A state commission says Illinois schools shouldn’t be forced to consolidate. Monday night's hearing in Rockford was the final of four public hearings on the issue. The Classrooms First Commission has now toured its plan around the state. House Bill 1216 was signed into law on August 23, 2011, creating a commission to research issues affecting school districts. The group is headed by Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon.
In Rockford, discussion from the public on the plan was non-controversial. The draft proposal from the group claims $1 billion in savings by using a database to compare spending in districts. The commission concludes school mergers should be voluntary, and encouraged for smaller districts facing declining population.
One of the more eye-catching ideas in the report is for the state to approve a two-year budget. Panel member and State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia, says it would be a hard sell in the General Assembly, but supports the proposal. “At least it would give them some relief knowing the two- year budget, what they have to work with so they can make goals," says Chapa LaVia.
Simon says the panel does not want to force any districts to consolidate. “We found that there’s no one size fits all solution. There’s not say a number of students that ought to be at a high school and below which it can’t be functional,” says Simon.
Now that the public hearings are over, feedback will go into a final report due to the Governor by July 1st.
Those unable to give testimony at one of the four public hearing can still submit comments
Full versions of the commission's draft recommendations are also available.