Steve Willson Comments on Unit School District Idea

From Steve Willson, bond analyst from Lakewood, on what might happened if unit districts were formed to replace grade and high school districts:

In addition to the new combined district paying salaries at the higher contract rate, there is the “bureaucratic imperative”.

I’ve analyzed the finances of all the school districts in Illinois over several different years.

Every time I find the same conclusions.

* There is no correlation between expenditures per student and test scores or graduation rates.
* There is no correlation between teacher pay and student outcomes.
* There is no correlation between teacher experience and student outcomes. * There is only one statistically significant relationship: larger school districts spend more per pupil than small districts.

People often suggest that “economies of scale” will lead to lower costs, like in private business. What they miss is that private business are motivated by profit to cut expenses, while governments lack such an incentive, indeed, are motivated to spend as much as possible.

If you combine three school districts, you’ll lose two superintendents.

But in short order, you’ll gain many more assistant superintendents, assistant principals, curriculum coordinators and other administrators.

These are the facts, born out by our own experience right here in Illinois.


Steve Willson Comments on Unit School District Idea — 7 Comments

  1. Prop 2.5 (you pay 2.5% property tax) and let them battle it out among themselves.

    They would become efficient and find “new savings” really quickly.

  2. So what is Willson’s bottom line recommendation?

    Don’t consolidate?

    What about these crazy one school Illinois districts?

  3. As a past member of the Board of Education of both D155 & D47 I can assure everyone that there will NOT be any savings to be achieved in the unitization of Ds 3, 26, 46, 47 and 155.

    The exact opposite will occur from the equalization of salaries of certified personnel.

    This issue was thoroughly debated in 1975 when a small group of Cary residents wanted to unitize Ds 3, 26 and the Cary Grove portion of D155.

    The referendum was overwhelmingly defeated.

  4. I always get a chuckle when someone “assures” me that something can’t be done.

    We were told that alot in 2010 as we tried to turn around an insolvent D-26.

    We were told to either jack up the limiting rate in order to fund our current unaffordable operating cost structure or just let the State come in and take over the district.

    The voters put into office people that would do the hard work of fixing the district.

    After significant restructuring efforts, here we are, seven years later, and D-26’s operating funds spent $7.2 million (or 23%) less last year than it did when we began in 2010.

    D-155 in 2010 spent $83.7 million out of its operating funds, but grew spending to $92.9 million by FY16.

    How is it that one district can CUT spending 23% while, at the same time, another district, facing the same economic issues and declining enrollment trends, GREW spending by 11%? What could possibly account for the wildly disparate trends in spending?

    As to creating a unit district, I had written elsewhere that it would be exponentially harder than just creating a larger Elementary District.

    At this point, I’m not sure what the incentive would be for Cary voters to merge with the other 3 K-12 districts.

    But as a Cary taxpayer, I am extremely interested in D-155 running efficiently with an affordable and sustainable operating cost structure.

    There is no reason it can’t.

  5. Dear Old Man Winter:

    The solution is to elect people who will watch out for the taxpayers and the students rather than the staff.

  6. Steve Wilson, the real solution is to end the Teacher’s Union.

    Until that happens, nothing will be done.

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