Replay: School Consolidation Would Cost Taxpayers Plenty

In its Sunday, January 17, 2015, editorial the Chicago Tribune called for school consolidation.

In its Sunday, January 17, 2015, editorial the Chicago Tribune called for school consolidation.

With the Chicago Tribune pumping for school consolidation in its editorial on education, I thought it was time to re-run the article I wrote almost four years ago when Governor Pat Quinn advanced the idea.

The numbers will have changed since I wrote it, but the conclusion will be the same.

When high schools are consolidated with grade schools, salaries of elementary school teachers will be increased to equal those of high school teachers.

If for no other reason, that will occur because there are more grade school teachers than high school teachers.

They will control the teachers union.

The only way to save more money on the fewer administrators required in a consolidated (unit) district would be to keep salaries constant.

The chances of that are slim and none.

School Consolidation Would Cost Taxpayers Plenty

Governor Pat Quinn thinks that consolidating schools will save big money because fewer administrators would be required.

The average Crystal Lake High School District 155 teacher salary is $91,573.


Reading the Daily Herald article, I notice that no mention is made of equalizing up elementary school teacher salaries to the level paid by the overlying high school districts.

$68,489 is the average teacher salary in the Cary Grade School District, the one is such financial trouble recently.


All Quinn mentions is saving $100 million in administrative costs. That’s well under one-half of one percentage of what’s spent on schools in Illinois.

In Fox River Grove the average grade school teacher makes $60,507.


Pretty much peanuts, in other words.

In the Prairie Grove Elementary School District underlying Crystal Lake High School District the average salary is $59,840.


The Northwest Herald has bought into the argument, also incorrectly assume that consolidating hundreds of school districts in Illinois will save big money.

The largest of the District 155 feeder schools, Crystal Lake District 47, pays its teachers $57,788 on the average, according to the 2010 School Report Card.


“… there’s no good reason why towns such as Cary, Crystal Lake and McHenry should have separate elementary and high school districts.”

That’s what the Northwest Herald wrote Thursday.  (Look quickly.  Soon you will have to pay to see it.)

Might I suggest that a salary comparison be made?

Look what took me less than ten minutes to find.

High school salaries in District 155 are higher than those in Crystal Lake Grade School District 47, Cary Grade School District 26 and Prairie Grade School District 46.

Let me list them:

  • Crystal Lake District 155 – $91,573 (412 teachers)
  • Cary District 26 – $68,489 (198 teachers)
  • Fox River Grove 3 – $60,507 (41 teachers)
  • Prairie Grove District 46 – $59,840 (68 teachers)
  • Crystal Lake District 47 – $57,788 (564 teachers)

The weighted average of grade school teachers in the three districts is $60,505.

The difference between the average weighted elementary school salary and the District 155 High School teacher’s average salary of $91,573 is $31,066.

Let’s do some multiplication.

First, let’s estimate. You know, what grade school students are taught to do.

What’s $31,000 times 900?

Hey, that’s over $25 million.

The exact figure is $27,058,486 my calculator says and it didn’t take tens of thousands of dollars paid to some Northern Illinois professors to figure that out.

So, let’s be rational and assume no teacher would be willing to take a pay cut and all grade school teachers would want to be put on the same salary schedule now enjoyed by area high school teachers.

Looking at these figures, it is hard to believe they would not expect an average raise of $31,000 if consolidation were to occur.

Now, I’ll admit that I have not made detailed comparisons to take into account the longevity bonus that high and grade school teachers get.

Maybe after making such adjustments the raise for unifying the pay schedules wouldn’t average over $31,000 a grade school teacher.

Pick your number and multiply it by 871.

Then, compare that mid-$20-some million number with the $100 million statewide savings that Quinn projects in savings from unneeded administrators.

Anyone think the savings by getting rid of redundant administrators within the Crystal Lake-Cary-Fox River Grove-Prairie Grove area would approach $25 million?

So why is the Governor proposing something that is going to cost every part of the state with both high and grade school districts big money?

Would I be being too cynical to suggest that Quinn may be trying to reward Illinois Education Association members who supported his re-election?

Would anyone think Illinois union leaders would let teachers in the same unified district be on two different pay scales?

The IEA Uniserve Directors would be knocking at school administrators’ doors the day after a merger.  Maybe before.

The entrance to Disney World’s Fantasy Land looks so enticing, but what’s beyond looks like a carnival to me.


Proof is how teacher unions won’t allow a consolidated school district to use even two different pay scales.

The elementary physical education teacher that teaches kindergarten P.E. classes is on the same pay scale as the high school math and science teachers.

Only in editorial and Quinn Fantasy Land unions would be helping to save money.

The result would be teachers hearing the sound of “Ca Ching!”

Years later you would likely read editors bemoaning how this couldn’t have been foreseen.

But that’s what collective bargaining will bring if all school districts are shoved into the unit district mold.

It will be the result of collective bargaining. You know, what the fight in Madison, Wisconsin, is all about.


