Unit 4 Officials Say Regional Office of Education Needed

August 12, 2011

Regional Education Superintendents in Illinois have been working without pay, ever since Gov. Pat Quinn cut their salaries out of the 2012 state budget. Quinn had said the elected positions are too costly, and not essential.

The salary cuts worried officials at the Champaign Unit Four School District, which is preparing six new and renovated school buildings for the fall semester.

At Unit 4's monthly news conference Friday morning, interim superintendent Robert Malito said the school district has sped up work this week on occupancy permits for the buildings, to make sure they were signed by Regional Superintendent Jane Quinlan before any disruptions occurred. Malito said Quinlin's signature on the documents is essential.

"Without those approvals from her, we would not be able to open," Malito said.

Malito said that under current state law, only the regional superintendent can sign off on the permits --- and that there are other duties, like certifying teachers, that only they can do as well.

Malito dismisses Gov. Quinn's suggestion that local school districts fund the regional offices. He said it is worth investigating how other states handle the duties of the regional offices to see if they do it more cost-effectively. But he said the office should NOT be eliminated before something is set up to replace it.

"Cutting us off at the knees and stopping that funding so drastically did not give the area school districts an opportunity to plan or prepare for making that sort of change," Unit 4 School Board President Sue Grey said.

Unit 4 officials say the paperwork for the occupancy permits were sent to Regional Superintendent Quinlan's office on Friday. The buildings include the new Booker T. Washington and Garden Hills magnet schools. In addition, Westview, Bottenfield, Kenwood and Robeson Elementary Schools were renovated, with new energy-saving windows over the summer.

Story source: WILL