Northwest Herald Keeps Encouraging School Consolidation, which Would Cost Tens of Millions

A Praairie Ridge High School Band parent was at Marengo Settlers Days Parade.

A Prairie Ridge High School Band parent was at Marengo Settlers Days Parade.

Late last week, the Northwest Herald praised Crystal Lake School District 155 and its four elementary school feeder districts for holding a meeting for a meeting for all grade and high school teachers.

Nothing wrong with that.

Articulation between the education given at grade schools and high schools is highly desirable.

At the end of the editorial, however, the schools were encouraged to consolidate.

Cary Jr. High School

Cary Jr. High School

The problem with that suggestion, which is not intuitively unthinkable, is that it would cost big money (and not the kind of “big money” sought on Wheel of Fortune).

Just last Tuesday I re-ran a 2011 analysis of what it would have cost taxpayers in District 155 if consolidation had occurred that year.

If you have not read the article, click on the title below and take a look at my logic. (If you can refute it, the comments section is for you.)

School Consolidation Would Cost Taxpayers Plenty

West Elementary School in Crystal Lake

West Elementary School in Crystal Lake

I did the cost-benefit analysis in 2011, but I doubt there’s been much change.

The problem with the idea of consolidation is that grade school teachers are paid substantially less than District 155 high school teachers.

Under consolidation, there would undoubtedly be one teachers union.

I believe salaries would be equalized up, not down.

The combined union would be controlled by the less-well-paid elementary school teachers (because there are more of them).

Four years ago the average grade school teacher was paid about $31,000 less than the average high school teacher.

CLCHS sign in show

Crystal Lake Central High School

There were about 900 grade school teachers.

Do the multiplication.

Four years ago, equalizing salaries up would have cost about $25 million.

Getting rid of all the administrators in the high school and grade school districts would not have saved $25 million.

When Governor Pat Quinn made his 2011 pitch, he said $100 million could be saved statewide in administrators’ salaries–about one-half of one percent of what was spent on Illinois schools.

Back in 2011, the Northwest Herald wrote,

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

Increasing taxes by over $20 million strikes me as a “good reason” not to consolidate elementary and high schools.

What do you think?


Northwest Herald Keeps Encouraging School Consolidation, which Would Cost Tens of Millions — 10 Comments

  1. Those who argue for consolidation argue that big businesses have lower costs than small businesses, so, by analogy, the same should be true of governments.

    They never provide any evidence to support their conclusion because there is no evidence. The argument is false, and it’s false for one simple reason:

    The incentives for business are completely different from the incentives for government.

    Businesses always try to cut spending because they can go OUT of business if their costs get too high.

    Government bureaucrats always try to increase spending because their own pay depends on how many people work for them and how big their budget is.

    They NEVER go out of business if their costs get too high — they just raise taxes!

    Think about it this way: if I said to you, “Which is more bureaucratic and wastes more taxpayer money, bigger governments or smaller governments?” you would answer without hesitation, “Bigger governments!”

    And the facts bear this out.

    I have examined the finances of every public school district in Illinois, and there is one fact that stands out: bigger school districts cost more per pupil, on average, than smaller school districts.

    When you consolidate five districts into one, you lose four superintendents and gain umpteen “assistant superintendents” and “curriculum coordinators” and other positions you don’t see at small school districts.

    And those bigger districts do no better at educating our kids.

    There is zero statistical correlation between spending and outcomes above $7,000 per student.

  2. If you remove collective bargaining from the public sector, will you and Steve draw a different conclusion?

  3. The link is broken.

    That is, the “School Consolidation Would Cost Taxpayers Plenty” link.

    There is supposedly a state law which says the higher pay schedule of two consolidated school districts must be used.

    But where is that law in the Illinois School Code?

    But the higher pay schedule does in fact get used in all or nearly all consolidations.

    There have been temporary state subsidies of three or four years to offset the pay hikes for the lower paid teachers.

    After the subsidies run out of course local property taxpayers make up the difference.

    If someone is interested they could call the Illinois State Board of Education or Regional Office of Education and try to figure that out.

    Maybe the Northwest Herald can do that.

    School consolidations and reorganizations more frequently occur in the rural areas of Illinois, typically in response to declines in student enrollment.

    Also keep in mind that bigger school districts mean bigger more powerful teacher unions which mean more teacher union leverage in negotiations, partially because a strike would result in more kids being out of school, more disruption for parents.

  4. So if you were to propose consolidation without changing the past practice of hiking the lower paid salary schedule to that of the higher paid schedule, you would not consolidate a high school district with an elementary school district.

    You would consolidate a high school district with another high school district.

    Or you would consolidate one elementary school district with another elementary school district.

    But even that wouldn’t make sense in most circumstances especially in suburban Chicago because it would, as pointed out previously, result in a more members in the teacher union local, which means the threat of a strike is a bigger lever during collective bargaining negotiations.

    The more members in a teacher union local, the more children and parents are affected by a strike.

    Another point is that there are more teachers than administrators in a school district.

    So the overall cost of teachers is far greater than the overall cost of administrators.

    Even though almost all administrators (Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Principals, Assistant Principals) are paid more than teachers.

    If you want to slow the growth of school district costs on your property tax bill, one solution is School Choice.

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

    Where is the National School Choice Week article from the Northwest Herald.

  5. I may be going out on a limb here, but do you think that newspapers may have a LIBERAL worldview?

  6. Dear Skeptic:

    A healthy skepticism is the first virtue of a citizen of a democracy.

  7. Dear Questioning:

    You asked if collective bargaining were removed from the public sector, would I draw a different conclusion.

    My response is that I would do what I have always done: check the facts and THEN form a conclusion.

    I would point out, however, that my interpretation of the intent of government officials is independent of union membership.

    And I would suggest the evidence is strong for the incentives of government employees who are not unionized.

    Look at federal agencies that are not unionized, starting with the military.

    No soldier ever accused the Department of Defense of efficiency!

  8. Just so it’s clear there are public sector unions in the Federal government too including the military.

    The fighting forces are not unionized for obvious reasons.

    It’s the rules that govern the unions and the collective bargaining process that are the biggest problem.

    Each state and the Federal Government has its own labor laws for public sector unions.

    The laws vary greatly state by state.

    Illinois has over the years repeatedly passed legislation that greatly benefits public sector unions.

    The State of Illinois the most heavily unionized state (meaning it has the greatest percentage of state workers belonging to a union) in the United States.

    It was, maybe still is, so bad that Supervisors were in the union, so there was no effective division of management and labor in some locations.

    A lot of our fiscal problems in Illinois are rooted in organized labor and politicians being in cahoots at the expense of everyone outside that duo.

    There needs to be a balance of power between management and labor, not skewed too heavily to one side or the other, it’s a constant act of balancing and re-balancing.

  9. Nation School Choice Week has a companion website called Amplify School Choice to go along with their typical website.

    National School Choice week is held once annually, and this year it is January 25 – 31, 2015.

    It’s purpose is to promote school choice, i.e. if you don’t want to attend the local public school for whatever reason, your taxpayer dollars can be used to educate your child elsewhere.

  10. Thomas & the 155 board members will ruin all the other districts too if this happens.

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