Replay: School Consolidation Would Cost Taxpayers Plenty — 5 Comments

  1. Cal, you are so right.

    Anyone who argues that bigger government will be more cost effective, just like bigger business, doesn’t understand the different motives that drive each.

    Think about it this way: which government do YOU think is more costly and more bureaucratic:

    a BIGGER government or a smaller government?

    And examination of the finances of all school districts in Illinois shows a clear correlation:

    bigger districts cost more per student.

    Consolidate four districts, and you get rid of three superintendents.

    You also add an army of assistants:

    assistant superintendents, assistant principals, curriculum coordinators. Bigger districts have bigger administrations.

  2. State legislators and governors created laws to make most school district consolidations economically infeasible in the long term by requiring the lower pay scale teacher collective bargaining agreement to be eliminated, thereby giving all teachers in the lower paid district a pay hike.

    And then temporarily offsetting the teacher pay hikes with temporary state subsidies which ramp down over three or four years, after which taxpayers fully fund the pay hikes to teachers in the lower paid district.

    And this is often not clearly highlighted to taxpayers in the proposal to consolidate the school districts.

    You can find exceptions.

    The teacher union lobbyists have a lot of power in Illinois in setting state law through their campaign contributions, votes, and electioneering assistance.

    That would be the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) at the state level.

    And the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) at the Federal level.

    And their local affiliates at the school district level.

    None of which is teacher union bashing its simply the system as it exists today.

    If you want a counter, one option is to give people choice to the monopoly school districts and monopoly unions in the monopoly school districts.

    National School Choice Week is January 25 – 31, 2015.

    Another counter is to get involved in understanding how school districts operate and understand the candidates in the local school board elections.

    That takes quite a bit of time.

    But the status quo is not acceptable, with the teacher unions have far too much power, and one reason for that is citizens not pulling their weight in general to provide a counter.

  3. Another element in school district consolidations is that there are far more teachers than administrators.

    So although administrators are higher paid, there are far fewer of them.

    The majority of school district reorganizations and consolidations in recent memory have been in rural areas.

    Because rural enrollment is often declining as farms consolidate, so it’s feasible to close buildings and bus people.

    Sheila Simon was the point person in Quinn’s school district consolidation effort called the Classroom First Commission.

    With Classroom First, if school district consolidation was deemed not feasible, school districts had the option of sharing resources and services, something they could have done themselves without Classrooms First.

    Also there are school district reorganizations where elementary districts can consolidate with other elementary districts, and ditto at the high school level.

    So it doesn’t have to be an elementary district merging with a high school district.

    The elementary – elementary and high school – high school consolidations sometimes make more sense as the collective bargaining pay scales are more inline.

    Also, consolidation results in larger teacher unions and larger school districts, resulting in more union and school district power.

    For example, the more members a union local has, the more power they have in negotiations, and one reason for that is the threat of a strike is greater, as a strike in a larger district impacts a greater number of parents.

    Therefore unions almost always are a proponent of school district consolidation and reorganization.

    There is a section on the Illinois State Board of Education website about school district reorganizations. > Programs > School Business Services > Navigation (Right side of screen) > School Reorganization

    To determine if reorganization is a viable option, the school district will perform a Feasibility Study and Reorganization Study.

    Sometimes partial funding is available from the Regional Office of Education for feasibility studies.

    There are consultants that specialize in reorganization studies, typically headed by retired District Superintendents, such as Midwest School Consultants; Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk & Miller, Ltd.; there’s more.

    Other popular jobs for retired superintendents are Executive Recruiter (for Superintendents), Temporary Superintendent (say if the Superintendent takes a job in another district), college professor, and various other consulting roles in public education.

    Many retired assistant superintendents also take consulting jobs with school districts (though not the one they retired from at least not initially) often networked through the Regional Office of Education.

    Even if they work for 35 years, and most retire before that, if you start working at 22, you are 55 when you retire.

    That’s a reason quite a few take consulting gigs, they are still fully capable of working, don’t want to sit around the house, and the consulting jobs at that level pay well.

    They pretty much fly under the radar since consulting costs to school districts is not a highly scrutinized expense by the public.

    The districts justify the expense by saying it’s cheaper to higher a consultant than higher a permanent worker for a certain task, or because they need someone fast due to illness, or their is a special project.

  4. I spent 12 years on the 155 school borad and 4 years on 47.

    Consolidation is of high school and elementary school district is simple, the difference is teacher salaries.

    Those salaries are determined on an equal basis.

    Is a 4th year Science teacher entitled to the same salary as a 2d grade teacher.

    Or is the science worth more?

    You figure it out.

    Consolidation would be a disaster to our State.

  5. The Collective Bargaining Agreement salary chart does not include job title or grade.

    The salary charge is a matrix with Steps (years worked) and Lanes (# of college classes taken).

    Add to that stipends for extra duty work such as coaching a sport, sponsoring a club, Dean of a Dept, etc.

    I have heard of cases where an extra amount is given given for highly skilled and in demand subject areas such as physics, but I’ve never seen that in a collective bargaining agreement.

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