A case study of the process of consolidation in Illinois school districts #20, #35, and #534, 1986 and 1988
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Three dual districts, consisting of one public high school district and two public grade school districts, became a unit school district in 1989 as the result of a school consolidation process which took place over a period of three years. The purpose of this thesis is to examine, describe, and analyze the political process which developed and occurred in these school districts during the period of school consolidation. Several primary sources were used in the course of this study,. Personal interviews were conducted with persons involved in the process. Personal files of key players were examined. The official minutes and agenda of the Boards of Education of the three school districts were necessarily used as was correspondence sent between the different districts. Articles, public letters, and advertisements appearing in the local newspaper and feature articles from a regional newspaper were utilized. Documents prepared by the Illinois State Board of Education and a private consultative study were reviewed. The descriptive study is expressed in narrative form. Henry-Senachwine High School District #20, Henry Elementary School District #35, and Senachwine Elementary District #534 were dual school districts in rural Illinois which had coterminous political boundaries. In the mid- 1980s, when the Illinois State Board of Education put forth a plan that was widely regarded as state-mandated school district reorganization, two of the three dual districts decided to place a public referendum on the ballot in the general election of November 1986 calling for the formation of a unit school district consolidated from the three dual districts. Maintaining that it was not opposed to the possibility of unit consolidation but opposed to the specific terms of the referendum, the larger grade school district actively opposed the referendum. That referendum was defeated by a nearly two- to-one margin. Two years later, in the general election of November 1988, a similar referendum was placed before the voters of the same districts. It was approved by more than a two- to-one margin. This study describes and analyzes the political processes that account for the change of the voters’ response.