An effort to ensure more money is spent in the classroom by shifting pension costs of salaries over $180,000 a year back to the public education employer may be easier to swallow if the school districts get solid funding from the state, according to one central Illinois regional superintendent. Governor Bruce Rauner said last week each school district is different, but there’s a bigger question of where the money is going. “Is it going into bureaucracy?” Rauner asked. “Is it going in the layers of administration? Is it going to overhead? Or is it going to the teachers in the classrooms? We want the money with the teachers in the classroom.” Jeff Vose, Regional Superintendent of Schools for Sangamon-Menard County, said if the state fully funds the general state aid, and funds categorical mandates like special education, then the pension cost shift may be an easier pill to swallow. However, Vose said the plan could make for a heavy lift for some districts, especially with the prospect of a property tax freeze.
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David Root, Superintendent at Williamsville school district just north of Springfield, said the chickens are coming home to roost for a state that’s had years of financial mismanagement, something he said puts the spotlight on administrator salaries. “Sure, should that be contained? Yeah. But if you look at what it takes to run a school district and what it takes to be an administrator in a district and the education that’s required,” Root said. Root said the state has poorly funded pensions for years and suggested lawmakers find more revenue by reforming income tax. The governor said the issues isn’t as bad in the public school system as it is in public universities but the policy in either instance is meant to put more money in the classrooms and not in bureaucracy. The Governor’s budget book for Fiscal Year 2017 says the State University Retirement System has over 1,500 members with a salary at or above $180,000. The Teachers Retirement System has over 400 members with a salary at or above $180,000.