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updated: 7/13/2011 6:46 PM

Nekritz: No across-the-board elimination of regional education offices

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  • State Rep. Elaine Nekritz

      State Rep. Elaine Nekritz

 
By Kerry Lester
Politics and Projects Writer
klester@dailyherald.com

When misconduct charges were leveled against Charles Flowers, the regional superintendent of Cook County Schools, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz led the move that abolished that office.

But that doesn't necessarily mean she'll go after other regional offices of education, even in the face of budget cuts, the Northbrook Democrat said Wednesday.

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None of the regional offices operates exactly the same way because of variances in size, students' needs and funding from local sources, Nekritz learned when researching her earlier legislation.

"There were plenty of (lawmakers) I talked to that said, 'I can't stand my (regional offices of education),' and others who worked closely with them. There's a real variety," she said.

If legislation affecting regional offices of education is ultimately pursued, she said, "we can't take a one-size-fits-all approach."

Slashing funding for regional education officials was part of Gov. Pat Quinn's budget cuts last week, when he took a total of $336 million from the budget lawmakers sent him.

Many regional superintendents, depending on how their funding is set up, are now working for free, at least until October, when lawmakers have the opportunity to return to Springfield and override Quinn's cuts.

Quinn's budget cuts largely left suburban officials with more questions than answers.

"It's very confusing," DuPage County Regional Superintendent Darlene Ruscitti said. "We're not quite sure what the next step is."

Illinois regional education offices will remain open despite Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of funding for salaries, according to the head of a group representing the regional schools chiefs.

Bob Daiber, president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, told reporters on Friday after meeting with Quinn's staff that the 44 regional superintendents will continue to fulfill their duties, which include teacher certification and life and safety inspections of schools.

The governor thinks local taxpayers, not the state, should foot the bill for regional offices.

"They should be paid from a local source," said Quinn budget Director David Vaught, of Naperville. Unlike school districts, though, regional offices can't levy property taxes.

Quinn's maneuver, Nekritz said, "presents some challenges without a plan."

The suburban Cook County office, she noted, was able to be eliminated because other sub-offices absorbed its various duties.

Other suburban offices don't have those fallback mechanisms in place, Nekritz said.

"We would have to figure out what exists in the other counties that might be able to assume these duties," Nekritz said.

Lawmakers, "haven't done our homework on that yet," she said.

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