Rural School Research

My Generation

Looking into much about Illinois' school system and learning more than I ever even knew to ask about. Which raises more questions.

Published on: January 11, 2011
Things I am learning about school districts in Illinois:

1.  We have a lot of them. 868, to be exact. Iowa has 372, and they'd like to cut it to 144. The state of Delaware has so few that every superintendent can gather in the state superintendent's living room.

2.  This is not all Chicago's fault. There are a lot of districts up there, but there are a whole lot more one-school districts downstate.

3.  We have a lot of areas with "dual districts" where there are separate school districts for the elementary and high schools in a given area. This is foreign to me; where I grew up and where I live now, we have k-12 districts.

4.  My initial reaction is that this is wasteful. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

5.  We are a local control state. That means any reorganization or consolidation occurs only at the vote of the affected communities.

6.  This is strictly my opinion, but I have seen, in the past 10 years and when our state had money, decisions made to build schools whose location made no sense whatsoever. Sort of a, "Hey, we can get the money, so why not build a new school? And maybe we can keep the school in our community longer this way." I am not one to favor broader state intervention, but that sort of thinking really invites a certain top-down reorganization. One that would really tick people off.

7.  I'm wondering about the perfect size for a school. What's too big that it loses a small school feel? What's too small that it can't offer challenging and diverse opportunities?

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  1. d. blackert says:

    Holly, Good luck About 14 years ago we consolidated 2 unit districts and 2 dual districts into one unit district covering 340 square miles. In round numbers it resulted in about 100 students per class. A new high school was built at a central location with local elementary maintained at 4 local sites. A few years later the elementary was consolidated to 2 sites. Consolidation was discussed in this area for 30 plus years before a consensus was reached by enough community leaders to step forward and push the issue onto the ballot to be voted on. The vision developed enough momentum that it passed on the first vote. But anytime you talk about giving up your local school you are talking about an impact on the village where it is located. But it should always come down to what is best for the students as well as what and makes best use of the taxpayers dollars.