Consolidation a hot-button issue on local ballots
UNION COUNTY, Ill. — Some voters in Union County, Illinois, had another decision to make at the polls in addition to their presidential nominee.
Four of the county's school districts could consolidate.
They include the following: Anna District 37, Anna-Jonesboro High School District 81, Jonesboro District 43 and Lick Creek District 16.
If combined, the new district would be the first hybrid elementary-high school district in the state.
"It's important that people stay informed about it," said Cindy Sherwood, an Anna resident.
Consolidation's been the talk of the town. Signs both for and against prove it.
"The voters are the ones that have children and grandchildren that are going to be going to those schools," said Carlena Thompson, an Anna resident.
But what could come from the vote is confusing to say the least. That's because there are eight different possibilities for a new district.
"If an elementary passes it, and the high school passes it, those two form a new district. But you can have a combination of the high school and one of the elementaries, or two of the elementaries, or all three. It's just several different scenarios," said Kevin Spain, Anna District 37 Superintendent.
Spain said there's always the chance voters in every district could decide not to consolidate. Then the current setup would stay the same.
"Bottom line is, everybody wants to have a voice in what's going to happen to them locally," Sherwood said.
The consolidation debate started last year. Consultants performed two feasibility studies and a committee of citizens launched a campaign to get it on the ballot.
"Will the state come through with the money they're supposed to come through with?" Spain asked.
The state promised the proposed hybrid elementary-high school district incentives to consolidate. But with the state's budget problems, administrators aren't banking on those.
"I see the difficulty people have with it because they like having control over their local school," said Cindy Sherwood.
If consolidation moves forward after being approved by voters, the new school board would be chosen in the July election.
It's likely the number of administrative staffers would also be reduced.