Replay: School Consolidation Would Cost Taxpayers Plenty

In the “Here we go again” category is consolidation of schools.

Just as with township consolidation, I ask, “Where’s the beef?”

Show me the money that school consolidation would bring.

Don’t just assert that consolidation of school will save money.

Provide an analysis that will show what dollars will be saved.

My analysis from 2011 show that consolidation of the grade schools with Crystal Lake High School 155 would have cost $25 million.

The last time I ran this analysis, it was after a Chicago Tribune editorial calling for school consolidation.

I think it’s time to run it again.

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 — 17 Comments

  1. Cal, you are absolutely right on this one.

    In the mid-70s, a group of disgruntled residents of Cary wanted “their own” school district…to “deannex” from Crystal Lake and form a unit district of the Cary Grove portion of 155 along with Districts 3 and 26.

    When residents found out the cost of the proposal it was shot down 3-1.

    In 1988, the legislature, and then Gov. Jim Thompson, revisited the issue of School District Consolidation and required every County in Illinois to form a School District Reorganization Committee comprised of every school district in each County.

    I was on that committee for McHenry County representing District 155 and it’s 4 feeder districts, 47, 46, 26 and 3.

    After months of meetings it was decided that the Marengo and Union elementary districts would consolidate, no other changes would take place in the entire County.

    It was easily determined that costs would far outweigh any benefits.

    As for the school aid from the State, it is such a complicated issue it can not be discussed here, but I can say that all downstate school districts have lobbied in Springfield for decades to “equalize” school aid but Chicago and Cook County legislators were immovable on the subject.

    Now, CPS is broke, has huge pension shortfalls and wants to change things.

    Anyone who thinks us downstaters might benefit has their head in the sand.

  2. Four major problems with government units in Illinois:

    1. Constitutional guarantee of pensions along with a three percent per year increase for those ‘pensioned’ prior to 2011.

    2. Power ( and irresponsibility) of public sector unions.

    3. Lack of people with backbone and intelligence running for office.

    4. Life expectancy is not slowing down.

    It does not matter who or what you consolidate, if 1 and 2 are not addressed by the ‘Rauner agenda’ and properly resolved, our downward spiral will continue.

    Now, the head of the ugly regional government for northeastern Illinois has again raised its head.

  3. Cal, you’re right.

    Consolidation is a bad idea.

    Consolidation will cost taxpayers in long and short term and will not help students.

  4. Cal, very good point.

    Consolidation for all school districts across the state would not be a very good idea.

    When you merge the two school districts together.

    The teachers will be paid on the highest of the two salary schedules.

    So the school district with the lower paid teachers will now be on par with the other district.

    However, I believe a lot of the Down State schools are really looking at consolidation as a method of to survive.

    When I say down state schools, I am referencing the rural schools with a very low population.

    However, the issue with the state pushing consolidation for the down state schools is the need or possible need to build new facilities.

    In the down state schools the issue is not so much the salary schedule, since many districts are nearly similar.

    The issue is facilities and the drive time for the students to get to school.

  5. Data comparing Elementary, HS, Unit, State, and Chicago 299 can be found at Illinois State Board of Education:

    OEPP (operating expense per pupil), PCTC (per capita tuition charge) and 9 month ADA (average daily attendance) for AFR FY2013-14 reported April 2015:

    OEPP: Elementary: $11,447 HS: $15,095 Unit: $10,177 State: $11,297 Chicago 299: $15,120
    PCTC: Elementary: $9,952 HS: $13,691 Unit: $8579 State $9766 Chicago 299: $11,707
    ADA: Elementary:489,464 HS: 224,254 Unit: 1,145,047 State: 1,858,765 Chicago 299: 355,634

    ELEMENTARY OEPP: Highest: 30,628 Lowest: $6036 Median: $10,673
    HS OEPP: Highest: $26,509 Lowest: $9199 Median: $14,397
    UNIT OEPP: Highest: $20,502 Lowest: $7163 Median: $9776

    ELEMENTARY PCTC: Highest: 30,628 Lowest: $6036 Median: $10,673
    HS PCTC: Highest: $26,509 Lowest: $9199 Median: $14,397
    UNIT PCTC: Highest: $20,502 Lowest: $7163 Median: $9776

  6. If you add the median HS and Elementary OEPP and average them (divide by 2) you get $12535.

    This exceeds the median Unit OEPP of $9776 significantly.

    It suggests that Unit schools should be more economically efficient…



    Woodstock D200 OEPP: $12,400. (This doesn’t include captial expenditures and other taxpayers’ burden per pupil of at least $10,282,572. At ADA 6168 pupils that amounts to additional $1667 per pupil annual cost).

    The Unit OEPP average? $10,177. Median? $9776

    replace last paragraph

    (PCTC) with CORRECTED stats:

    ELEMENTARY PCTC: Highest: $30,416 Lowest: $5180 Median: $9159

    HS PCTC: Highest: $24314 Lowest: $6890 Median: $12,893

    UNIT PCTC: Highest: $17596 Lowest: $1740 Median: $8227

  8. SOurce: (ISBE)
    Per Capita Tuition Charge

    The amount a local school district charges as tuition to nonresident students as defined by Sections 18-03 and 10-20.12a of the School Code.

    The per capita tuition charge is determined by totaling all expenses of a school district in its Educational, Operations and Maintenance, Debt Service, Transportation, Municipal Retirement / Social Security, and Tort Funds for the preceding school year less expenditures not applicable to the regular K-12 program (such as adult education and summer school), less offsetting revenues from state sources , except those from the Common School Fund, less offsetting revenues from federal sources except those from federal Impaction Aid, less revenues from student and community services, plus a depreciation allowance and dividing this amount by the nine-month ADA for the year.

