Forced School District Consolidations Possible under Quinn Plan

February 18, 2011  |  

(Chicago Tribune) — Details that emerged Thursday indicate Gov. Pat Quinn’sproposal to slice the number of Illinois school districts from 869 to no more than 300 in two years might compel consolidations where previous efforts dangled financial incentives or required local voter approval.  Quinn would work with lawmakers to empower a commission to redraw district boundaries, according to David Vaught, the governor’s budget director and a former school board member in Naperville. If approved, the committee’s recommendations potentially would not require local voter support or final review by state lawmakers.

The panel would study school mergers that Quinn estimates could save $100 million in administrative salaries. And while the details are not set, more Illinois school districts could become unit districts that span kindergarten through high school. The current patchwork of school systems — elementary, high school and unit — compounds the number of administrators needed to run districts, which adds to taxpayer costs.  “I think it would be hard to get to 300 (districts) without going to a unit system,” Vaught said Wednesday. Several previous governors have been largely unsuccessful in promoting mergers in a state that prides itself on strong local control of schools.

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