Illinois School District Mergers Could Cost $4 Billion

Monday, January 9, 2012

Merging the state’s 800-plus school districts into a more manageable number could cost nearly $4 billion, according to a recent report that may kill any chance that a commission looking for ways to improve Illinois education will recommend a major consolidation.

Members of the Classrooms First Commission said they see little support for a sweeping consolidation of school districts, which Gov. Pat Quinn proposed last February as a way to save about $100 million. His idea to merge the state’s 868 districts into just 300 was based on the potential savings that would come from reducing the number of school administrators.

But it didn’t account for the financial incentives that state law promises to merging districts — primarily additional money for salaries.

“An across-the-board, one-size-fits-all, we’re-going-to-force-you-to-consolidate proposal is not going to happen,” said one commission member, Sen. Linda Holmes, D- Aurora.

The commission’s leader, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, said the estimated cost “reinforces the idea that there’s not a quick-and-easy money-saving solution” for the entire state. “If we did everything all at once, the cost would undoubtedly be prohibitive.”

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