June 26, 2012
By Sophia Tareen
CHICAGO — Illinois will reduce the number of regional schools superintendents by roughly 20 percent and look at beefing up math requirements for middle and high school students under education-related bills Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Monday.
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. Quinn has wanted to eliminate the positions and last year used his veto power to cancel their salaries to save roughly $13 million. But four months later, he restored pay and legislators shifted their funding from state to local money.
The new law cuts the number of superintendents to 35. There are currently 44 in office, though the state can have 45. By 2015, each region must contain at least 61,000 people, up from 43,000. Offices can consolidate voluntarily or let the Illinois State Board of Education decide, according to the new law.
The legislation was initially criticized by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, which recommended 39 offices instead of 35. But association's president, Robert Daiber, said Monday that he supported the move.
"It is better to have 35 offices than to have them than be completely eliminated," he said.
Quinn also signed a law aimed at increasing math requirements for Illinois students, requiring the state education board to create more vigorous math curriculums that schools will have the option of adopting.
Originally, lawmakers wanted to bump the state math requirement for high school students from three years to four, but Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and legislators said they quickly learned that move was too much to do in a single year. They cited concerns over the additional cost for schools.
"This was a complex subject that required more attention," said Sen. Michael Frerichs, the Champaign Democrat who sponsored the bill.
Simon's office released a report earlier this year, based on her visits to Illinois' 48 community colleges, showing that most Illinois students aren't prepared for college math. The report showed that almost half of recent high school graduates in community colleges have to take at least one remedial course, usually in math.
She said she hopes that Illinois will eventually raise the requirement.