State lawmakers need to focus on education issues - Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

State lawmakers need to focus on education issues

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THE ILLINOIS Association of Regional Superintendents has decided not to appeal a court ruling that upheld Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to stop paying the elected officials' salaries, opting instead to focus on convincing members of the General Assembly to restore the funding when they meet for the fall veto session next month.

Quinn proposed in his February budget address to eliminate the $13 million that funds the 44 regional offices of education (ROEs), as well as to consolidate more than 500 of the state's 868 school districts, a move he said would save the cash-strapped state another $100 million.

When lawmakers did not comply, Quinn used his amendatory veto authority to strike $9.1 million in salaries for the regional superintendents and their assistants and another $2.2 million from their operational budgets. He trimmed another $89 million from school transportation funding, which has left many districts scrambling to fill budget holes.

Democratic state Sens. John Sullivan of Rushville and Gary Forby of Benton issued a letter last week urging colleagues to override those vetoes, a move that appears more and more likely since the General Assembly approved the spending when a compromise budget was passed in May.

With Illinois billions of dollars in debt, changes are necessary, including in education. Some argue the state needs to shrink its education bureaucracy and make sure more money is spent on classroom instruction and less on administrative salaries.

They contend that there are too many agencies with overlapping duties and too many school districts. They contend the result has been an expensive and often inefficient system.

Quinn said the regional superintendents, elected officials paid more than $90,000 annually, should get their money from local taxpayers, not the state. One funding possibility raised by Quinn's office is to redirect the money from a tax paid by businesses to local government, the personal property replacement tax.

But municipalities and counties that rely on that money already are struggling to provide services because of cuts in promised state funding.

Regional superintendent offices perform necessary duties. They certify teachers and bus drivers, approve school construction and repairs, provide training that school districts cannot otherwise afford and oversee GED programs.

The governor has so far provided no specific details on how those duties would be handled if the offices are eliminated.

That should be the governor's next step so lawmakers, when they convene in October, can properly judge the financial and educational merits of that proposal and others so necessary services can be provided long term in the most efficient manner possible.

 

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