Regional school superintendents work without pay — for now
By Emily McFarlan firstname.lastname@example.org August 7, 2011 7:18PM
Darlene Ruscitti, superintendent, DuPage County Regional Office of Education
Updated: November 25, 2011 12:22AM
Illinois’ regional superintendents of schools agreed this past week to continue working, more than a month after Gov. Pat Quinn eliminated their salaries from the state budget.
But Robert A. Daiber, superintendent of the Madison County Regional Office of Education and president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, said he’s not sure how long that agreement will last. And, he said, he’s not sure what effect that could have on the start of the new school year.
“Is there going to be a statewide shutdown? I can’t say. Will they say at Labor Day, ‘I’ve had enough?’ I don’t know,” Daiber said. “There are people very, very disgruntled about missing a third paycheck.”
The state’s 44 regional superintendents met Wednesday in Springfield to resolve the “salary crisis” with the governor’s office and Illinois State Board of Education, according to a written statement from the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools.
None has been paid since the governor signed the state budget in June. Already, they’ve missed two paychecks and expect to miss a third at the middle of the month, according to IARSS.
Darlene J. Ruscitti, superintendent of the DuPage Regional Office of Education, has yet to receive a paycheck from the job, she said. Ruscitti was elected in the fall and took office last month.
But continuing to work was “never a question for me,” she said.
“I know it seems silly to work with no pay, but I have to believe in good government and that we will work things out.”
She swore an oath, she said. And the office is there to “make sure every child is successful.”
“We do it more efficiently and effectively than anyone else can,” Ruscitti said.
Kane County Regional Superintendent Douglas Johnson and his office did not return calls or emails from The Courier-News on Friday.
The state budget includes $11.3 million in cuts to what the governor’s office called “bureaucracy costs” in a written statement at the time. Of that, $9 million came from eliminating salaries for regional superintendents and their assistant superintendents, and another $2 million-plus came out of school services, according to Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education.
The governor’s office has maintained that since regional superintendents are elected locally, they also should be funded locally, according to Ryan Keith, a spokesman for IARSS.
Quinn’s office now is drafting legislation to address ways to pay regional superintendents starting in November or December, according to IARSS. That legislation will be presented to the superintendents ahead of a conference call this Wednesday, Daiber said.
But, the IARSS president said, November or December is a long time to wait for a paycheck.
Meantime, consequences of the salary cut could be “severe,” according to IARSS. Daiber said if regional superintendents find out Wednesday they won’t be paid until the end of the year, some could leave office. County boards could be reluctant to appoint replacements because there is no pay for the position, he added.
And while “schools can go on without us,” he said, “there are particular things in the school code you can’t go on without.”
Regional superintendents are responsible for issuing, registering and renewing teacher certificates, signing off on building plans, training bus drivers and conducting school code compliance checks, among other duties. If something like a building permit is left unsigned before a regional superintendent leaves office, no one else can sign that, Daiber said.
The IARSS president also said he’s “not sure the nature of” the legislation the governor’s office is drafting. One idea he said he’s heard from the Quinn’s office is funding salaries with the personal property replacement tax, a tax the state already collects and funnels to local governments.
But, Daiber said, the only idea regional superintendents are advocating is simple: “We want a paycheck. That’s it. It’s the state’s problem to figure out where they’re going to get the money.”