Education Funding

Illinois Merger Plan Could Be Casualty of Sticker Shock

By The Associated Press — January 17, 2012 1 min read

Merging the 800-plus Illinois 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.

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed a sweeping consolidation of school districts 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.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, the leader of the Classrooms First Commission, 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,” she said, “the cost would undoubtedly be prohibitive.”

The commission looked at a hypothetical consolidation—one that is smaller than Gov. Quinn’s proposal—and calculated that it could cost state government at least $3.7 billion over four years. That assumes all of Illinois’ individual high school districts and elementary districts are forced to merge into unit districts.

The full cost would be even higher because merging districts are also entitled to financial aid related to the schools’ budgets and state aid, according to the report by commission member Linda Riley Mitchell, the chief financial officer for the state board of education.

The report says that if the state went solely to unit districts that governed both high schools and lower grades, the switch would merge 478 separate districts into just 101. Of those, 10 would have fewer than 1,000 students, and 29 would have 10,000 or more.

Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Quinn, said the Democratic governor looks forward to seeing the commission’s recommendations, due July 1, but still wants to cut the number of school districts.

“The governor continues to be interested in a major consolidation initiative,” she said, but “it won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 18, 2012 edition of Education Week as Illinois Merger Plan Could Be Casualty of Sticker Shock


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
Teaching Live Online Discussion How to Develop Powerful Project-Based Learning
How do you prepare students to be engaged, active, and empowered young adults? Creating a classroom atmosphere that encourages students to pursue critical inquiry and the many skills it requires demands artful planning on the
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding To Get Billions in COVID-19 Aid, States Pledge Focus on Mental Health, Learning Recovery
Twenty-eight states had submitted plans to the Education Department as of mid-June to access $41 billion from the American Rescue Plan.
4 min read
Illustration of money floating in a life preserver.
Education Funding Some in Congress Fear State Budget Decisions May Undercut COVID-19 Education Relief
A dispute in Wisconsin over coronavirus relief underscores how technical issues and politics are affecting education spending decisions.
4 min read
Image shows an illustration of money providing relief against coronavirus.
DigitalVision Vectors/iStock/Getty
Education Funding There Are Big Funding Gaps Affecting High-Poverty Schools. Can Biden Close Them?
Hurdles lie ahead for a $20 billion bid to create "Title I equity grants" to address long-standing funding inequities.
9 min read
President Joe Biden talks about the May jobs report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Friday, June 4, 2021.
President Joe Biden made boosting Title I for disadvantaged students a key part of his education platform on the campaign trail.
Susan Walsh/AP
Education Funding Education Department Issues Directive on Shielding Students in Poverty From Funding Cuts
The agency released the "maintenance of equity" guidance on COVID-19 relief as part of a public-relations blitz on equity amid the pandemic.
5 min read
Image of a $100 dollar bill that is cut into blocks for distribution.