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Illinois Education Board to Decide Consolidations

Rich Egger

The Illinois State Board of Education will take care of a task that was supposed to be handled at the local level.

The ISBE will meet Friday, November 22, to choose a map for the realignment of Regional Offices of Education. Counties were asked to reduce the number of ROEs from 44 to 35 but could only manage to bring down the number to 37.

Nonetheless, many counties put in the time and effort to develop realignment plans, and Hancock-McDonough Regional Superintendent John Meixner hoped ISBE members keep that in mind when making their decisions.

“If they don’t, it would certainly dismiss all the hard work the locally elected officials did and it would be kind of a slap in the face to local governance,” said Meixner.

His office worked with the Fulton-Schuyler ROE to come up with a realignment including those four counties.

But a map approved by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools would lump together Hancock, McDonough, Fulton, Knox, Warren, Henderson, and Mercer Counties. Meixner said that would create a region larger than the state of Delaware.

“(There would be) a lot more miles to cover, a lot more school districts to service, a lot more communities to service. The office would have to have multiple locations,” said Meixner.  “And then the cost of running an operation of that size would increase, and some of those costs are pushed back to the counties.”

Under the plan, Schuyler would be grouped with Brown, Cass, Morgan, Scott, Pike, and Adams Counties.

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He said Regional Offices of Education serve as compliance officers for school districts. The offices also operate grant programs and alternative schools, and they train school bus drivers. Centralizing such services under a single regional office saves money for individual districts, which otherwise would have to pay the costs themselves.

Meixner is urging residents to contact the ISBE and lobby for a map that does not create such large regions in western Illinois.

A state law mandated the ROE realignment, with each new region required to have a minimum population of 61,000.

Meixner said the realignment will save the state of Illinois the cost of nine regional superintendents’ salaries.  He said counties will experience little to no savings.

A new ROE map must be in place soon.  Primary elections for the position of regional school superintendent will be held throughout the state in March 2014. The winners of primaries will square off for the jobs in the November 2014 election.

The new map will take effect July 1, 2015, which is when the new regional superintendents will take office.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.