DANVILLE – The idea of doing away with schools' regional offices of education leaves Vermilion County district superintendents baffled as to who will provide services for bus-driver training, area-wide schools for dropouts and truants and GED testing, some of their main services to local districts.
Gov. Quinn suggested the move as a way to cut costs, during his budget addresss Wednesday to the Legislature.
"I don't know where we could find the resources," Gary Lewis, superintendent of Catlin schools, said. Quinn's chief of staff, Jack Lavin, "said the State Board of Education could pick up these services, but you walk in their offices and it's like a ghost town because they've had so many cuts in past years."
Although Vermilion County Regional Superintendent Mike Metzen will retire June 30, he is worried about who can provide the services his office furnishes.
"We serve schools, administrators and teachers. As they have reduced the state board of education office responsibilities, we've picked those duties up over the years," Metzen said. "Our local community college may be able to pick up the GED classes, but who is going to oversee the certification and regulation of teachers to the districts? Then there's around $20 million in grant money that passes through region offices."
Jane Quinlan, Champaign-Ford County regional superintendent, said she was "disturbed and disappointed about the cuts that Gov. (Pat) Quinn has proposed."
Quinlan, who will start her second four-year term July 1, said her office provides 17 school districts in Champaign and Ford counties with school building inspections, bus driver training and professional development for teachers and administrators.
Closing the offices would "impact downstate Illinois, where districts make (more) use of regional services," Quinlan said.
"To lose the regional superintendent's office services would be very hurtful to us," Hank Hornbeck, Hoopeston schools superintendent, said. "They handle our alternative school and so much more that has already been put on them. The regional office is a very valuable asset to us."
Quinlan said the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools is attempting to set up a meeting with the governor's office to discuss the proposal.
Andrew Richards of the Rantoul Press contributed to this report.