Illinois diverts millions from classrooms toward administrative bloat

September 10, 2019

Illinoisans pay the most per pupil in the Midwest, but not enough money is making it to student instruction

CHICAGO (Sept. 10, 2019) – Illinois’ high cost of education isn’t paying off, according to new analysis from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute.

Despite spending among the most per student in the Midwest on education, academic outcomes in Illinois lag behind many of its neighbors.

Why? Too many education funding dollars get trapped in bureaucracy before reaching the classroom. In the past four years, Illinois public schools employ fewer teachers and have fewer students, but the number of administrators has actually grown.

School performance and college readiness in Illinois are mediocre compared to neighboring states and the national average, despite per-student spending topping all other states in the Midwest.

The costs:

  • Illinois spends $581 per student on general administrative costs alone.
  • Illinois has 852 school districts, the fifth-largest number in the nation.
  • One in four Illinois school districts serve just a single school, and over half of Illinois school districts serve just 1,000 students. The national average is 3,600 students per district.
  • More than 9,000 top school administrators currently earn more than $100,000 per year, and they’ll each receive $3 million or more in pension benefits during their retirements.
  • In the past four years, both student enrollment and teacher employment at Illinois K-12 public school districts fell by 2%, while the number of administrators grew 1.5%.
  • More than 60% of Illinois property taxes – the second highest in the nation – pay for public education. In fiscal year 2019, Illinois spent $8.4 billion on education.
  • More school districts mean higher property taxes. During the past decade, property taxes in Illinois have grown 9% while home values have dropped by 21%. Since 2007, the decline in home values remains 300% worse in Illinois than the national average.

Improving outcomes:

  • School districts serving 1,000 students are likely to have an average composite ACT score two points higher than those at districts serving only 300 students, despite similar geographic location, population demographics and state aid.
  • Similarly, small districts that increase student population to 1,000 boost the average student’s performance on the SAT by 48 points; biology ECA pass rates by 10 percentage points and ISTEP eighth grade pass rates by 8 percentage points.
  • School district consolidation is possible through existing legislation. House Bill 3053 passed unanimously out of the House of Representatives during the 101st General Assembly.
  • HB 3053 would have created a commission responsible for making recommendations to reduce the number of districts by at least 25%. It would not consolidate any schools, just districts. Recommendations would go directly to voters in affected school districts, so no changes would be made without local approval.

Quote from Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute: 

“Diverting education dollars away from classrooms to prop up administrative bloat is wrong. Despite the thousands more Illinoisans pay per student each year, school performance falls short of its Midwest neighbors, or remains average.

“It’s time to do what’s best for students across the state. School districts that serve a larger student population are associated with higher quality and student outcomes. Lawmakers have the power to help every student reach their full potential by ensuring education dollars make it to the classroom.”

To read the full analysis “Bureaucrats over classrooms: Illinois wastes millions of education dollars on unnecessary layers of administration,” visit:

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