Why Illinois Spends So Much Money on School Administration

Illinois spends more per pupil on school administration than almost every other state in the union, according to a new report from the Metropolitan Planning Council.

In fiscal year 2016, the bill came to $544 per student in Illinois – second only to North Dakota and New Hampshire, and far more than more populous states like New York, Texas, California and Florida. Researchers say making some changes to administrative spending could get more money into the classroom.

“Every dollar that is put into these administration costs is a tax dollar – collected in a state where tax dollars are few and far between – that is going to something other than educating kids,” said Josh Ellis, vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council. Ellis says potential ways to get more money into classrooms include consolidating districts (Illinois has about 850, many with just one school) or districts sharing administrative services.

While consolidating districts or sharing services might sound like it would lead to layoffs, Ellis says the net number of jobs need not shrink. Rather, tax dollars saved would be used to employ more teachers, coaches and classroom aides. “They’re going to be used to employ people who are more directly related to student performance and student well-being.”

In a statement, the Illinois Association of School Administrators pushed back on the report. “The idea (that) it’s better for children to share superintendents or consolidate school districts is (short-sighted) and may not even save money if the district is forced to hire other personnel. ... If sharing is the right thing to do, then locally elected school boards who have all of the information can make that decision. Nothing prevents that in current statute. In fact, more than 20 districts are already doing so.”

Ellis agrees that there aren’t any legal roadblocks to districts sharing services. “The primary roadblock to all this? Inertia.”

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