind the rising costs that have faced school districts. I know of at least one rural school district in which all of the K-12 classes are housed in a single building that has a superintendent and three principles for that single building and has a total enrollment of less than 500.
to get rid of 277 people who make more money then he does he will have to suspend Collective bargaining rights. Please keep in mind that admin salaries are both a supply and demand issue and a product of the highest paid teacher. If the highest paid 9 month teacher is over $100K why would you want to be a 12 month 10 hour a day administrator and have to deal with budgets, and give up your tenure status and auto raises?
If you are and administrator, why would you want to be a supt reporting to an elected board? How many of those people have better leadership abilities then the governor? Anyone remember the screw up with the union negotiations a year back? I’m just not sure his reason is a real good one for deciding to go into fruit-basket upset.
““It’s just do we need so much of a layer of administration?” Quinn said. “I think I saw somewhere where there are 270-some school superintendents who make more money than the governor. I’m not so sure we need so many of them. Some of these school superintendents are supervising one school.””
I find it extremely telling that Pat Quinn is all hot and heavy over the need for local tax district (schools, in this case) to consolidate, but just yesterday I happen to find out that local governments are literally going to have to spend hundreds of man hours, if not more to satisfy a ‘whim’ of an unelected bureaucrat located in the (Conservation Stewardship Program, a/k/a CSP) IL Department of Natural Resources.
I’m sure it’s a wondrous program and it can probably cure cancer in at least a dozen different ways, but we’ve got an enormous number of social service and medical vendors who haven’t been paid for months and months, and now we’ve got these clowns down in Springfield out harassing local governments which are going to have to spend real money generate massive amounts of digital information to feed these people’s oversized egos.
Earth to Pat Quinn: There’s important stuff, and then there’s nonsense. FOCUS!!
Consolidation is long overdue, the education system operates a 19th century organizational model in the 21st century. Opposition will come from those who benefit from the system, such as administrators and local school boards who want to maintain “control”. However there should be some recognition that certain school districts need to be de-consolidated as they have grown too large to be effectively managed. One only need to look at District U-46 (Elgin) and the Rockford School district to see that larger doesn’t always mean better or more efficient.
This feels to me like another Quinn publicity gimmmick; we’re supposed to be left with the impression he is doing something about state government spending and hopefully we won’t check back later and find out if he actually did it.
Nevertheless, Don Harmon is quoted in my local paper as telling residents of pricey River Forest that he would be surprised if “any measure [to consolidate districts] were to advance quickly”.
He also said that RF Dist. 90 would not be affected. Now how does he know that?
What this really says, I think, is that nobody’s district is going to be affected because this is not a serious plan. Rather, this is supposed to distract us from other Quinn shenanigans like borrowing billions and billions of dollars at very high interest rates.
If Quinn is so interested in consolidation and reducing administrators, he needs to look at the Department of Human Services. He has no problem cutting community based human service programs, but cuts to his administration should be examined as well.
Rich the center for public schools had some research on the class size which showed that as class size goes donw, achievement goes up as it allows teachers to focus more individually on students. You also see this in the Sylvan model, which provides one instuctor for no more then 4 kids.
I cant find the article online. The home school reference is my extrapolition of the earlier study.
I said I supported this move previously. I didn’t know then exactly what savings could be realized but believe you need to go at each state entity and look for just this kind of savings. I million here, a million there - Dirksen was right.
I am not a booster for PQ but I support him in this. He is in for a firestorm so it will be interesting to watch if he can stand up to the withering attacks. Cutting administrative costs in education certainly makes more sense then cutting programs for students. Charge on PQ!
- Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Mar 3, 11 @ 2:38 pm:
Education reforms passed last year and on deck for this year place a greater emphasis on teacher evaluation. If we reduce the number of administrators, who will do all of these evaluations. While school districts may very well be over-administered, it is more likely in response to mandates from the state than from school boards enamored of administration.
I would love to know how money will be “saved” in transportation, since the state mandates transportation of students. The state also frowns upon fund transfers. And…consolidation results in higher transportation costs. All this, combined with current and proposed reductions in state transportation funding will be a disaster.
