Consolidation is the way out for Grant School District

November 9, 2013 

Grant School District Superintendent Matt Stines last week drew a line in the sand for school district voters. He said that if they don't approve an 85-cent per $100 property tax increase in March, he's turning in the paperwork to the regional school superintendent to dissolve the district. Students could be divided between multiple districts.

But why aren't he and the School Board working to voluntarily consolidate with Pontiac, the other Fairview Heights elementary district? Stines said there isn't money for a consolidation study, but it's ridiculous that the idea isn't even being discussed.

Even if the referendum passes, it would be more a short-term fix than a long-term solution. Grant doesn't have a strong property tax base but retail-rich Pontiac does.

It's also disappointing that, while student programs at Grant have been cut severely, and while the district wants more money from overburdened taxpayers, teachers' salaries have been frozen, not cut. Where will these teachers teach if the district is dissolved?

The Illinois Policy Institute also points out a couple excesses in the Grant teacher benefits: They can accumulate 360 sick days, which they can take as paid time off before they retire. They also can receive a 6 percent salary increases for as many as their last four years of service, and up to a $9,000 "post retirement incentive."

The lack of consolidation talks and the overly generous teacher contract terms underscore the lack of vision in this district. Long term, one elementary school district in Fairview Heights makes better sense than two, and it's unfortunate that no one's working toward that goal.

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