By: Mark Glennon *
It was the only meaningful tax reform that seemed to have a silver lining during the Illinois General Assembly session last spring. Sponsored by Democrat Rita Mayfield of Waukegan. It was Bill House 7, a bill that would have called for community referendums on consolidating local school districts and redirecting the resulting administrative savings to direct classroom spending.
It has not happened. Why?
Because the teachers‘ unions said no, that’s why.
“No clear reason to oppose [the bill] only surfaced when union bosses spoke out against it, Charles Selle recently wrote in a Chicago Tribune column.
Efficiency means fewer members of public unions, so in Springfield that is not going to happen.
School district consolidation should be a top priority in Illinois. Illinois spends billions on duplicate district offices, administrators, and their multi-million dollar pensions, which we detailed in a previous special report.
Illinois has 852 school districts, many of which overlap and duplicate. By comparing, Florida has only 67 districts. North Carolina and Virginia have only 115 and 132 districts, respectively. Even California, with three times as many students as Illinois, has just 160 more districts than Illinois
- More than a third districts in Illinois serve 600 or fewer students. (129 have less than 300 students.)
- Almost 45 percent some districts serve only one or two schools.
- And more than half Illinois districts are separate elementary and secondary school districts, rather than combined unit districts.
Under Mayfield’s bill, a commission would have made recommendations on which districts would benefit most from consolidation, with the goal of reducing the total number of school districts by 25% to bring Illinois in line with the national average. Consolidation recommendations would then go directly to voters on the ballot. The final savings could have exceeded $ 700 million per year, according to a Illinois Institute of Politics analysis.
There would have been no forced consolidation under the bill. Local voters would have decided.
We certainly can’t allow that, as the Illinois teachers’ unions see it. The Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association opposed the bill, as the Tribune column said.
The Illinois School Boards Association has joined the opposition, once again demonstrating that most school boards have no interest in reform and cost reduction. These are usually “rubber stamps” for school administrators, as the Tribune column put it.
And the association pleaded its case dishonestly, because the IPI explained. The association disinformation sheet asserted that the bill would have forced consolidation and imposed uniform standards for consolidation. Not true. The bill was not on school consolidation as the association suggested. It was addressed only to administrative units supervising schools.
Thus, the reform bill was left behind in the Illinois house.
But don’t think your lawmakers haven’t cared. Governor JB Pritzker has signed more bills than we can keep track of. On Friday alone, he signed more than 80 bills. Among them are these gems:
Invoice number: HB 18 Allows school districts to conduct teacher assessments every two or three years, rather than every two years, if the teacher has already received a grade of at least “competent.”
Invoice number: SB 294 Requires clear and visible âDo Not Rinseâ labeling on disposable non-woven wipes.
Invoice number: HB 375 Requires that the board of directors of public universities and community colleges notify adjunct faculty members of the enrollment status of their courses 30 days and 14 days before the start of a semester or term.
Invoice number: HB 453 Requires tax districts with a levy of more than $ 5 million to collect and publish ethnic and racial data on vendors and contractors who do business with the tax district.
Invoice number: SB 1245 Requires the Department of Natural Resources to publicly announce which counties will have hunting season.
These are the priorities of the Illinois General Assembly.
* Mark Glennon is the founder of Wirepoints.