Group pushes consolidation of school districts - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Group pushes consolidation of school districts

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CARBONDALE -- Illinois has the highest number of local governments in the nation, something the Civic Federation blames for Illinois' high property taxes, and the largest portion of your property tax bill goes to local school districts.

A new report by the federation is calling for the consolidation of several districts, especially one-school districts, to reduce the burden.

"This is about administrator consolidation, that's where all the fat is and that's where all the money is being spent," Illinois Policy Institute vice president Ted Dabrowski said.

Dabrowski points to six-figure salaries for many school administrators, including six in Carbondale, that could be eliminated if districts consolidate.

According to the Illinois Board of Education, nearly one quarter of all school districts serve just one school and more than a third of school districts serve fewer than 600 students.

The Giant City School district in Carbondale falls under both categories, but Superintendent Belinda Hill said consolidating districts like hers would be difficult because they don't have many administrators.

"I am the special education coordinator, I am the transportation director and I am the director of the cafeteria," Hill said. "All of the administrators, much like myself, are wearing multiple hats, especially with the budget crisis that we've been through the last few years."

And a report done by former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon's Classroom First Commission said consolidating all of Illinois' single-school districts would cost $3.7 billion over four years.

Hill said part of that cost would be put into making teacher's salaries equal.

"So you lose the advantage of consolidating administrative costs by exceeding costs where teachers make more," Hill said.

Dabrowski said the savings of consolidation would eventually outweigh the costs, especially when you factor in administrator pensions.

"To the extent that the state is paying for less in pensions, that would mean there's more money for the classroom," Dabrowski said.

And with the school funding formula revamped consolidation supporters plan to keep pushing the idea.

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