CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Illinois is drowning in red ink, but that didn't stop the State Board of Education from handing out a contract full of pricey perks, which includes seven weeks’ vacation to the state's new school superintendent.
FOX 32’s Dane Placko investigates how lawmakers are asking the board to renegotiate the deal already signed by Dr. Tony Smith.
FOX 32: What was your reaction when you saw this contract?
"I was really upset about it. When I saw how rich the contract was I was offended," said State Rep. Jack Franks.
Franks is among a number of lawmakers who want to tear up the contract recently awarded to new Illinois School Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith.
"We’re hurting as a state and we can't afford these kind of lavish perks that were given to Dr. Smith. And he got perks that nobody else gets," Franks said.
Check out what FOX 32 found in Dr. Smith's contract with the State Board of Education, which was obtained by the Better Government Association:
The three and a half year deal starts at $225-thousand dollars, with three-percent raises each year.
Smith gets 35 days’ vacation, which is seven full weeks, but can bank 20 of those days each year and cash them in when he leaves.
FOX 32: Do you know anybody in state government who gets 35 days’ vacation?
"heck, i don't know anyone in private industry who gets 35 days vacation," franks said.
Smith gets ten sick days a year, but if he uses five or fewer, he gets a $2-thousand dollar bonus.
And while all state employees are required to pay for part of their health insurance and pension, the Board agreed to pick up Smith's employee contribution for both a perk worth thousands of dollars a year.
And smith got another pension perk that has enraged the state's teacher unions.
In 2010, the legislature created the so-called "Tier Two" pension plan that reduced benefits for all new public employees.
But the Board agreed to give Smith an annual stipend of about $11-thousand dollars to make up the difference between what he'll receive as a Tier Two employee and the better benefits he would have received under the old pension plan.
"And here he is, he's the president of the teacher's retirement system because of his position as state superintendent, and what he's saying is 'those benefits aren't good enough. They’re good enough for the employees, but I’m the boss. I want something a lot better.' And I can't believe we gave it to him," Franks said.
Smith, a former leader of the Oakland School District, was hired by the Board after being backed by Governor Bruce Rauner, who wants teachers to pay more of their health and pension costs.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Rauner says the following:
"The governor was not involved with or aware of the negotiation of Tony Smith's contract."
Chicago Reverend James Meeks heads the State School Board and said the following:
"We’ll renegotiate (the contract), but it may end up costing us more money...I think it's all much ado about nothing. The general assembly is bored. They should be more focused on getting a budget."
FOX 32: He has a signed contract. He has a deal on the table with the state of Illinois. But you want him to give back something?
"I do. I do. Because it's just not right. It may be legal, but it doesn't make it right," Franks said.
The Board did not respond to FOX 32’s request to interview Dr. Smith, saying all he wanted was the same deal the previous superintendent got.
The Board may discuss a new contract at their meeting later this month, and then report back to the House Government Administration committee in Springfield.