Ghost: That is the strangest extrapolation I have ever seen. By that logic, when I broke my leg, I should have gone home to have my mother fix it. Low student-teacher ratios include a professional with a college degree.
All-in-all, the logic of consolidation fails in rural districts. Putting a 6-year old on a bus for an hour or more is not the best way to start a school day. Consolidation of administration might make sense, but not when it involves closing grade schools, busing kids an extra 15-20+ miles, and losing the parent-teacher interaction common to small community-based schools.
I think Quinn is generally terrible, but this idea is a fantastic one. Of course, given his track record in backing off cuts once challenged by their respective special interest groups, I fully expect this to go the way of the dodo soon enough.
- Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Mar 3, 11 @ 2:50 pm:
If the state wants to save money, why not set a grant based on student attendance and let local school boards decide how to spend the money? Hmmm. Wait a minute…that’s what we already do!
Since state funding is largely based on enrollment, how does consolidation save the state any significant amount money? (Hold harmless is no longer funded.) The state formula does not award extra money for extra buildings or additional administrators. It does provide transportation money based on students transported and distance (although Quinn is cutting this). Someone please help me with this.
The Gov is absolutely right on this one (which is a nice change of pace for him). How much money to taxpayers really want to cough up to pay unnecessary administration costs? Then the pension costs on top of their salaries. Saving $100 million on administration, the state can cut the difference and keep half to pay off its pension debt and half to put more teachers in classrooms. This would help lower our pension debt and actually do something for education.
I wouldn’t be surprised if teachers unions come out for this.
===Consolidating school districts would not close schools and force extended busing times. It would merely reduce excessive administrative positions.===
Ever been out of the city? There are many kids attending rural schools that spend over an hour on a bus twice a day. It is reasonable to assume that consolidation would result in those kids living even farther from their schools and therefore, spending even more time on the bus.
this is one of those ideas that sounds great–in theory. it would get you an A in your grad school public policy class. but the devil is in the details. typical of pq, we dont have any beyond you can keep your school mascot.
in the real world, it wont work bec it wont pass. it generates enormous fear and local grass roots opposition. no one trusts the state to carry this out fairly and sensibly. as far as i know, no legislators are on board and cullerton has indicated opposition. its DOA. if pushed, madigan can do the ritual sacrificial roll call.
so pat wants a big fight over this, for what? $100 million? our problems are in the billions. pick your targets. they saved $140 mil by amending the appropriation for transportation.
move on to the big issues we really have to deal with.
Consolidating means including schools and the areas they serve, not excluding them. We’re just talking about reducing off-site administration. I live and work in a consolidated, or unit, school district. Students will still attend their closest, or neighborhood schools. Since transportation has been cut, there would be no sense in forcing kids to attend schools farther away.
–as far as i know, no legislators are on board–
Every legislator in the Peoria area was “on board” when the idea was floated during a regional education forum prior to the election. Some advocated for the more extreme countywide district proposal
–pick your targets.–
Please do…If not consolidation then where? foreign aid?
Administrators and school boards may oppose the plan, but that isn’t what will be deadly to it. Citizens are going to oppose it in every legislative district outside of Chicago.
Consolidation may not per se close schools, but at least downstate in practice it does. Why do schools consolidate? Mainly due to lack of enrollment. So when two districts, each with 100-150 kids in high school, consolidate, they don’t keep both high schools open. They close one.
They probably may try to keep two junior highs open, and they certainly will try to keep both grade schools open, But before too long, one of the junior highs is gone, and then, a few years later, there goes one of the two elementary schools.
Anyone more than 35 or 40 years old has seen this happen, and citizens know it’s what is going to happen. For better or worse, $100M or not, they want that local school open. The business district/square is already long gone, and the school is the last vestige of community identity they believe they have left.
BTW, downstate when you drive by a relatively new high school out in the cornfields somewhere, you are almost always looking at a consolidation compromise. The two communities couldn’t agree on which high school to close, so they finally agree to build a new one between the two towns.
