(The Center Square) – A bill that proposes to free up more money for classrooms across the state by consolidating the number of school districts in Illinois advanced Wednesday.

State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, sponsored House Bill 7. If approved, it would reduce the state’s 852 school districts by 25%. Illinois has far more school districts than most states in the nation. Supporters say House Bill 7 could save more than $700 million per year by reducing administrative spending to the national average per student. The Illinois Policy Institute said that money could be reinvested in classrooms or be used to reduce property taxes. A committee approved the bill unanimously on Wednesday.

The bill would create the School District Efficiency Commission. The commission would then make recommendations on consolidation with a goal of reducing the total number of school districts by 25%. The recommendations would go directly to voters on the ballot, meaning parents, teachers and taxpayers living within any affected school districts’ boundaries would make the final decision. Past efforts at school consolidation in Illinois have stumbled.

In Illinois, district-level general administration costs $598 per student; higher than all neighboring states and 2.5 times the national average of $237 per student. In the past four years, both student enrollment and teacher employment at Illinois K-12 public school districts fell by 2%, while the number of administrators grew 1.5%, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

Adam Schuster, senior director of budget and tax research for Illinois Policy, said the bill would make sure money goes to the classroom rather than overhead.

“It’s time to do what’s best for students, teachers and residents across the state: ensure education dollars make it into the classroom," he said. "Illinois’ excessive layers of wasteful and duplicative district bureaucracy are a barrier to this goal."

The bill faces opposition from school districts and the Illinois Association of School Boards, according to witness slips.


via The Center Square

March 25, 2021 at 07:03AM