An advisory panel studying Illinois school consolidation wants to abolish costly merger incentives and give districts that want to combine more flexibility. The Classrooms First Commission's report was provided to The Associated Press before it approved it 12-0 Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn. The panel headed by Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon found that consolidation incentives under current law would mean even limited consolidation would cost $3 billion. The plan recommends replacing those incentives by 2017 with targeted inducements. Districts are also hampered by the slow progress of state-subsidized school construction. The report recommends allowing a vote on consolidation to take effect only when state help arrives for new buildings. And non-contiguous districts could merge even if a district between them resists, which current law prohibits.
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