30 Mar Regional Superintendents Fight for Funding (IL)

March 30, 2011

By: Nicole Harobour
Source: The Lincoln Courier

LINCOLN—Regional superintendents and supporters of regional offices of education, in conjunction with the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools met at the state Capitol Thursday for a news conference to not only make a strong case for why Gov . Quinn should not cut funding for the offices and their elected regional superintendents, but also to explain why ending their funding would cost more than it would save, especially for Illinois schools, students and families.

“Everything we do either directly or indirectly affects children. That’s our primary focus,” said Kay Pangle, regional superintendent of Iroquois and Kankakee county schools. “The state’s focus seems to be on money, and we are a great return on investment.”

Pangle noted that while Quinn wants to save the state $13 million, it would actually be losing $135 million, which is the amount of money the state’s ROEs collectively generated in fiscal year 2010.

“This is the (budget) cut that really doesn’t add up,” said Gil Morrison, president of the IARSS.

Teachers, regional superintendents and supporters from throughout the state spoke on the numerous services ROEs provide, including professional development and training for teachers, educator assessments for certification and certificate renewal, compliance checks for schools, GED testing, bus driver training, and oversight of truancy and homelessness assistance programs.

In addition, many extra programs and events, such as dinners honoring Illinois State Scholars, fall orientation meetings for new principals and teachers and drug prevention programs are carried out by regional superintendents and ROEs.

Jean Anderson, regional superintendent of Logan, Mason and Menard county schools, said that by getting the word out about what the offices do, she hopes support for the local offices will increase.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” she said Thursday. She added that she has great support in the area she serves and that people are sending in letters of support.

Morrison explained that the state’s 47 regional offices and intermediate service centers employ 2,500, so taking away funding for those offices would not only eliminate more than 2,000 jobs, it would also hurt the millions of children and their families.

“The regional offices touch the lives of 2 million children and their families every year,” he said.

Ralph Grimm, superintendent of West Central High School in Biggsville, said he doesn’t know how schools will survive without ROEs.

“I don’t know who could step up to do what they do,” he said. He added that many of the programs that help at-risk students are provided and overseen by regional superintendents and their offices.

While Quinn wants to cut the offices, Pangle said the Illinois State Board of Education’s Streamlining Illinois’ Educational Delivery Systems Task Force in 2010 recommended that ROEs and intermediate service centers have their duties and responsibilities increased, not that the offices be eliminated.

“And the ISBE (has recommended) a $2 million increase (in funding)” Pangle said.

But the biggest question is, without the ROEs, who will take on the duties so many regional superintendents and support staff juggle?

“Who’s going to help us do these things for students if the ROEs are eliminated?” Grimm asked. “If the governor has an answer, there are a lot of people who’d like to hear it.”

While the answer still is unclear, Morrison said the IARSS and regional superintendents are going to continue to fight for their funding, a battle that is not unfamiliar to them.

“I’m confident because we did prevail last time,” when, in 2003, then Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed cutting the offices. “And we have a lot of grassroots support and support from our legislature.

“We’ll continue to take our case to the governor and lawmakers over the next few months,” Morrison said. “We have approached the governor and his staff several times, but we have not been able to have a meeting. … The next step is to continue to get support and educate legislators (and the public) about what we do. We’ll continue until we prevail."

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