Depending on your view, lawmakers are either diligently protecting the public's dimes or they're browbeating the new administration's appointees. Tuesday's example: a House committee hearing into the contract signed by the Illinois State Board of Education and its new superintendent, Tony Smith. State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), chairman of the House State Government Administration Committee, says he was shocked to read in a newspaper that Smith is receiving a stipend to make up for the fact that, as a new hire, he's ineligible for the old and more generous Tier I pension system.
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“Are you at all concerned,” Franks sniffed, “that the rank-and-file educators will see this stipend that the retirement benefits that they receive are not good enough for the state superintendent?” “The contract that I'm receiving is a Tier II contract --” Smith answered. “Except for the stipend!” Franks interrupted. Smith said all he wanted was to receive the same deal as his predecessor, Christopher Koch. By the time it was all over, lawmakers were asking Smith to renegotiate his contract and were upset ISBE awarded an $89,000 severance package to Koch. Smith is technically not a gubernatorial appointee. He was hired by ISBE shortly after Gov. Bruce Rauner named a new chairman, the Rev. James Meeks.