    So this can be used to indicate the financial burden which the Unit School Board has elected to place upon its community (it doesn’t represent entire local taxpayer burden but close enough for school work).

    Unit PCTC Median in Illinois is $8227. Average Unit PCTC is $8579.

    Woodstock CUSD 200 PCTC is $11,340. That is 37.8% higher than average.

    Our property values continue to be so crushed by the 4.6% property tax rate, largely due to UNIT D200 over-spending and over-borrowing that we are considering seeking dissolution of the Unit District as our only hope of survival

  9. State of Illinois: Delivering Efficient, Effective, and Streamlined Government to Illinois Taxpayers

    Final Report Submitted by: Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates

    In consultation with: Office of the Lieutenant Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti and Northern Illinois University, Center for Government Studies

    Approved by the Task Force on December 17, 2015

    406 pages

    Member of the Task Force includes McHenry County State Representative Jack Franks, 63rd District, stealth tax hiker by voting for underfunded legislative pension benefit hikes to underfunded pension systems, which are the worst takes hikes since one sentence added to the Illinois state constitution on December 15, 1970 states pension benefits are constitutional and cannot be diminished or impaired; hiked pensions being the single largest financial problem in Illinois; Jack Franks being a key to Michael Madigan and the Democrats retaining super majority power in the Illinois State House of Representatives.


    School District reorganizations and consolidations typically are not financially advantageous to Illinois taxpayers because of existing state law and practice.

    State law revolves around political power and special interests, not taxpayers at large.

    Example A being underfunded legislative pension benefit hikes to underfunded pension systems.

    The rules of the Illinois General Assembly need to be changed (shell bills, short permissible time to pass a bill, etc.).

    We need much more transparency throughout government in Illinois (taxpayers should be able to view, contemplate for a few weeks, and vote on collective bargaining agreements, etc.)

    Michael Madigan, John Cullerton, and Jack Franks don’t want real substantial change.

    The lawmakers created unsustainable government by hiking this and that and not explaining true long term costs to taxpayers, aided by special interest groups and lobbyists.

    Illinois government is rigged and unsustainable at current service and tax levels.

  10. Excellent points Mark!

    Re: “Michael Madigan, John Cullerton, and Jack Franks don’t want real substantial change.”

    And just where are the voices of ‘reform’ by newly elected candidates relative to the required change in our State Constitution?

    Still crickets.

  11. IMHO, if laws are changed first, a good set of numbers and fact are presented in a plan that will save us tax $$$$, fine.

    Anything before those requirements could cost us way more, as is proven here and at the consolidation of Townships deal, anything before is no deal IMNSHO.

  12. Mark I have seen your posts often on this blog, and you often mention that the taxpayers should be able to vote on collective bargaining agreements.

    Isn’t that what the elected school board is there for?

    Isn’t that why we elect any sort of legislators, to act on the behalf of the public that elected them?

    It would seem to be a ridiculous waste of time and money if the taxpayers got to vote on every single thing governments spend money on.

  13. The school board of Woodstock D200 has ignored evidence based objections to their extraordinary over-borrowing and over-spending.

    Our debt stands at 120% of the maximum legally allowed. And that is not including additional accrued unpaid interest which raises debt to horrifying levels.

    The school board resists even public discussion about the costs associated with keeping two half empty high schools and one three-quarters empty middle school fully operational.

    The school board ignores pleas to reduce spending as our EAV continues to fall even including new construction (low income housing) while others’eav rise.

    In Woodstock the property tax rate is 4.6% of total home value. National average is 1.4%.

    The percentage of median household income which must go to property taxes on a median value home exceeds 12%. National average is below 4%.

    We have been impoverished by elected officials who are strip mining the scant value remaining.

    We need protection from elected officials.

  14. Township consolidation should be on the ballot, according to Cal, but not school consolidation?

    The townships that take 1.65% of my property tax bill vs. the SEVENTY-FOUR PERCENT that the schools take?

    Yet we have school superintendants making $373,000 per year for being in charge of a “district” of FOUR schools.

    But that shouldn’t change?

    Why do I get the feeling that Cal’s got relatives working in the public school system..?

  15. My argument for putting the township question on the ballot was based on the poll results I published.

    Both my father and mother were teachers early in their careers.

    That would have been in the 1930’s, I believe.

    My maternal grandmother was a teacher, but, after she married my grandfather, she was forced to quit.

    My aunt and sisters were teachers as well.

    None in Illinois or in McHenry County where my cost-benefit analysis was based.

  16. Those of you posting on this blog relative to “Put it on the ballot, let the voters decide” may want to remember:

    1. It is the voters who approved the State Constitutional guarantee for Public Pensions;

    2. The voters voted YES for most referendums to increase school spending.

    3. The voters voted to increase the size of the County Board and now some Board members want the voters to decide the Board size should be reduced.

    4. The voters continue to approve tax increases (Hebron TWP and Johnsburg).

    5. The voters keep sending Jack Franks back to Springfield.

    6. The voters approved the 708 Board tax.

    7, The voters approved the Senior tax.

    8. The voters approved the Valley Hi tax.

    The problem is that the VOTERS are rarely educated adequately on any issue to make a wise choice.

    When a referendum does fail, STAFF keep bringing it back to their respective Boards to have another go at it.

    Unless the ‘Raunder agenda’ becomes reality I do not expect this to change and the taxpayer funded lawsuits will increase.

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