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Who needs $3.6 million, anyway?

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Anyone who thought or hoped Illinois might have run out of ways to waste money had to be disappointed last week when Illinois Watchdog reported an additional $3.6 million was dribbled away.

The culprit this time is the new Educator Licensure Information System. Ideally, it was to be a streamlined way for school districts to double-check teacher certifications. Unfortunately, it also was a way for teachers – if they were inclined to click a few links – to access personal information of other teachers. In the high-stakes world of human resources, that’s a pretty big no-no.

The database was approved in 2012, and was scheduled to be up and running before this school year began. Now the Illinois State Board of Education plans to spend an additional $340,000 to get the system ready by September.

“Originally the contract was for $3.24 million, and [the system] was to be online last June. There have been some issues with that,” said ISBE spokesman Matt Vanover. “[The contract] has been extended through 2014. The contract is now standing at $3.58 million.”

Illinois’ teacher certification system will track only certifications and licenses. The system will not keep track of teachers’ personnel files or discipline records. Which means even if everything goes well, it’s still not a complete solution. So what’s the precise purpose of this $3 million investment?

In 2012, 39 teachers had their state certificates revoked and another four had certificates suspended. It is important to make sure those people are not able to get a new job just by moving a few hours away. But districts will need to keep doing background checks with former employers, because simply holding a valid certification or license is no guarantee a person is a good fit for a particular classroom or district.

As is often the case, the state mismanaging money by purchasing incomplete or unhelpful products has the trickle-down effect of making things more difficult at the local level.

Don’t let anyone in Springfield say there’s no more government waste to trim. There is new evidence seemingly every week of more inefficiencies to eliminate.

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