FILE - standardized tests, Illinois Budget Writing Test

In this Monday, Oct. 7, 2012, photo tenth grade students take a chemistry test while in class at Springfield High School in Springfield, Ill. Illinois high school juniors will be tested on writing skills for the first time in years next spring during state standardized tests. 

(The Center Square) – A new analysis shows Illinois spent $631 per student on district-level administration in 2019, the second most in the nation.

According to the Illinois Policy Institute, Illinois spent over $1 billion in 2019 on school administration.

Adam Schuster, senior director of budget and tax research for the think tank, said the problem is too much money is going to support an overabundance of district administration and too little is going to classrooms.

“We have needless layers of district bureaucracy that do very little, next to nothing, that benefits students but do siphon dollars away from the classroom and drive up costs for taxpayers,” he said.

The report says from 2003 to 2019, neighboring states spent between 8% and 25% less per student than Illinois, yet each of them scored better on reading scores by the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Illinois’ per pupil education spending ranked 15th highest in the country at $11,875 on average, from 2003 to 2019, but the state's average math and reading scores ranked 27th, according to the report.

“This new research shows consolidating school districts provides Illinois lawmakers with a path to benefiting every Illinoisan by improving student outcomes and giving taxpayers a better return on investment,” Schuster said.

According to Wirepoints, reducing Illinois’ $16,200 per student spending to Florida-like levels of $9,600 would mean a reduction of $12.8 billion in education spending per year, which would be equivalent of a 40% property tax cut.

Illinois has the second-highest property taxes in the nation, about two-thirds of that goes to education, according to the report.

Proposed bipartisan legislation would bring district administrative spending more in line with the national average and would save $732 million a year, according to the report. The Classrooms First Act would create a commission responsible for making recommendations. It would not affect any individual schools and district-level mergers would require approval from voters in each of the affected districts, according to the report.

Under existing law, voter initiated petitions for consolidation can be blocked by an administrator's veto, the report said. 

“Just dumping in more money is not always the right answer,” Schuster said. “How you spend the money and making sure you are spending it for the benefit of the students is more important than how much you spend.”

The Illinois Association of School Administrators could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.