113 six-figure school district administrators oppose Classrooms First Act

113 six-figure school district administrators oppose Classrooms First Act

Of the 113 school district administrators earning six-figure salaries who oppose a bill to reduce bureaucracy, 21 are above the $200,000 mark. The bill intends to put more money into classrooms or back in taxpayers’ pockets.

A bill that would free up school district administrative dollars and target the money either to classroom instruction or to property tax relief faces a hearing March 24 in the Illinois House.

It is drawing opposition from school administrators with a lot to lose. As of March 22, 113 school administrators who earn at least $100,000 a year filed notices that they oppose House Bill 7, the Classrooms First Act. Twenty-one of those administrators make at least $200,000 a year.

The Classrooms First Act aims to reduce Illinois’ double-the-national-average spending on “general administration” costs by consolidating 25% of the state’s 852 school districts. Nearly half serve only one or two schools.

Bureaucracy begets bureaucracy: Illinois’ student and teacher populations each dropped 2% between 2014 and 2018, but administration grew 1.5% during that time. In 2017 there were over 9,000 school administrators in Illinois who made $100,000 or more per year.

All that excess bureaucracy leads to high costs: Illinois spent $1.19 billion on district-level administration in 2018. California is able to serve three times as many students as Illinois for over one-third less.

Those costs are only related to district superintendents and board costs, including marketing and human resources. They do not include school principals and the bill would not close any individual school or cost a school its team colors or mascots.

What it would likely do is raise students’ academic achievements.

A 2018 study found increasing the size of a district to 1,000 students improves the average SAT score by 48 points, with another 14 points added by increasing to 2,000 students.

Illinois spends $598 per student on district-level administration, more than two and a half times the national average of $237. If Illinois reduced its general administrative spending to the national average per student, it would save $716.6 million in bureaucratic costs.

That amount is over double the $350 million state leaders promised to boost school spending each year when they revamped the school funding formula in 2017. That promise was broken for the current school year, with Gov. J.B. Pritzker keeping school spending flat. He’s proposed doing the same again in his upcoming budget.

Illinois spends more than Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana on education but gets worse results. Illinois dedicates more education dollars to district level administrators, as well as education in general, but all three states post better scores than Illinois in K-12 math and reading proficiency, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress.

School districts consume two-thirds of property taxes in Illinois. Reducing the number of school district and the costs associated them would make a big dent in those property taxes.

House Bill 7 would create a School District Efficiency Commission that would review the state’s 852 school districts and make recommendations for consolidation. The recommendations would then go to district voters as a ballot question. Both districts in consideration would have to approve the measure separately by majority votes to merge.

The Classrooms First Act would give parents, teachers, and taxpayers the power to curb wasteful bureaucratic spending and put that money back in the classroom or back in taxpayers’ wallets.

If you support school district consolidation, you can let state lawmakers hear you before their hearing on March 24 by filing a witness slip as a proponent of HB 7 here.

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