Sunday, October 15, 2017

Report: Illinois among nation leaders in number of school districts, should pursue consolidation

Report: Illinois among nation leaders in number of school districts, should pursue consolidation, Metamora Herald



Illinois has too many school districts, according to the non-profit Civic Federation, and merging them could save taxpayers on their property tax bills. A consolidation expert says the push-back with combining schools isn't the need for savings but allowing emotion to get in the way of what may be best for the children.
The U.S. Census says Illinois had 905 school districts in 2012, more than 200 of which are single-school districts. That's the third most of any state and hundreds more than similarly sized states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. The Civic Federation suggested in a report that the state should again pursue consolidating more districts to save taxpayer money on the administrative costs it takes to run all of those districts. 
Dr. Jim Rosborg, director of the Masters in Education program at McKendree University said both sides of a consolidation fight, should remember the most important question involved. 
"Can they provide the academic possibilities needed for a student to be successful in a university environment?" he asked. 
Rosborg, a native of Hoopeston in east-central Illinois, is currently working on a study of school districts in the Metro East area to see if they should consolidate.
The same hurdles to school consolidation continually emerge when it's brought up. One, Rosborg said, is emotional.
"We all remember our high school days and none of us want to lose a key component of those memories," he said.
The other obstacle is directly tied to the potential taxpayer savings from a consolidation: administrators don't want to lose their jobs.
"There are many boards that do not want to consolidate simply because they don't want to take the chance of giving up their board position," Rosborg said.
Another issue with a potential merging of districts is the potential for students in larger, possibly rural districts that would face a onerously long bus ride to and from school.
"No student should have to ride on the bus over an hour to school and over an hour from school," he said. "That makes the day too long for young people." 
Ex-Gov. Pat Quinn proposed a forced consolidation of schools in 2011.

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