Are there districts so small they shouldn’t be open? Logically, yes. Are they going to voluntarily step up and go away?. Not likely. In my part of the state we probably average seeing one consolidation every year or two, and there are always a couple under discussion. In that regard, Gov Quinn is right. Simple incentives won’t be enough to get rid of many downstate districts.
One issue is still the property taxes we pay. With the example given that Cook County (except Chicago) would have 2 districts. The people who pay very high property tax like Barrington, Palatine, Arlington Heights (Dist 214, 211) for excellent schools would see all that money go into 1 big pot, then redistributed out to all areas of Cook county. Do you really think the voters would appreciate that?
Also, what about the pay discrepencies per district. Dist 214 and 211 have, I believe, some of the highest paid teachers. Are they going to give all that money back when they are consolidated into a group that is not paid the same wages (less) based on tenure? No. They will have to raise the lower paid district teachers up to the highest paid district level. How much will that be?
Now comes negotiations for the union. Now that we have 2 districts in Cook county, the leverage and control by the union will be immense. They vote to go on strike, and hundreds of thousands of kids will be out of school.
I would be in favor of the approach. The more research I do it is becoming clearer that the public school system needs complete overhaul. You have teachers earning salaries that go beyond what is listed in the CBA salary structures. You have built in processes that allow those close to retirment to enhance their final four years salaries so the pension amounts are enhanced. I would suggest people read the CBA’s for their districts. Look at the salaries and compare them to the CBA schedules. See job titles such as coordinator, director, program supervison and the salaries they command. See where driver training instructors are earning very high salaries. There appears something truly amiss with this system.
rich, i wouldnt pass up $100 mil, or $5 mil, or member initiatives at $250k or so each. i doubt the consolidation savings estimate, and see no plan or bill to get there. cutting transportation was an immediate savings. cutting administrators would get into the minutiae of contracts, buyouts, winners and losers. same for consolidating boundaries. it would take months or years. meanwhile, it may distract from the more pressing issues.
-pick your targets-
you have to go where the real money is, social services, education, corrections. eliminate optional programs, tighten eligibility, release nonviolent offenders early in a sensible manner.
-when were school boundaries last redrawn?-
school (attendance) boundaries for particular buildings get redrawn from time to time by the school districts, not the state. school district boundaries once set pretty much stay set.
The curse of consolidation is geography and the need is administrative. It’s not teacher salaries that are outrageous downstate, it’s superintendents, asst superintendents, etc. The more of those eliminated, the more money that can be spent on technology that can allow remote access and teaching in lieu of some of the extensive daily travel.
No one has yet to show me a)sheila simon’s education credentials that would enable her to lecture new trier on anything b)how this would in anyway improve the schools c)pat quinn’s education credentials that would enable him to lecture new trier on anything.
There is simply no reason every one of these county schools need a separate superintendent of schools. Think about it - Pleasant Plains, New Berlin, Chatham, Auburn, Virginia, Petersburg, Williamsville, etc. each have a separate Superintendent of Schools.
by this logic Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin should band together to save money on governmental costs. why not attach chicago to the outlying suburbs. Here’s a better idea let’s just merge with canada.
The time to consolidate schools is now. We have way to many governmants in our state. Quinn got it right for once. I’ll bet he does not follow thru, I hope for once he has to courage of his convictions. Townships should be next.
- Alexander cut the knot. - Thursday, Mar 3, 11 @ 4:18 pm:
Rebel13 had it right. This will shift property tax collections from high tax good school districts to others not so high or good, and along with it bring down property values in districts that used to be known for good schools and now belong to a larger not-so-good district and are not as desirable. I prefer Cullerton’s incentive approach — just sweeten the incentives.
- Madison County Watcher - Thursday, Mar 3, 11 @ 4:21 pm:
This idea is perhaps the most ridiculous idea I’ve seen come out of Springfield in a longtime.
First, there is a fundamental issue with state-mandated consolidation when property taxpayers are the majority-funders and (therefore) those property taxpayers deserve local control.
Second, what happens when you merge a low-tax, well-performing smaller community with a high-tax, well-performing community?
Third, I hear that the Governor is also proposing a decrease in transportation funds at the same time this proposal is being aired. Geographically-large districts might need more funding to get kids around to the consolidated activities.
