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Amid all of the slimy backroom deals that are struck and all the regressive, overly burdensome policies that continue to be debated under the dome in Springfield, there actually are some good pieces of legislation that get filed.

Take Senate Bill 3418, which is intended to allow neighboring school districts to reduce costs by sharing superintendents if they choose to do so.

I realize reducing costs is a novel concept for many of Illinois' more than 850 school districts, not to mention a state government that has never seen a taxpayer dollar it didn't want to spend.

But figuring out how to smartly shrink government is a must in a state that taxes its citizenry more than any other in the country.

The legislation, filed by state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, would allow two or more local school boards to agree to share the costs of a single superintendent, or allow voters in multiple school districts to force superintendent consolidation, according to a recent story from Illinois News Network's Benjamin Yount.

To force a shared superintendent, 51 percent of voters in each school district would have to agree to do so at the ballot box.

"As we are trying to find extra, additional dollars to get into the classroom, this could be one way to free up dollars, even with no new money from the state," Rezin said during committee debate. "And allow those dollars to get to the classroom."

I've written before about how Illinois has way too many school districts to begin with and the districts themselves need to consolidate.

Of the state's more than 850 local school districts, one in four supports only a single school and more than 40 percent serve just one or two schools.

A perfect example of the need for consolidation can be found in the city of Marengo in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. With a population of fewer than 7,500 residents, Marengo is served by three separate school districts — Marengo Community High School District 154 (supports one school); Marengo-Union Elementary School District 165 (three schools); and Riley School District 18 (one school).

Each has its own superintendent and administrative staff. The combined compensation of the superintendents of Districts 154 and 165 was $331,648 in 2017, according to, a government watchdog site. The Riley District 18 superintendent position has been in transition in recent years, with an interim superintendent filling the spot. But the district's school board recently hired its lone school's principal to become superintendent, which will add to the cost of high-priced school administrators that Marengo-area taxpayers must support.

The average superintendent salary across Illinois is $106,273, according to the state's School Report Card. Statewide, that's a lot of high-cost administrators.

Given that, Rezin's legislation seems like one small but sensible step in helping to reduce the tax burden. It would not be another unfunded mandate being handed down from the state capitol. Local school boards and voters could decide.

Unfortunately, Springfield has a way of chewing up sensible solutions and spitting them out.

Rezin's measure does have its share of supporters, but it also has opponents. State Sen. Dan Biss, D-Evanston, is one of them.

"Now imagine the English teacher who assigns a book that is controversial. There is an outcry and there is a big fight in front of the school board, as happens from time to time," Biss said in voicing his opposition during committee debate. "Do you come back here and pass a bill that allows the public, by petition, to fire an English teacher?"

Yes, he actually said that.

Biss, you might recall, was among several candidates who sought the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor. He lost to billionaire J.B. Pritzker in March.

Both Biss and Pritzker support amending the state constitution to allow for a progressive income tax so they can take more of Illinoisans' hard-earned wages. This support comes less than a year after the General Assembly passed the largest permanent income tax hike in the state's history.

But a common-sense idea to reduce bureaucracy in a state with more local units of government than any other in the country? That could lead to mass firings of teachers who have the gall to assign "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" or "The Catcher in the Rye" to their students?'

And that's the excuse not to support Senate Bill 3418?

I'd say I've now heard it all. But this is Illinois state government. And it's only the beginning of May.

Expect plenty more nonsense from the capital in the weeks ahead.

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Dan McCaleb is news director of Illinois News Network, a project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a non-profit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. His columns include his own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. Contact Dan at


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