State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, is expressing concern about the management of taxpayer dollars within the Rauner administration’s Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) after board officials refused to remove extravagant perks from a top appointee’s contract and indicated that Rauner’s $250,000 education secretary had yet to attend a single ISBE meeting.


“There’s something fundamentally wrong with a political appointee receiving such extravagant perks at a time when both sides of the aisle recognize the need for efficiency. But even more troubling is when-amid an unprecedented budget crisis – Democrats and Republicans can agree that those perks should be eliminated, only to have unelected bureaucrats drag their feet in defense of a broken, wasteful status quo,” Franks said. “This administration that talks the talk about belt tightening and prioritizing classroom education over administrative costs also needs to start walking the walk, and take immediate steps to ensure their use of taxpayer dollars reflects their rhetoric.”


Franks convened a hearing of the House State Government Administration Committee Wednesday to hear an update from board members on his request that ISBE renegotiate extravagant perks in the contract of state Superintendent of Education Tony Smith. In addition to a $225,000 state salary, 35 vacation days each year plus sick time and a $500 per month auto allowance, Smith’s contract contains a taxpayer – funded stipend to supplement his Tier II pension plan. Under a 2010 state law that passed with strong support from Democrats and Republicans to rein in rising pension costs, state employees hired before that time. At Franks’ request, Smith had previously indicated willingness to eliminate this stipend, however board members have repeatedly refused to reconsider the extravagant contract.


Additionally, board members informed the committee that Rauner appointee Beth Purvis has yet to attend a single ISBE meeting this year despite collecting a $250,000 taxpayer-funded salary to serve as Rauner’s education secretary.


“We can all agree that handing out large salaries and lucrative taxpayer-funded perks to political appointees at a time when many local schools struggle to make ends meet is wrong. We can all agree that our state should not be circumventing pension law to reward well connected insiders,” Franks Said. “The board and this administration need to act on this clear consensus.”


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