The McHenry County Regional Office of Education was spared from a consolidation mandated by state lawmakers who increasingly see the offices as unnecessary.
Nine downstate regional offices were consolidated under a map released last week by the Illinois State Board of Education, which just beat a deadline imposed by the General Assembly. The new map consolidates the number of regional offices from 44 to 35 – a target set by a proposed 1999 consolidation that never occurred.
All 35 of the offices are up for election next year, and candidates have until the end of business Monday to file. Regional offices handle such duties as certifying teachers, truancy enforcement, administering GEDs and school safety inspections.
State law mandates a long list of requirements for the obscure office, such as having a master’s degree, 20 semester hours of postgraduate education and spending two of the past four years in full-time teaching or school administration.
The nearest consolidations to the Chicago area merge Whiteside County’s regional office with that of Lee and Ogle counties. Marshall and Putnam counties’ regional offices were folded into the LaSalle County office.
State lawmakers first left it to county governments to come up with mergers, with the state board of education to step in if they could not get the number of regional offices pared down to 35 with a minimum population of at least 61,000 each.
The consolidation came out of a deal lawmakers struck to pay regional superintendents after Gov. Pat Quinn eliminated their funding from the 2012 budget, calling the offices an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. It took the McHenry County Board almost a year to fill the office after it became vacant in 2011, largely because of the pay uncertainty and the long list of credentials required to hold it.
Voters in each education region also elect a seven-member regional school board, the sole purpose of which is to hear requests to shift school district boundaries. McHenry County’s presently only has four members, according to the membership list on its website.