Comparing McHenry County School Costs

A friend of McHenry County Blog adds this to the discussion:

Woodstock North High School is in a unit school district.

Woodstock North High School is in a unit school district.

It is often argued (by members of high school district boards) that it is inherently more expensive to educate high school students than elementary school students.

There is no logical explanation for this position.

Those who wish to teach elementary students major in education.

Those who wish to teach high school students major in their subject area and take correspondingly fewer education classes. Both elementary and high school teachers require only a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate.

The proof is in the pudding.

In the school year ending June 30, 2013, the most recent year for which the state publishes comprehensive data on all school districts:

  • elementary school districts spent an average of $11,682 per student
  • unit school districts (K­12) spent an average of $11,540 per student
  • but high school districts spent an average of $15,063 per student

Basically, unit districts are able to keep the cost of their high schools down.

Too much snow for District 155 high schools.

Crystal Lake Central High School is in a high school district.  Negotiations are ongoing with the teachers union.

But in high school districts, expenditures per pupil are 31% higher.

Would consolidation lower costs?

Sadly, no.

Consolidation would result in much larger unit districts, and the statistics are clear that larger school districts spend more, per pupil,

than smaller districts.

Those who think there should be economies of scale in government are fooled because they argue by analogy to business.

Government isn’t business.

Business has a profit motive, a reason to minimize costs, which is why there are economies of scale.

Governments have no such motive.

In fact, quite the opposite.

Government bureaucrats get paid more in larger departments, so they have a financial incentive to grow spending.

Teachers picket at McHenry East High School.  It is in a high school district.

Teachers picket at McHenry East High School. It is in a high school district.

Second, any consolidation would result in union contracts being renegotiated at the HIGHER salary scale, increasing costs dramatically.

So why are our high school districts so much more costly?

Basically because the law permits them to levy more, relative to their size, than elementary districts, and so, of course, they have all levied to the limit.

The solution is to replace the existing high school district trustees with people who are taxpayer advocates instead of people who identify with the bureaucracy.


Comparing McHenry County School Costs — 6 Comments

  1. Consolidation and bigger gov always costs more, but the pro Twh Consolidation people seem to not care about that fact.

    Dist 155 encourages teachers to get Masters degrees, that is typically why high school’s pay their employees more, including admin.

    It’s for the kids, come on!

  2. Getting a Master’s degree and being better at your job is not a bad thing.

    A master’s is the new Bachelor’s these days.

    Most, if not all, the teacher’s at Verda Dierzen Early Learning Center in Woodstock (D200) have Master’s degrees and they are teaching Pre-K and Kindergarden.

  3. Missing from all that is the higher expense incurred for all the extra curricular activities provided by high school districts.

    Theaters. Theatrical expenses. Band expenses. Athletic facilities and their upkeep. Athletics themselves, including transportation costs. Vocational facilities.

    It goes on.

    And there are broader and more specific course offerings which require additional staff to support, like the sciences and languages.

    I was actually surprised the delta wasn’t greater.

  4. Far too many colleges and universities offer bogus part time Master’s degrees in education that require very little effort to obtain.

    I know several people who have received such degrees in the past, and the curriculum was, quite frankly, a joke.

    As a taxpayer I find it particularly galling that we have to both pay for these Mickey Mouse degrees and give the teacher a raise for completing them.

    If school districts are going to pay for Master’s degrees, and I am not at all convinced that it is a good idea that they do so, it should be a requirement that the degree be in the subject that the teacher actually teaches.

    Teachers should also be limited to one degree on the taxpayers’ dime, and if they decide to get another on their own dime they should not receive any extra pay for it.

  5. In private industry, Masters degrees provide some value-added.

    (Masters nurses may gain more rich and recent knowledge in rapidly-changing field of medicine, and must serve as preceptors to new (lower hourly rate) nurses.

    Also, highly skilled and educated professionals may be expected to have productivity commensurate with their pay grade.

    In public schools, the value relative to additional cost is not clear.

    There doesn’t seem to be any requirement for teachers to serve as preceptors, OR be more productive ( teach more students-per-hour, or serve as tutors).

  6. As a professional in the business world, I understand the need for advancement and increased pay as do most working Americans.

    But my job has a hiring salary.

    It has a low end and a high end.

    This is clearly stated.

    Understood at the time of hire by both the employer and myself.

    If during my employment, I obtain a Bachelors and a Masters Degree, I do not automatically obtain a higher pay or status just because of my higher education.

    If this education benefits me with new and better skills to help me qualify for a higher paying higher responsibility, and there is an opening, and I am promoted, then and only then do I receive higher pay.

    Why is it so hard to set these same standards and limits for teachers?

    As a professional I am, at times, given more responsibility or asked to be more productive, according to the business needs.

    Does this ever entitle me to more pay?


    Sometimes it means a bonus or a Comp day, but it is understood that I am hired to do my job and do it to the best of my ability.

    I have not looked at any pay scales or contracts, for the teachers in McHenry County, so I am not knocking or supporting any pay at this time.

    But I do know that I hear this conversation, discussion and argument often.

    I would believe, as an outsider, that this is a Union/School Board/Resident battle.

    Why is it a battle?

    If WE run out of money who gets paid then?

    If WE don’t have a fair and balanced pay scale, set in stone, how can this be resolved?

    And I emphasize “fair and balanced”.

    Fair to the tax payer and balanced among what should be paid, how it is paid and when it is paid.

    If this means fighting the Union then fight.

    If this means reform then reform.

    Tax Payers are the ONLY ones hurt when these issues are not resolved, reformed or corrected.

    What MUST be looked at here are the facts.

    Tax Payers are the boss.


    They are the investors and they are the recipients of the benefits of the business of education.

    The teachers, board members and anyone else involved, are the workers, the professionals.

    Do not forget that you have a job to do and that the pay, my tax dollars, are and should be predicated on that work also.

    If I do a bad job, I am fired.

    If I am not performing I will not be looked at for advancement, regardless of my education.

    Does this hold true for teachers?

    Maybe I need to look a little deeper into this issue, but I do know one thing, IT CAN NOT BE THAT HARD TO RESOLVE!

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