The Southern Illinoisan
October 14, 2011
By Scott Fitzgerald
CARTERVILLE - About 100 people attended the first of several Classrooms First Commission hearings Thursday at John A. Logan College, and that pleased commission chair Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.
"My first impression was the size of the crowd which has a lot of passion and fears concerning public education," Simon said after the two-hour hearing.
Created from passage of House Bill 1216, the commission is responsible for recommending ways Illinois school districts can improve student learning and reduce duplicative administrative costs. Commission recommendations are due to the governor's office by July 1.
"We don't have any agenda in that respect," Simon said in response to the many audience testimonies that fear proposals for a statewide school district consolidation plan. "We are making sure quality education is offered to students at the most affordable use of taxpayer dollars."
There were testimonies from current and retired superintendents about consolidating school districts, but one testimony from an audience member requested a response from the lieutenant governor concerning an important regional issue indirectly related to public education - the fate of Murphysboro's Illinois Youth Center that is included on a state facility closures list because of budgetary constraints.
"Do you support the governor's decision to shut down the facility," the audience member asked Simon, noting the facility currently houses some juveniles who have assaulted their public school teachers.
Simon said she supported Quinn's initial budget proposal that would have continued financially supporting the center.
"The governor has to deal with the budget approved. My wish is we wouldn't close any state facility," Simon said.
She said she favors proponents coming together in a veto session and overruling closure of IYC Murphysboro.
Other commission members who joined Simon at the hearing were Director Brent Clark of Illinois Association of School Adminis-trators; Tom Skates, a rural school district representative; Linda Riley Mitchell of Illinois State Board of Education; state Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville; and state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville.
The commission will host future public hearings in Moline, Normal and Palatine.