031313br0287rSPRINGFIELD – Legislation aimed at reducing barriers for school districts wanting to voluntarily reorganize passed out of the Senate Education Committee with bipartisan support and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Currently, school districts serving a population of fewer than 5,000 residents have the option to accelerate the school’s reorganization process by dissolving without a referendum vote. Senate Bill 1877, sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D–Bunker Hill) would allow school districts with fewer than 750 students to take similar advantage of the speedier process of dissolving by filing a petition – a locally driven process.

Several proposals dealing with school consolidations have been proposed by lawmakers in the past and in 2011 Gov. Pat Quinn proposed consolidating 868 Illinois school districts to no more than 300, a proposal that received little support.   

“The state should not force school consolidation on downstate districts,” Manar said. “Governor Quinn and other Chicago lawmakers have proposed forced consolidations in the past under the guise of saving the state money, but we learned from a study commissioned by the state that their ‘cost-saving’ proposal would actually cost the state an estimated $3.7 billion.”

While past consolidation proposals were unable to pass the General Assembly, Manar is confident his bill will be met with bipartisan support in the full Senate because it is voluntary, not forced consolidation.

“My children attend school in a small district,” Manar said. “I know how important local control is when it comes to our kids’ education. Decisions regarding consolidation or dissolution should be made at the local level, not by the General Assembly. This bill not only protects our small schools, it also protects local control of our schools.”

Manar’s proposal is an initiative of Lt. Gov. Shelia Simon’s office and based on recommendations made by the Classrooms First Commission, a commission tasked with suggesting ways Illinois school districts can improve student learning opportunities and reduce duplicative costs.

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