Superintendents react to Gov's school consolidation proposal

By Marc Strauss

February 17, 2011 Updated Feb 17, 2011 at 11:31 PM CDT

Governor Quinn's budget address was a hot button issue Thursday at a monthly meeting of about two dozen area school superintendents.

Quinn says Illinois' 868 school districts are too many and wants to save the state about $100-million dollars through consolidation.

The city of Washington has four school districts and District 51 Superintendent Dr.Chad Allaman thinks consolidating could take important decisions out of the hands of taxpayers.

"Local school districts and locally elected officials make great decisions in terms of how local tax dollars are spent to maximize student achievement in their district," said Allaman. "What the Governor is proposing would take away a lot of that local control."

Tremont District 702 Superintendent Don Beard added, "Most states where consolidation has been implemented have some incentives for school districts. The Governor didn't really lay out any of those kinds of things."

But Quinn did talk about slashing funding for bus transportation by $95-million. That might force some districts to cut bus routes or charge rider fees. But it wouldn't address other issues.

"The biggest question would be what they would do with our special education transportation?," wondered Limestone District 310 Superintendent Allan Gresham. "That's a large portion of where we spend our money in terms of transportation."

Quinn also targeted the state's 45 regional education offices, saying the State Board of Education could absorb those bureaucracies.

But many superintendents meeting on Thursday fear that would result in more local decisions being made in Springfield. And they don't give that idea very high marks.