Perhaps state government should be looking introspectively at consolidation ideas, instead of looking outward at local taxing districts, the majority of whom balance their budgets in responsible ways and aren’t knee-deep in debt.
There’s a fundamental problem when a layer of government that has eroded its public trust (state government) works to erode a lower layer of government (local schools) that enjoys a better level of trust with the public.
As an aside, it will be interesting to see the results of the consolidation vote in Wood River Township in Madison County, where two elementary districts might merge with a high school district.
Quinn’s claim is that he’s going to unilaterally close more than 500 local school districts by reducing the number to 300 statewide.
In theory that would mean naming specific districts for consolidation.
Do you really think Quinn’s going to unveil this list and then stick to it?
For that matter, do you really think he’s going to unveil a list or has thought this past the opening statement?
- Quinn T. Sential - Thursday, Mar 3, 11 @ 5:51 pm:
The average ACT score of homeschooled students in 2009 was higher than the national average, according to recently published data.
According to the organization behind the standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions, the 11,535 homeschoolers who took the ACT in 2009 scored an average of 22.5. The average score of the total 1.48 million students who took the exam was 21.1.
“This is a remarkable achievement and shows that homeschool parents are successfully preparing their children for college,” commented Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
According to ACT Inc., which produces the test, research shows that high achievement on the ACT strongly indicates a “greater likelihood of success in college.”
Success on the ACT test also reveals that the courses taken by high school students to prepare for college have been effective.
The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score.
The interesting thing is that on the east coast - e.g., Maryland and Virginia - the school districts ARE organized by County and the results are generally pretty good. It’s not just savings for superintendents and assistants. For example, think of the savings of the costs for curriculum development.
- Quinn T. Sential - Thursday, Mar 3, 11 @ 5:55 pm:
2009-10 Top Paid Superintendents in the State of Illinois:
another while we are at it….what about County consolidation? I recently spoke with someone from another state who talked about an effort to consolidate counties since it seemed that there were costs that were duplicative and there is a need to save money.
no, I do not write this to tick off those who complained here that Quinn only won Cook County. the truth is, there are too many
elected officials across all of Illinois.
next up, elimination of the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, the division between the Clerks of the County and the the Court, and probably more.
Amalia and Shore have the right idea. If going to 102 county school districts is so great, lets start to consolidated county government. Lets go down to say 50 counties (obviously, we will let Speaker Madigan choose the apportionment). Then, we will have to rename these merged counties (maybe we could make money off the naming rights…..for instance, the merger of marion county and jefferson county could be called Febrezze County. Madison and St. Clair County could be merged to Waste Management County, etc.). Think about it, granting the naming rights to 50 new counties would sure up the pension fund. Then, lets do what they are doing in China by combining 7 large cities. Chicago could extend from the Wisconsin border down to say Champaign (I would say extend it to Metropolis, but that would be to unwieldy)….think about it, only one mayor (hopefully Rhambo), one police chief, and only one city clerk (howard Sprague is still the greatest city clerk in american history). Essentially, under consolidation, the savings will come rolling in.
anyone who doesn’t like this idea has to be a school employee or working in education.. Should be an issue both sides of the aisle can agree on.
- Just The Way It Is One - Thursday, Mar 3, 11 @ 9:18 pm:
Quinn T. Sential at 5:55 p.m. stuck the pin on the tail of the donkey…thank you for the stats. 270 of these people sickeningly making glob$ more than the Governor of the 5th most populous State in the Union–and hardly by a few thousand–$350,154–are you kidding me??!! It’s got to stop already–and that doesn’t even take into account their humongous pensions!
Here’s another case in point–I live by one of those local school districts which is comprised by one grade school of somewhere around 3 or 400 hundred students, and one of the school board members told me the Superintendent–of this ONE school–makes close to $200,000–for one school! (which already has a Principal, a couple of Vice-Principals and a slough of other well-paid “Administrative” staff)!
