It may not be the biggest state, nor the one with the most students, but Illinois leads the nation in school district spending on administrators. Even amid a looming statewide financial crisis, the state’s 852 districts spent more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2016, the most in the nation, according to a newly released analysis.
A report from the Metropolitan Planning Council analyzed administrative spending in Illinois and compared it with other states. […]
Illinois also spends twice as much per pupil on school administration as the national average — $544 in Illinois to $226 nationwide. Measured per pupil, that is the third highest rate in the country, nearly double New York at $349 and nearly five times as much as California, where admin costs are $95 per student.
Not only do most districts spend a lot on administration, Illinois has 852 districts, more than many other states. About one-quarter of those districts operate only one school. Roughly 4 percent serve fewer than 100 students.
The reasons for that are complicated, says Josh Ellis, vice president of the council. Some rural school districts in Illinois serve sparsely populated areas with few students. Historically, some school districts were formed a tool to to enforce racial segregation.
* From the MPC…
In FY 2016, Illinois spent $1,105,435,000 on general administration expenses, making us the only state in the country with more than $1 billion general administration expenses, despite serving the fifth most students. For comparison, Illinois spent 33% more than California, despite their public-school system serving over three times as many students.
What would Illinois districts save if they could reduce general administration spending to the national average? They would spend approximately $459 million per year, a savings of approximately $645 million. This would be a savings of $318 per pupil. […]
One of the drivers of administration costs is the number of students a district serves. As of July 1, 2018, there were 852 school districts in Illinois. There are 211 districts that serve only one school. There were 31 school districts with fewer than 100 students enrolled and 463 districts with fewer than 1,000 students enrolled. For example, Morris Illinois, a town with approximately 15,000 residents, has 3 elementary school districts and one high school district. Each elementary school district only has one school. Among the elementary districts, one district only had 86 students, while the other two have an enrollment level over 800. […]
On average, multi-school districts spend only $484 per student on general administration compared to $842 per student for single school districts, a disparity of 74%. A large portion of this savings represents Chicago Public Schools, which spends $349 per student on general administration.
* What other states have done…
In New Jersey, boards of education have been authorized to share their superintendents and school business administrators with other boards and to “subcontract” the services of their school business administrators to other school districts and have done so since 1996.
The State of New York also utilizes administrative service sharing through Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and differential state aid encouraging sharing services with poorer districts.
The State of Texas authorizes Shared Services Arrangements that allow for a shared district unit or a shared fund in accordance with the shared services arrangement districts’ agreement.
The State of Ohio explicitly shares district staff, in particular, a treasurer, and has demonstrated cost savings. In Hamilton County, the Reading City Schools and Three Rivers Local School District reported annual saving of about $55,000 to $66,000 in each school district sharing a treasurer. The Wyoming City Schools and the Oak Hills Local School District report saving $45,000 for Oak Hills and $60,000 for Wyoming sharing a treasurer.