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School consolidation bill in Illinois likely to become law

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By AP/KWMU

Springfield, Ill. – A measure that won approval this spring from Illinois lawmakers, and which is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, would make it easier for school districts to consolidate.

The plan would take some of the roadblocks out of current law that prevents consolidation.

For example, two or more elementary school districts within the same high school district would be allowed to combine, even if they aren't located next to each other, if the measure is signed.

The proposal also addresses what to do if several elementary districts in a high school district want to merge but one holdout scuttles the idea. Now, the merger could go ahead, leaving the holdout to remain on its own or join the new district later.

School officials and lawmakers say the change should get schools talking about consolidation more seriously.

According to the state's Board of Education, Illinois has 875 school districts; 200 of them are single-school districts.

Other data:

- In 1940, Illinois had about 12,000 one-room schoolhouse districts. After a rapid decline through the 1970s, there were only about 115 mergers in the 1980s and 1990s combined.

- Illinois' 875 school districts trails only Texas for the most nationally.

- Illinois has one school district for every 2,334 students. That's the second-lowest ratio of the 14 states with a school population of more than 1 million kids, trailing only New Jersey. (Florida has one school district for every 37,709 students. North Carolina has one district for every 11,418 students)

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