Rauner says cost savings could be found in states 850-plus school districts

CHICAGO — Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday called it a “travesty” that Illinois is “dead last” in general funding for its schools and questioned the need for 850-plus school districts across the state.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Rauner told about 600 members of the Education Writers Association at their annual conference that he is “personally committed” to increasing financial support for Illinois’ schools, which lost millions of dollars during the financial crisis.

Earlier this year, he proposed a budget that included a $300 million increase for K-12 schools next year while calling for cuts elsewhere, including roughly $400 million from higher education.

Rauner suggested that cost saving could be found in the layers of bureaucracy within the state’s 850-plus school districts, some of which are just a single school.

He says the money should be in the classroom with the teachers, with technology, with the infrastructure and with the students, not in the bureaucracy, noting that Illinois has a lot of layers that consume the money.

The topic of school district consolidation has been a recurring one in Illinois. Decades ago, Illinois went from 12,000 school districts to roughly the current set up. But separate elementary school districts and high school districts remain throughout the state.

Beth Purvis, Rauner’s advisor on education, said the situation results in misdirected funds that take away from the classroom.