I couldn’t agree more with the Governor’s idea–it’s an idea long overdue and obviously will reap significant savings. We simply have too many governmental units/districts in Illinois–I believe I read (and I’m sure Rich knows) that Illinois has the 2nd or 3rd most local governmental units/districts, overall, out of all fifty States (and many of them are school districts)! The problem is there will be a LOT of local opposition, and yet, in the long run people will still have plenty of good schools and 300 School Districts to choose from–Practically speaking, the Gov. has got a tough row to hoe but let’s do it!
- Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Mar 3, 11 @ 10:08 pm:
How much more does the state send to Yorkville per pupil than other districts in Illinois?
If the Supt. makes scads of money, it’s is because the school board is willing to shell it out and the taxpayers are willing to support it.
If districts were combined where is the guarantee that there would be fewer administrators and those remaining would be paid less? I see none of that in the legislation, it is all assumed.
Perhaps splitting the state in to smaller districts would be more cost effective, because the decision-making on the number of administrators and their pay would be closer to home. Is that true? Who knows?
Perhaps the education/certification requirements for administrators limits the pool of applicants. Why not change state law so anyone can be a Supt? That might help drive down the cost.
Why not reduce the paperwork and staff review requirements? That would decrease the need for administrators.
Why not close the schools, send the kids home, and let the parents educate them. We would expect ACT scores to rise by 1.4! That would save a lot of money.
My complaint here is that “consolidation = savings” sounds great, but I have seen little evidence to indicate it is true. We have been consolidating schools in Illinois for 100 years, how much money has been saved? What does research indicate is the optimum size for a school and a school district? These ad hoc changes, made with little or no data in hand are at least as likely to fail as succeed. (Perhaps more likely to fail.)
My children attend a rural, downstate grade school with an average of 10 children per grade/class. The test scores are great. Should Illinois use that as a model? Of course not, what works here may or may not work elsewhere.
Show me the data on consolidation first, then I’ll buy in.
=Consolidating school districts would not close schools and force extended busing times. It would merely reduce excessive administrative positions.
==Students will still attend their closest, or neighborhood schools.
I keep seeing comments like these and wondering how that will play out if a neighboring district is consolidated with a district like 186 in Springfield. If the ongoing desegregation order is enforced at the district level, would that not lead to some lengthy bus trips when they try to even out the numbers? This would be especially true if it were a Sangamon County School District.
As an immigrant to Illinois, in my humble opinion, the 6,000 units of government in Illinois contribute to the corruption. The sheer volume of units of government is so massive no one can stay on top of them. Does anyone remember when the Illinois Press Association did a concerted effort to get lists of county jail prisoners in all 102 counties on the same day? (By law, that list is a public record.) It took a concerted effort, way beyond daily operations. And this was before the economic meltdown reduced news operations.
Does anyone remember the response the reporters got? The response (this was under the old FOIA law) ranged from compliance with the law to outright refusal to being told it had to be cleared with the sheriff.
If the number of school districts was reduced by 700, and townships were abolished with duties given to the counties, in two fell swoops the number of unit governments would be reduced from 6,000 to 4,000. A step in reducing the ability of corruption to hide in plain sight. And making it easier to ensure the remaining units of government obey the law.
IF there is such a savings with bigger districts why do larger district expend more per pupil, as a rule. Not only that to more consolidation the higher the staff salaries will be. Does anyone really think when you consolidate school districts unions are going to go for the lowest salary schedule?
- Madison County Watcher - Friday, Mar 4, 11 @ 11:26 am:
Frustrated: You’ve hit the nail on the head. If the issue is cost, why do smaller school districts produce a product for a lesser cost? I would love to know if they produce a BETTER product at a lesser cost. If they do, then this whole issue is moot and Quinn’s objection is only that superintendents make more than he makes.
And, based upon accountability and responsibility, I think a case could be made that a school superintendent has more responsibility directly supervising hundreds of staff and thousands of children on a daily basis - comparatively - to the product we’ve been getting from Illinois governors for the past decade.
If Quinn is jealous of the salary, maybe he should quit Governor and go get a career in education.
This is really more of the populist assault by those with little responsibility throwing slings and arrows at those who earn a good living with real responsibilities. Sad that our governor would play these games (and playing these games with our kids - and, oh, our high school sports mascots!)