More than 44 elected superintendents in Illinois are serving with no pay after the governor decided to save money by cutting their salaries, and a Sunday article in The Pantagraph, a newspaper serving central Illinois, profiled some of them.
If, like me, you had never heard of the position of elected, regional school superintendents, this page from the Illinois Department of Education provides some information. These offices support school districts by through resources such professional development, school bus driver training, assistance with truancy programs and special education services, and other tasks.
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has said that these elected positions are unnecessary. In July, he stopped paying the 44 regional superintendents and their assistants. But several have decided to stay on:
For most, the paychecks just stopped. For Jim Carlson, regional superintendent in LaSalle County, they never started; he was sworn into office on July 1, the day Quinn's order took effect. But Carlson keeps working. "When I ran for office, I told the people of LaSalle they could count on me to do my job. I will honor that until it is no longer practical—or is impossible for my family," he said, adding his wife was a part-time surgical nurse when he started. With two kids in college, she was able to increase her hours. "Without her being the breadwinner now, we could not do this," Carlson said. Other regional superintendents, who all make about $100,000 annually, feel the same way as Carlson - they all swore an oath when they were elected and feel obligated to fulfill their duties. And, their work is important, they say, while acknowledging they're in an unusual situation. "It's not the American way to work and not be paid or compensated," said Ronda Cross, the Marshall-Putnam Woodford regional superintendent, but, "It is the right thing to do ... We are working on faith it will be taken care of and corrected.
The article indicates that the regional superintendents hope the state legislature will reverse the governor’s decision during a session later this month. The other alternative is for local school districts to shoulder the costs of the regional offices.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.