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McSweeney to focus next on school consolidation

Wednesday, Aug 14, 2019

* Earlier this week

On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill crafted and championed by Republican state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills that enables residents in McHenry County to dissolve a township by referendum, allowing another unit of government to absorb its duties. In a state with 102 counties and nearly 7,000 units of government, this is clearly a baby step, but it’s progress, and that alone is worth celebrating.

It’s also worth emulating. Hopefully, the movement started in McHenry County will spread and taxpayers throughout Illinois can begin wringing more efficiency out of their local governments.

* Next up

Now that his legislation making it easier to dissolve townships in McHenry County has been signed into law, state Rep. David McSweeney says he’ll focus on consolidating other local governments, including school districts.

“It doesn’t make any sense for there to be so many small school districts (in Illinois),” McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said Monday.

McSweeney said he prefers unit school districts, which educate students from preschool or kindergarten through high school.

“I favor reduction for all units of government,” he said. “We have around 7,000 units of local government in Illinois, which is way too much.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

42 Comments »
  1. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:30 am:

    This will play exceptionally well in rural Illinois, now rabid GOP anger zones.

    Being right isn’t necessarily the winning path.


  2. - Lt. Guv - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:31 am:

    He’s stepped into a hornet’s nest.


  3. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:34 am:

    School districts will never consolidate.
    Less school districts more than likely means less football teams.


  4. - Complete lack of nickname - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:35 am:

    I’m curious to see how this goes. I think school district consolidation is a logical and practical way to address high property taxes but there is already a referendum process that hasn’t had too much success. Voters in Iroquois county couldn’t even eliminate a 72-student school district this year.


  5. - Blake - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:35 am:

    There’s actually a lot more than 7,000 because anything that has the power HOAs have are governments & the 7,000 figure doesn’t count HOAs.


  6. - SpfdNewb - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:37 am:

    Rep. McSweeny has an out, he gave the choice “to the people” to decide if they want to consolidate government in McHenry county.


  7. - SpfdNewb - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:37 am:

    Rep. McSweeney*, sorry misspelled his name.


  8. - Blake - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:38 am:

    Blue Dog Dem, school consolidation can mean things like merging multiple elementary school districts with a high school district. Plus lots of smaller schools either don’t have football or co-op with another school.


  9. - JT11505 - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:39 am:

    Not sure how this plays with the “local control” folks. Consolidation means dilution of power. How are we gonna keep evolution out of our schools?


  10. - Fav human - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:39 am:

    He should eliminate regional school superintendent first.


  11. - SpfdNewb - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:41 am:

    -Plus lots of smaller schools either don’t have football or co-op with another school.-

    Also dropping to 8v8 formats, which a lot of small schools in West Texas have switched to (6v6 in Texas’ case).


  12. - Anon E Moose - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:43 am:

    Do kids even play football anymore?


  13. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:46 am:

    Good on McSweeney, but he’s in for a big fight over this. Kids in rural downstate districts already have long bus rides to and from school. Parents, operating under the assumption that their kid is now going to have to ride the bus for an extra hour to get to a far-away school, are going to freak out over this bill. Glad I’m not a rural school board member, they’re going to get an earful at board meetings.


  14. - Anonish - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:47 am:

    Often good politics makes for bad policy.
    Heard this said by several elected officials across different levels of government.


  15. - Jake From Elwood - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:48 am:

    School districts have already consolidated albeit not many. Look it up.
    I favor switching all of them over to Community Unit School Districts.


  16. - Lt. Guv - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    Logically, it makes sense. On the ground this plays out emotionally with community identification and history playing far greater roles than logic.


  17. - ZC - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:56 am:

    Wouldn’t this really be a movement started in Evanston? Credit to former Senator Daniel Biss, he was the first guy in Springfield since 1932 to spearhead a township dissolution, with what sounds like the same mechanism (Evanston had to vote on it).

    I still love how the bill Biss got passed in Springfield allowed citizens of any township in IL to vote to dissolve itself, provided the township were located in a county with at least 3 million residents, and had at least seven square miles of land. In other words, Evanston. So it sounds at least like McSweeney has widened the ballgame, good for him.


  18. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    I’ve never see the numbers. How can consolidation save money, assuming it takes the same amount of people to do the same amount of jobs?
    Save on sharing a office or a coffeemaker? We could already have townships and school districts share an office or coffeemaker if they are close by. And if they aren’t close, doesn’t it already make sense that they are run independently from each other?


  19. - anon - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 11:05 am:

    So IPI has moved from T Cullerton to McSweeney to carry their bill? Sounds like he already has the talking points down.


