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February 28, 2006
Posted online March 15, 2006

School district merger legislation wins senate committee approval

State of Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich's proposal to make it easier for school districts to merge with each other to improve operations won approval today in the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 2795, sponsored by Sen. George Shadid (D-Peoria), now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

"Our proposal will give school districts more flexibility to consolidate," said Gov. Blagojevich. "It gives local voters more control over how their school districts are run, and gives them more choices for how to ensure that their districts are run efficiently."

Senate Bill 2795 streamlines the reorganization process and could help districts save administrative costs, provide increased educational opportunities and create a more unified curriculum between middle and high schools. The legislation requires that any reorganization be approved by voters in each affected district. The bill standardizes the multiple different reorganization processes, and makes them more efficient. Most dramatically, the legislation creates entirely new types of school district reorganizations, to give greater local control. Under current law, sometimes one school district can block a merger that would affect multiple districts; this bill makes it possible for those districts that want to merge to do so, while allowing districts that want to remain independent to stay independent. The current school code also prohibits some types of districts from merging with each other, and SB 2795 removes many of those restrictions to provide for even greater local choice.

School district reorganization, which is strictly a matter of local choice, can be used by local voters to improve the ability of school districts to develop and implement quality programs for students, offset student enrollment declines, and provide a more cost-efficient and stable school district.

"This bill will help move school consolidation along without the roadblocks of the "all or nothing' approach. There is additional language that will protect school districts who don't want to consolidate while allowing those districts that do want to consolidate the go ahead to do so. This is not written to force school districts to consolidate. This is permissive legislation that allows school districts to do so or not do so if they wish, without reprisal. This is a true example of local control," said Sen. Shadid.

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