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Big wins with consolidation

Citizens in Madison County will ask fellow voters next year to consolidate three school districts into one, and this is one of those times when less would be more – for both taxpayers and students.

East Alton District 13, Wood River-Hartford District 15 and the East Alton-Wood River High School would be consolidated, if the measure passes. Instead of separate grade school and high school districts, there would be one unit district – the setup for all the other public school districts in Madison County.

When people think of consolidation, they typically think of the cost savings that would result from fewer administrators, less overhead and combined functions. In this case those savings would be substantial. For example, instead of more than $7 per $100 of equalized assessed value in East Alton, the county regional superintendent of schools is projecting a property tax rate of just $3.50. Those big savings should encourage other area taxpayers to push for consolidation.

Even more importantly would be the benefits to students. Far from getting lost in the shuffle as one superintendent suggests, students would benefit from a clear and cohesive curriculum planned by the same team for all their school years. “You have more consistent curriculum, can offer more extracurricular activities, and you combine the strengths of the districts,” said East Alton-Wood River High School Superintendent John Pearson.

The measure narrowly failed when it was first on the ballot in 2011. Let’s hope the voters will choose to consolidate when the measure is brought up for a second time in April.