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Illinois Budget, Illinois education

Gov. Pat Quinn’s Plan to Cut Illinois School Bureaucracy Draws Little Legislative Support

(Springfield, IL) — March 25, 2011. Illinois’ regional superintendents are realizing they might not make the cut for state money in Gov. Pat Quinn’s attempt to close the more than $13 billion budget gap.

Quinn proposed taking away $13 million from the Regional Offices of Education during his budget speech last month. Illinois has about 47 regional offices located throughout the state.

Regional superintendents said the cuts will end up costing the state millions in federal money.

Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools President Gil Morrison said the idea just “doesn’t add up,” despite discussions that cuts will be shared across the board.

“There’s a lot of truth in that talk, but some cuts are too deep, just too deep to defend,” said Morrison, who expects the cuts to effectively shut down every office.

“I don’t know how to possibly operate without that funding,” Morrison said.

House budget expert State Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) said he was surprised by the governor’s proposal and doesn’t know of many who would be in support of it.

“The reason (the regional offices) were created is because the schools didn’t have the resources to actually carry out (their responsibilities),” Mautino said.

Regional offices are responsible for offering programs such as professional development for teachers, GED testing and student development programs. It is unclear who will take over these responsibilities if the offices were to close.

“In Kane County alone, they do over 6,000 teaching certificates every year. If they don’t do it, who will? (The schools) will probably have to hire more people, but we’re cutting them (too),” said State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora).

Janet Ulrich, a regional superintendent who overseas 19 school districts in southern Illinois, said the regional education offices pulled in about $135 million in federal funding last year.

“Where do those funds go? They’re not going to come into our state of Illinois. ROE’s are the only ones that qualify to write for them,” Ulrich said.

Former Rock Island regional superintendent Joe Vermeire considers regional offices the “buffer” between the state and schools. He suspects that Quinn is trying to eliminate regional superintendents for his own gain.

The administration is “looking at a position that they (want to) appoint themselves — that they could bring under their control, rather then under the control of the local citizenry, and I think that’s wrong,” Vermeire said.

Regional superintendents are elected by local constituents. They earn about $97,000 annually.

Quinn’s spokeswoman Kelly Kraft refuted Vermeire’s contention, saying the proposal is still in its beginning stages.

“This is something we continue to take a look at. Our main goal overall in our budget is to solve our fiscal crisis,” Kraft said.

Former Governor Rod Blagojevich came out with a similar plan in 2003, but opposition from lawmakers forced him to quash the idea.

State Senator David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) considered these cuts to be “poorly thought out,” and was skeptical that it would come to anything.

Melissa Leu, Illinois Statehouse News

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and blogger at The Huffington Post, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.


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