Evanston’s two school boards have scheduled their annual joint meeting for Tuesday evening, and high on the agenda is a discussion of school district consolidation.

While this has been a topic that has surfaced periodically over the last several decades, there are circumstances that make resolution of the topic particularly viable today.

First is the economy. Local governments have suffered in the most recent recession more than they have since the Great Depression of the 1930s. As a consequence, there has been heightened awareness of the need to increase the efficiency of local governmental units.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has set a high priority on consolidations that will reduce the number of governmental units in the state. He signed a bill into law last year that creates a 17-member Local Government Consolidation Commission whose purpose is to examine ways to streamline local government and to make formal recommendations to the General Assembly.

The Evanston City Council has placed a referendum on the ballot of the March 20 primaries to assess the desire of voters to consolidate the city and township governments.

In local school board elections last year for District 65, which operates elementary and middle schools, and District 202, which operates Evanston Township High School, candidates were virtually unanimous in declaring at candidate forums that they were open to the idea of consolidation so long as it did not sacrifice educational quality and that it actually would reduce costs.

A Citizens’ Ad Hoc Budget Committee last fall recommended consolidation as one of 30 “potential solutions” to the district’s impending financial crisis.

When the citizens group, Evanston 150, solicited ideas for improving the quality of life in Evanston in advance of the city’s 150th anniversary in 2013, the issue of school district consolidation was ranked among the top 30 ideas presented, although it did not survive to the Top Ten.

Past efforts to achieve consolidation have failed on the grounds that the salaries of District 65 teachers would have to be increased to equal that of District 202 teachers and that the end result of that exercise would be to increase overall costs of education in a newly consolidated district.

At the school board candidate forums last year, that assumption was challenged by some candidates on the grounds that thousands of unitary school districts throughout the country have successfully adopted workable salary schedules that include both elementary and high school teachers.

The public session of Tuesday’s joint board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.
 

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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4 Comments

  1. Yes to consolidation

    Thank goodness! Can we please all get behind this? We do not need two boards of education for the same kids.  We need one body of elected members who have a bold vision of 21st century K-12 public education in a diverse community. To re-cast the new ETHS motto: Excellence. Equity. One DISTRICT.

    And I could definitely support an increase in taxes for consolidation before I could support an increase to build a new school when there's already enough space to meet enrollment needs…

  2. We can surely be smart and

    We can surely be smart and creative about  this consolidation.  The bloated 202 administration for a single school is no longer affordablee.  Unify the superintendents, unify all the non-teaching expenses, get real.  Universal public education with the best teachers is our goal, not all these adminstrative costs. 

  3. D202/D65 school boards not serious about consolidation

    D202 is a school district with ONE school!!!!!! The average cost per D202 student is more than $20,000 per year.

    We have been in a great recession since 2007. And what have been the recent priorities of D202 and D65 school boards?

    D65 spent enormous energy and resources for the past year exploring ways to build a new Fifth Ward school at a cost of $48 million despite the fact that a survey indicated that Fifth Ward residents were OK with their current school situation and were lukewarm about a new school. The D65 School Board also ignored the fact that enrollment hadn't reached peak enrollment figures a decade ago.

    D202 spent a lot of time and political capitol last year when it unanimously detracked freshmen honor humanities courses because as the superintendent said, there are too many white kids in freshmen honors. This year D202 Board detracked freshmen biology honors. A lot of D202 parents are upset and voted out the only two incumbent candidates.

    So instead of the D65 Board exploring ways to unnecessarily build a new school when the district will soon face deficits and the D202 Board watering down honors courses, these two school boards should have spent all their time and energy consolidating the districts.

    Based on the recent priorities of these school boards, I don't believe they are serious in their attempt to consolidate. They are just going through the motions.

    The path to consolidation is to vote out the incumbents on these boards and vote in candidates who promise to make school consolidation their No. 1 priority.

    1. You Really Don’t Care About Facts, Do You?

      voted out the only two incumbent candidates.

      Mark Metz was an incumbent.

      Mark Metz is still on the board.

      This has been pointed out to you before, and you acknowledged it to be true.

      Why do you care so little about the facts?

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