SPRINGFIELD –Gov. Rod Blagojevich praised the new State Board of Education for its cost savings and accountability plan, announced today at the State Board meeting in Springfield. The plan calls for streamlining agency operations, resulting in savings of $2.6 million in FY 2005 and $3.8 million in FY 2006. Governor Blagojevich supports redirecting the savings to fund school district consolidation grants.
“This is what I called for when I appointed seven new board members. This agency can’t drain state resources. It must find ways to save state resources to help our schools,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “As a result of ISBE’s creative thinking, we can help more schools with the initial costs of consolidating. Districts, teachers and kids deserve this kind of State Board, one that helps them and supports them.”
Since 1984, 103 districts have received consolidation funding from the state. Consolidation gives school districts greater flexibility to offer a broader array of services, increases administrative efficiency and helps address underlying financial problems districts may be experiencing.
The amount of state funding consolidated districts receive varies. School districts that consolidate are eligible for the following grants from the State Board of Education:
- For four years, the consolidated district receives General State Aid at the level of the combined districts receiving more prior to consolidation.
- For four years, the consolidated district receives a grant to pay the difference in teacher salaries – to bring the salaries up to the same level in both districts.
- The consolidated district may receive a one-time grant to cover some of the negative fund balance that one district brought to the consolidation.
- The consolidated district may receive $4,000 per certified staff person, which includes all teachers and administrators holding certificates.
Currently, seven districts that previously consolidated and eight districts that consolidated this year are eligible to receive funding. The current Fiscal Year 2005 appropriation is $1.7 million – enough to fund about half those districts. As a result of the new savings found at ISBE, the remaining districts would be able to receive funding. The Illinois General Assembly may address the issue of school district consolidation funding when members return for session in January.
The new team at ISBE looked at every aspect of operations to identify ways to reduce costs, starting with executive salaries and executive office space. Operational costs will be reduced by eliminating or consolidating operations that are available through other state agencies.