  20. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 11:57 am:

    “Logically, it makes sense.” Logically, yes it does. Logistically, it can be a nightmare. The transportation alone can be a deal killer.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 12:03 pm:

    Where McSweeney fails is in two critical policy beliefs;

    Taxes need to be cut.

    The cuts to offset the tax cut will hurt far more than he realizes.

    Now McSweeney wants to add school consolidation, with rural schools the most likely targets for that consolidation, and those towns not really Dems right now…

    These positions McSweeney wants out front are not going to be helpful.

    Oh, those wanting to say “Oh yeah, well, it’s not about the next election”

    McSweeney is thinking these positions will help him come the “next elections”

    That’s the rub.


  22. - Grand Avenue - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 12:08 pm:

    In general the local electeds and voters by referendum should have a general mechanism to merge, consolidate, eliminate units of local government. There’s no reason that every time you want to change these things you’d have to pass a bill in Springfield.


  23. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 12:33 pm:

    === There’s actually a lot more than 7,000 because anything that has the power HOAs have are governments & the 7,000 figure doesn’t count HOAs. ===

    HOAs are not units of government. It’s a separate issue.


  24. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 12:37 pm:

    Da Big Bad Wolf
    The benefits aren’t just financial. We have so many units of local government the press can’t cover them all. Further, they can violate the law (usually out of ignorance) in public meetings and there is no one to call them on it (unless they’re on the radar of Edgar County Watchdogs).


  25. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 12:39 pm:

    === How can consolidation save money, assuming it takes the same amount of people to do the same amount of jobs? ===

    Generally speaking, consolidation should require less workers — particularly those at the top. If two small, separate school districts consolidates, theoretically, they can get rid of one superintendent, maybe they both don’t need a PR person, they will only have to contract with one law firm (instead of each having a contract), they may only need one district building instead of two, etc. etc.


  26. - Interim Retiree - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 12:58 pm:

    If the State would give incentives over 4 years like they used to, there would probably be a few more consolidations attempted. If schools consolidate, there are many fiscal items to overcome: increased teacher salary/insurance/transportation costs, differing technologies used, closing a building, 1 district’s property taxes going up, etc. Saving on 1 superintendent doesn’t cover all of that. Unfortunately, what might be best for kids always comes in 2nd last. Finances & emotions come 1st.


  27. - Techi - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 1:22 pm:

    I agree with ZC here that former state senator and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss deserves mention here. He seemed to be in agreement with McSweeney that there are many overlapping and redundant units of local government.

    I’m not sure about school districts, but I believe this to be the case with townships. While I’m no expert, my understanding is that many townships in Illinois have the same or very similar geographic boundaries as villages/towns/cities. In other words, everything the township is doing could simply be done by the underlying village/town/city instead. This would reduce the number of units of local government, would consolidate some unnecessary jobs, and actually improve efficiency in Illinois.

    Am I wrong about this? Would genuinely love to know, it’s an interesting topic.


  28. - Blake - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 1:23 pm:

    Just Observing, part of my point was that HOAs are units of government every bit as much as any other special use district. What constitutes government is about what power it has, not whether the political system calls it government.


  29. - Nick Name - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 1:35 pm:

    ===Less school districts more than likely means less football teams.===

    Fewer.

    https://tinyurl.com/nqqpdv9


  30. - 62656 - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 2:48 pm:

    Most cities & villages in Illinois are entirely in individual townships, though some cross township & even county lines. Lincoln is split among 3 townships, while New Holland is entirely in Sheridan township, but greater than 90% of Sheridan township’s land area is unincorporated.


  31. - On the other Hand - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 2:50 pm:

    Well, it depends where You Live doesn’t it
    I trust some Township officials far more than County Board Members
    Not all County governments are run as efficiently as some Townships, so, proceed at your own risk


  32. - Mama - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 3:26 pm:

    The thing is parents like small schools.


  33. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 3:34 pm:

    === Just Observing, part of my point was that HOAs are units of government every bit as much as any other special use district. What constitutes government is about what power it has, not whether the political system calls it government. ===

    So, a mall is a unit of government because it prescribes rules and policies for its tenants?


  34. - Anonanonsir - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 3:38 pm:

    ==He’s stepped into a hornet’s nest.==
    ==Parents are going to freak out over this bill.==

    You’d think McSweeney is appointing himself Czar of School Consolidation. Sheesh.
    A bill to allow the locals to vote on the matter hardly seems radical.
    McSweeney could get his bill and it might have little impact on consolidations.


