By Jamey Dunn
Regional superintendents say it will be difficult for them to stay on the job if they miss another paycheck, but no clear plan has emerged to pay them soon.
“At this point I don’t believe we have the legal authority to pay them. We’re going to continue to explore that possibility,” said Matt Vanover, a spokesperson for the Illinois Board of Education (ISBE).
Gov. Pat Quinn used his veto pen in June to remove money for the administrators’ salaries, and they have been going without pay since. Quinn has been in talks with regional superintendents and is reportedly working on legislation that would allow them to be paid out of local tax revenues. However, any such plan would not come before the legislature until lawmakers return for their fall veto session scheduled in October — meaning paychecks probably would not go out until November. Bob Daiber, Madison County regional superintendent and president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, said that if a deal is not worked out to find funding by August 11 — the latest date necessary to get checks out on the August 16 payday — he is concerned many superintendents simply won’t be able to continue working without pay.
Daiber said if superintendents go without on the next payday, it would be the third pay period that they have not received compensation. He said, for many, the bills are piling up. “We have people that have property taxes due this month." The superintendents' association is pushing for ISBE to pay its members from another area of its budget, with the understanding that the money will be replaced when a permanent solution is found.
Vanover said if the legislature had passed a lump-sum budget, as it did the last two fiscal years, it would be much easier to shift the money. But since lawmakers passed an itemized budget for the current fiscal year, moving money around to pay the superintendents is easier said than done. “We can’t just say we’re going to take money out of general state aid and provide it to the regional superintendents. … I’m not saying [ISBE paying them] can’t happen, but at this point we haven’t found a way that we can do that.”
As for how ISBE would handle a mass walkout of regional superintendents, Vanover said it had only had to address a few vacant positions at a time in the past. “We have been able to work around some of these issues but that was in a very limited context.” Asked whether ISBE could take on the regional superintendents' duties — which range from school inspection and teacher certification to operating alternative schools — if many of them seek other employment, Vanover responded, “Absolutely not.” He said ISBE does not have the manpower and changes to statutes would be needed.
Quinn’s long term plan is to pay the superintendents out of the Personal Property Replacement Tax so they are not supported by state funds. “We really feel that that’s a function that should be financed at the local level. There is a fund that goes to the local school districts and local government. … Other local government officials have been paid locally, and I think it’s time that we addressed this issue,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago.
Joe McCoy, legislative director for the Illinois Municipal League, said $2.6 million in Personal Property Replacement Tax revenue was held back from local governments to pay stipends for county officials. However, he said municipalities, many of which face their own budget troubles, cannot afford to give up enough of those revenues to pay regional superintendents. McCoy said the largest beneficiary from the replacement tax is schools, which get about 60 percent of the revenue. He says 20 percent goes to local governments and the rest to other expenses. “We think the plan that’s floating out there would take money away from some of our municipalities, and we would oppose it,” he said. Lawmakers could also vote to override Quinn’s veto and reinstate the funding for superintendents in the state budget.
If Quinn has a plan to pay the superintendents soon, he is not commenting on it. When asked if the administration is trying to find a way to pay them this month, Kelly Kraft, a budget spokesperson, responded in a written statement, “We continue to examine mechanisms to provide payments as quickly as possible.”