By Jamey Dunn
Illinois regional superintendents could start seeing paychecks in November if the legislature approves a deal they are working on with Gov. Pat Quinn.
Quinn used his veto pen to take money for the administrators’ salaries out of the budget approved by lawmakers. Since then, regional superintendents, who are locally elected and run Regional Offices of Education (ROEs), have been going without pay. ROEs are responsible for school safety inspections, teacher certification, background checks and fingerprinting potential employees, as well as running alternative schools and other duties. Quinn included cutting funding for the superintendents' pay in his original budget plan but met push back from educators and lawmakers.
Superintendents have been meeting with Quinn to sort out a solution, and they say legislation is in the works. “Regional superintendents met as scheduled on Wednesday, Aug. 3, with the governor's office and also with the State Board of Education to resolve this salary crisis. There is legislation being drafted by the governor's office to help resolve the matter, and that legislation will be presented to the regional superintendents in the next week. It will address ways in which we can be paid starting in November or December,’ said a written statement from the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS).
Bob Daiber, Madison County regional superintendent and president of IARSS, said that if a deal is not worked out by August 11 — the date funding would have to be found to get checks out on the August 16 payday — many superintendents may leave. The group is urging the Illinois State Board of Education to pay them on the understanding that the board will get the money back once legislation is approved.
“We have people facing a third straight pay period without compensation,” Daiber said. His colleagues are facing mounting bills, such as mortgage payments, tuition bills and care payments, he said. “Missing a paycheck, everybody can do it right? Missing three gets to be difficult.”
Quinn is hoping to tap into local tax dollars to pay the superintendents. “We are working to get them paid as quickly as possible. We had a meeting with the ROEs yesterday, and have another meeting scheduled for next Wednesday to offer an update on the progress made toward providing payment as quickly as possible. In addition to working to provide payment soon, we have developed draft legislation to restore the payroll appropriation for ROEs and shift the obligation to Personal Property Replacement Tax. [The tax] funds local elected official stipends, and we feel ROEs, which are locally elected, should be funded in the same manner to relieve pressure from the general revenue fund,” Quinn budget spokesperson Kelly Kraft said in a written statement. Lawmakers could also opt to override Quinn's veto when they return for fall session, scheduled in October.
When asked if he created an emergency situation by cutting regional superintendents without a backup plan in place to cover their duties, Quinn said: “No. Not at all. No. They knew from our budget this year what our proposal was.” Quinn told reporters in Chicago, “I made a decision, and we’re going to stick by it.”
If superintendents start leaving the job, Daiber said schools my run into problems because the law requires that ROEs carry out many of the functions schools need to operate. “The unintended consequence are going to affect children’s and families’ lives. They’re going to affect teachers.” He said two superintendents resigned in July, and many more could follow suit. “Why would someone continue to work for two months day after day without compensation?”