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State Board of Education reports from 2013 overdue

SPRINGFIELD – Problems collecting information have forced a delay in the release of last year's state education reports, Illinois State Board of Education officials said.

The reports for 2013 were required to be completed last October, but the state board says they've had trouble collecting school district teacher and administrator salary details, The Arlington Heights Daily Herald reported.

The agency is "still trying to clear up the issues," education board spokeswoman Mary Fergus said. ISBE officials said a new employment information collection system was burdensome for districts when they started using it nearly two years ago. The districts stopped using it and the system was reintroduced in March.

Inconsistencies and incomplete data prevented public reporting when the school year ended in July 2013, ISBE spokeswoman Amanda Simhauser said.

"This process has proved time consuming as we are collecting and cleaning data for two school years," Simhauser said. "Many districts are short on staff, and since it's a newer data system, many users aren't as literate with the functionality of the system."

Simhauser said data weren't released piecemeal because that would have created skewed statewide information.

Board officials said state law requires them to collect salary data. The annual district report cards are due no later than Oct. 31 each year. They track each district's student performance history, class sizes, spending on students and attendance.

Members of the Illinois General Assembly have questioned the delay.

"It's imperative that our citizens, who are stakeholders and who pay more locally than we do at the state for education, should know exactly where every dime and penny is being spent," said state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat and chairwoman of the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee.

State Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, said information about how tax dollars are spent should be available.

"I don't know why they wouldn't be more vigilant on this," Franks said. "We want to make sure the citizens who want to know are able to get the information and it's readily available."

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