  35. - Steve M - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 3:46 pm:

    I would love to see the consolidation conversation shift away from being considered just a Downstate, rural Illinois issue. It’s suburban Chicago too. There are 115 elementary districts in Cook County, including 20 or so who are a single K-8 school. I’m very much pro-public education, but I think there are some efficiencies that can be gained there.


  36. - Ducky LaMoore - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 4:53 pm:

    ===A bill to allow the locals to vote on the matter hardly seems radical.===

    I guess all the referendums we’ve voted on over the last 20 years didn’t exist?


  37. - MyTwoCents - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 4:56 pm:

    I’m with Steve M and it seems like Rep. McSweeney is thinking along the same lines. If he wants to focus on creating unit school districts the bulk of that consolidation would be in the Chicago area. There’s still some elementary districts downstate but most of the downstate districts are already unit. That being said, I don’t think it matters unit vs elementary/high school districts, any consolidation will not be an easy task. Hopefully any legislative action involves State incentives for districts to consolidate.


  38. - Ed Ucated - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 5:42 pm:

    Hardest thing to kill in Illinois is a school mascot. Do not know who said it but sure is true.


  39. - Blake - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 6:00 pm:

    Just Observing, a mall’s tenants are renting. If an entity can dictate to an owner what a person is allowed to build on real estate they own or make them pay a fee to continue owning even when owning the real estate free & clear that entity is government & that fee is a property tax.


  40. - It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way - Wednesday, Aug 14, 19 @ 10:29 pm:

    McSweeney represents Barrington Hills - served by Unit (K-12) District 220. Adjacent to his north is another unit district in Wauconda. Adjacent to his east is another in Lake Zurich CUSD 95. Adjacent to his west is Algonquin-based CUSD 300. There are several other unit districts in McHenry, Kane, and Lake Counties. Politically, it’s not a big risk for him to argue for school consolidation.

    Head 12 miles southeast out of Barrington Hills and back into reality again, though - say, into Mount Prospect - and any proposal for school consolidation will be DOA. There’s no way McSweeney’s GOP counterparts in northern Cook County or DuPage County would touch this. Same story with the entire North Shore.

    For as much talk as is made about units of government and the corresponding redundancy in services, schools in these areas play a major role in shaping their respective local real estate markets.

    Case in point: drive anywhere homes are being built in Lincolnshire, Long Grove, Kildeer, and Buffalo Grove, and take note of what you see on the signs the home builders puts up in that area. Every one of those signs - without fail - call out “Stevenson District #125” with at least the same magnitude as any other feature if the subdivision. There’s no way Stevenson (a single-school district, by the way) will merge with the five sender districts associated with it. No legislator is going to mess with that brand.

    Meanwhile, just east of Stevenson’s boundaries, you’ll find Bannockburn District 106. It’s also a single-school district (K-8). Its graduating class averages around 20 students.

    You think residents in Bannockburn are going to give that up in favor of consolidation with Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools? If so, I’m all ears.

    For as bold as he is on Twitter, I want to hear McSweeney name specific districts as targets for consolidation.


  41. - Lynn S. - Thursday, Aug 15, 19 @ 12:51 am:

    @Techi–

    I’m going to assume you’re in Cook County, based on your remarks.

    Get in a car and drive south or west–perhaps to Ford County or Stephenson County. You will find that township boundaries and village or town boundaries are different. Heck, in a lot of places, you’ll find school districts that encompass multiple townships. I’m personally curious to see how many townships are like the one I grew up in, with no villages or towns, just farmland.

    Township dissolution makes sense in areas like Champaign, where the city boundaries are coterminous with the City of Champaign Township, or Urbana, whose borders are coterminous with Cunningham Township.

    Having grown up on a farm in a rural area, I have no issues with rural townships (assuming their board and supervisor are practicing good government).

    But explain to me why coterminous townships should exist.

    My answer? They shouldn’t.


  42. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Aug 15, 19 @ 10:57 am:

    ==Generally speaking, consolidation should require less workers — particularly those at the top. If two small, separate school districts consolidates, theoretically, they can get rid of one superintendent, maybe they both don’t need a PR person, they will only have to contract with one law firm (instead of each having a contract), they may only need one district building instead of two, etc. etc.==

    You are assuming one superintendent can do double the work. How can you assume that? Wouldn’t the superintendent that now has the workload of two superintendents have to hire an assistant? Then we would be right back where we started employee-wise.
    Schools and townships have PR firms? I never knew that. Something to think about when I read about the next high school football game. As for lawyers, don’t the lawyers consume their retainer as needed? So the number of lawyers really doesn’t matter.


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