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Lt. Gov. Simon seeks balance in physical, online training
November 15, 2011
By Stephen Di Benedetto
GALESBURG — During an economic era where volunteer service is eroding, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon believes the state needs to embrace 21st century technology to help volunteer emergency medical service workers complete training in a timelier fashion.
Before her appearance in front of a visiting legislative panel, Simon talked exclusively for 30 minutes to The Register-Mail about volunteer emergency management services workers and education, an important issue to the former professor from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. The legislative panel is tasked with finding solutions to the problems that plague rural EMS workers. The group visited Galesburg on Tuesday.
“I don’t want someone learning CPR on a computer screen,” Simon said. “But there are plenty of things you can learn over the Internet and through a community college. That is one thing that we are looking at.”
Simon chairs the Rural Affairs Council, which relaunched in the spring, and Simon recently started a special committee to offer solutions to long-term problems for rural EMS providers. Simon indicated in the interview and meeting that she hopes the state will make it easier for volunteers to receive their emergency medical technician license. Currently, volunteers have to take 110 hours of training before being certified to work.
Volunteers also support their own training, Simon said, which is lengthy and can turn away potential volunteers. But the lieutenant governor cautioned that her committee has to ensure that volunteers are not unprepared when working.
“Like all education, we are trying to find a balance between in-person (training) and some kind of online (training),” Simon said. “We can probably rethink some of those things and still get a high quality of folks.”
During her first year as lieutenant governor, Simon has been busy conducting hearings for an education commission tasked with suggesting ways to make school districts more efficient and share more resources with neighboring districts. She also recently finished touring the state’s 48 community colleges to understand different methods that guarantee a student earns a degree on time during a period where student loan debt is increasing.
Simon’s boss, Gov. Pat Quinn, also has recently been engaged in a fight with the state legislature over funding to the state’s regional superintendents. During the summer, Quinn vetoed the funding for the offices, arguing the legislature did not appropriate enough money to cover the salaries and costs of the superintendents. Many legislators objected to the move and demanded an override to his veto. The issue underscored a debate over whether the superintendents were even necessary during a time when state funding is tight.
On Monday, Quinn ended the issue by appropriating enough money to support the offices for a year. The move, Simon said, will give the state enough time to decide how regional superintendents should be funded in the future, while also supplying income in the short term to working people.
“I think what we will be able to do is take this year and say ‘there are things that need to be done, like certification of teachers ... where is the place we want to have that done? Do we want a regional superintendent? Do we want that to be a local duty? Do we want that to be a state duty?’ ” Simon said. “Rather than just saying ‘I’m pulling the plug.’”
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