Regional education superintendents such as Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant in Will County haven't been paid for their work since July 1, and as the start of the school year approaches there are mixed opinions on what the effect of that will be.
Earlier this year, Gov. Pat Quinn cut $11 million dollars from the state's budget that was intended to pay the salaries of the 44 regional superintendents in the state. Robert Daiber, president of the Association of Regional Superintendents, said the cuts could greatly affect the upcoming school year and employment of all of the regional superintendents in the state.
“Time is of the essence," he said. "We are on the verge of possibly a crisis situation, in which we may have people that are resigning these offices because they cannot continue to go without pay."
Although it's been nearly a month and a half without pay for regional superintendents, most are still on the job, hopeful that a solution can be found. The regional superintendent's duties include employee background checks and teacher certification, among other tasks that could affect the start of the school year.
Although there is concern at the state and county levels that this could affect the start of the school year, the Lincoln-Way High School District shouldn't be impacted, deputy superintendent Tom Eddy said.
“Any issues with the ROE at this point are not preventing us from doing business as usual for us," Eddy said. "We're all set for school to start.”
Will County Executive Larry Walsh has met with Bertino-Terrant to discuss future plans as she continues to fulfill her duties for the local school districts, even without pay. Because the county is in the middle of its budget year, Walsh said her salary can't be covered. But the potential exists to pay her salary after this budget year, if a solution still isn't found. Even then, Walsh worries about the ramifications of paying for a state-mandated position.
(The state) want's somebody else to pay for it,” Walsh said. “You can't have it both ways, you just can't have it both ways ... Her office is still running like a fine tuned motor and they are going through and doing the responsibilities that falls on her shoulders.”
Bertino-Tarrant said she's hopeful something can get done when the state General Assembly returns in late October. With that date two months away, Bertino-Tarrant said that she wasn't sure what she was going to do once school starts.
“If I had some assurance that this will be over soon and we will correct it, I'd feel a lot more comfortable," she said. "I honestly can't tell you right now which way I'm going to lean toward. The type of person I am, I probably will continue with my fingers crossed that this will be resolved. I guess you've just got to have a little faith.”