House bill would cap growth in sky-high administrative spending at Illinois schools
Illinois' spending on administrative costs is among the highest in the nation, sapping scarce dollars from the classroom. But a new bill would slow the growth in these expenses and align them with taxpayers' ability to pay.
Classrooms and taxpayers alike might stand to benefit from a recent bill filed in the General Assembly.
House Bill 4789, filed Feb. 13 by state Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, would impose a cap on the growth of funds that can be allocated toward administrative costs in Illinois’ public school districts.
Illinois currently spends among the most in the Midwest on education in per student terms. However, not all of these funds reach the classroom. School districts also provide for administrators’ salaries and perks, costs that too frequently disregard taxpayers’ inability to pay for them.
HB 4789 would place a cap on the rate at which administrative costs are permitted to grow each year: the lesser of 5 percent or the growth in the Consumer Price Index.
The rise of administrative costs has consumed a growing portion of school district budgets, diverting resources away from the classroom. Based on 2014 data, the Metropolitan Planning Council, or MPC, produced a report in 2017 that found Illinois school districts collectively spend $518 per student on “general administration” – second-highest in the nation and more than double the national average.
The MPC study found that by bringing down administrative costs to a level closer to that of the national average, district budgets could better meet the education funding needs of students.
Ultimately, spending devoted to school district administration must be reduced. Rising administrative costs crowd students out of the budget – and bill taxpayers for the trouble. A great place to start would be consolidating Illinois’ overabundance of school districts, each with their own costly and often overlapping bureaucracies.
HB 4789 presents a welcome step in the right direction. Capping the growth of administrative spending will offer officials an opportunity to spend public funds more effectively. Further, it signals seriousness on the part of some lawmakers in addressing one factor behind Illinoisans’ crushing property tax burdens.
Lawmakers would be wise to allow HB 4789 to graduate to the governor’s desk.