Editorial: Terminate regional superintendent, but do it wisely
Thursday, July 23, 2009
by Pioneer Press Editorial Staff
After years of mismanagement, the Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education should be closed -- once and for all.
Last month, Cook County state's attorney's investigators raided the
office in Westchester and Regional Superintendent Charles Flowers' home
in Maywood. They confiscated computers and documents as part of an
investigation in apparent mismanagement in the office.
A state audit in June found the following problems:
• liabilities exceeding its total net assets by $941,844,
• cash advances given to two employees for nonbusiness purposes,
• no receipts to support 70 percent of the charges on Flowers' government-issued credit card,
• Flowers' family members on the payroll, and
• late or no payments including employees' payroll, health insurance and rent on the building.
Days after the raid, the county filed a lawsuit against the office and Flowers for defaulting on a $190,000 loan.
The problems with the office are not new. A similar audit in 2007,
before Flowers took over, warned the office was $413,000 in debt.
Flowers was ushered in as a reformer in July 2007, but two years
later the office has doubled its debt and appears to have even more
problems. Flowers blames the current office's financial problems on his
Regardless, nearly $1 million will be absorbed by the state and
county, even though neither clearly has the means to take on more debt.
No wonder taxpayers are spitting mad with the government waste.
On the surface, the bill introduced by state Rep. Elaine Nekritz,
D-57th, of Northbrook, to eliminate the regional superintendent's
office has merit.
The work of the regional education office -- issuing teaching
certificates and reviewing school finances of 143 school districts and
700 schools outside Chicago's city limits -- would be given to the
Illinois State Board of Education.
Nekritz and her fellow legislators need to ensure that the State
Board of Education will be able to take over these limited tasks. Will
teachers' and schools' needs be met locally (not requiring trips to
Springfield)? Will the state board of education be able to handle
concerns in a timely manner?
Removing a costly layer of government administration is a smart step
in the right direction for increased efficiency in government, just as
long as the state education can handle these new duties and it doesn't
cost taxpayers more in the long run.