Time is now to dissolve Flowers' office
Sunday, November 29, 2009
by SouthtownStar editorial staff
We have called repeatedly for action from the Cook County
state's attorney regarding Cook County Regional Office of Education
Supt. Charles Flowers. Today, we call on members of the Legislature to
abolish the office altogether and to consider consolidating regional
schools offices statewide.
Certainly Flowers' alleged abuses of his office prompted us to take a closer look at regional superintendent offices statewide.
But this is not a case of one bad apple tarnishing the bunch. We
simply believe the offices are not a justifiable taxpayer expense, even
those that operate efficiently. Particularly in suburban Cook County,
the duplication of a regional office and existing intermediate centers
call for state action. With scarce resources, now is the time to
address the waste and bureaucracy of the multi-layered system currently
The suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education, like all
regional offices statewide, is primarily responsible for teacher
certification paperwork, health and safety oversight of school
structures and training for bus drivers. There are other duties, but
most are vague and not statutorily enforced.
We believe the duties of the Cook County office should be assumed by
the intermediate centers in place and by the Illinois State Board of
Education. We also believe downstate regionals should be forced to
consolidate. Their responsibilities are not weighty enough to justify
so many separate offices.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Des Plaines) in June introduced House
Bill 4588, which would dissolve the suburban Cook County office
altogether. Southland state Rep. Kevin Joyce (D-Chicago) is a
co-sponsor. The bill remains in the elementary and secondary education
Nekritz is working on a new version of the bill, which will
incorporate recommendations of a committee she established made up of
school superintendents and business managers.
"The new bill will not look anything like House Bill 4588," she said
Wednesday. "We're taking the approach that, if you could design the
office from scratch, what would it look like?"
To Nekritz, the issue is pretty simple. Suburban Cook County schools
are not well served by the suburban office, and she, like us, is fed up
with the problems. For more than a decade, the regional school office
has not functioned effectively.
We're looking forward to hearing her committee's recommendations,
but for cost reasons and for efficiency's sake, we believe the office
should be eliminated, period. We certainly don't want to see the
office's duties expanded.
In the meantime, we hope the state's attorney moves hard and fast
with its investigation of Flowers - an investigation spawned from
SouthtownStar education reporter Duaa Eldeib's tenacious reporting of
Taxpayers have waited too long.
Taxpayers deserve no less.