Illinois has 852 school districts, twice as many as the national average.
A bill moving through the statehouse would change that.
The Classrooms First Act aims to free up school district administrative dollars and target the money to schools.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, said the spending habits of the state’s school boards are out of control.
“It is just really ridiculous when you look at that tax bill and you just see all of this money that is going out the door,” Mayfield said. “They are greedy and they are constantly asking for more.”
The bill would create the school District Efficiency Commission which would then make recommendations on consolidation. The recommendation would go directly to voters, allowing parents, teachers and taxpayers living within that school district to make the final decision. The goal is to reduce the total number of school districts by 25%.
The bill faces opposition from the Illinois Association of School Boards and from over 100 school administrators. According to Illinois Policy, 21 of the administrators make a salary above $200,000 a year.
In Illinois, district-level general administration costs $598 per student, which is 2.5 times the national average. In the past 4 years, both student enrollment and teacher employment at Illinois K-12 public school districts fell by 2%, while the number of administrators grew by 1.5%, according to Illinois Policy.
Adam Schuster, senior director of budget and tax research for Illinois Policy, said the legislation benefits everyone involved.
“Frankly, I think it is a common-sense idea,” Schuster said. “It’s a win-win for teachers, for taxpayers, for students, and the only people who really seem to be strongly opposed to it are those with a financial interest in keeping the bureaucratic waste.”
The bill passed the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and now enters an ongoing discussion with different stakeholders. Mayfield said she will bring the bill back to the committee with different verbiage before sending it to a House floor vote.