Editorials

Need money in O’Fallon? Try turning four school districts into one

O’Fallon Township High School District 203 has seen state tax dollars decline in the past decade, according to the Illinois Report Card.
O’Fallon Township High School District 203 has seen state tax dollars decline in the past decade, according to the Illinois Report Card. bweisenstein@bnd.com

O’Fallon Township High School District 203 leaders have a $1 million problem and came up with a $610,000 solution.

The district already cut $4 million since the 2010-2011 school year, but the state’s broken promises and declining dollars leave O’Fallon High needing to cut more.

Or make property taxpayers shoulder even more burden.

Or consolidate.

Superintendent Darcy Benway was pretty dismissive of the consolidation option.

“Let’s talk about Edwardsville. ... They’re going out for a tax referendum. Guess what? They’re broke,” Benway said. “If consolidation were the silver bullet, this board of education would be all about it. All indications that we see in any analysis is that it’s going to cost us more money.”

Yes, Edwardsville is asking for more because they are “broke,” but they also receive $1,286 less per student than O’Fallon High. Plus, when a student moves from an O’Fallon elementary school to the high school, he sees a $2,446 bump in what is spent on his education.

You do not see a 30 percent discrepancy between Belleville elementary and high school students.

The last time consolidation of O’Fallon high and its three feeder districts came up, the discussion devolved into pondering which district was going to send a letter to the other. Parochialism and paychecks are mighty disincentives against the status quo changing itself.

Common sense tells you that consolidating four school districts into one will save taxpayers money by eliminating overhead and duplication, starting with three fewer superintendents and combined support staffs for purchasing, meals, transportation and information technology. Consolidation will also let the community stop telling grade school students they are only worth an $8,202 investment versus $10,648 when they get to high school.

Consolidation is a chance to take a 19th century administrative model and design a school heirarchy for today that is right-sized for the the taxes available.

You only need 50 registered voters to petition for a consolidation.

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