CHICAGO – The Illinois State Board of Education has redrawn the map for the state’s regional education offices ahead of a Saturday deadline set by the Legislature, which had ordered a consolidation of the offices to save money. The board voted Friday to approve 35 new regions after hearing from regional superintendents who objected to the way the map would merge their offices.
A new state law required the board to cut the number of regions from 44 to 35. New regional superintendents will be elected next year to lead the new offices. Candidates must file in December.
Sangamon County Regional Superintendent Jeff Vose was among the school leaders who spoke Friday at the board’s meeting in Chicago and his comments apparently influenced the board’s vote.
Vose said he supported adding Menard County to Sangamon’s education office, but he said it would be burdensome to add three more central Illinois counties to the region. State Superintendent Christopher Koch’s proposal – the one the board was considering Friday – merged not only Sangamon and Menard, but also Scott, Cass and Morgan counties.
“Sangamon was asked in the eleventh hour to add three counties,” Vose said before the vote. “We tried to work through the process and the counties to get this thing done.”
The board later slightly changed the plan it was considering and merged Scott, Cass and Morgan counties with counties to the west.
Regional superintendents – elected officials whose duties include certifying teachers and offering GED classes – have often been a target for public officials looking to reduce state spending.
The new law required the board to consolidate the current 44 regional offices so that starting in 2015 there would be 35 regions, each with a population of at least 61,000.
The Legislature left it first to county governments to work out the mergers, but directed the state board of education to step in if the counties couldn’t get the number down to 35. Lawmakers gave the state board until Nov. 23 to direct further consolidations if they were needed.
Indeed, that’s what happened Friday with the board’s vote. Before that, however, in March, the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools proposed its own map. Adopting the superintendents’ map outright would have undone county board recommendations in west-central Illinois – and violated the law, according to the education board’s chairman, Gery Chico.
“That’s the law, and I’m going to follow it,” Chico said before the vote.