A commission led by the lieutenant governor is encouraging underachieving school districts to consolidate. Sheila Simon says she wants to remove the red tape that keeps school districts from consolidating on their own. She says many small and poor school districts lack resources and could share to give their students a quality education. She says that proposal could save the state $1 billion.
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“We want to use consolidation to get there when that works, but we also want to use other ways to getting more opportunity and greater efficiency when consolidation doesn’t work,” Simon says. One of those “other ways” would be using virtual classrooms. That means students in one school could watch and listen to a teacher who is in another school. William Phillips, a former Belleville superintendent, says although consolidation doesn’t work for everyone, small rural schools can be at a disadvantage.
“They can’t find the teachers,” Phillips says. “They don’t have the students to support full classes of these. Sometimes even athletic events: It’s not uncommon for Illinois schools not to be able to field football teams because they would require a greater number of students.” There are 862 school districts in Illinois.