Illinois school officials have extra things to contend with this academic year besides test scores and unruly students. They also must comply with a couple of new laws requiring them to more readily provide information about educators' salaries and other forms of compensation.

Illinois school officials have extra things to contend with this academic year besides test scores and unruly students. They also must comply with a couple of new laws requiring them to more readily provide information about educators' salaries and other forms of compensation.

The lawmakers who pushed the pair of measures - which sailed through the General Assembly without a single "no" vote - say they were motivated by a desire for greater transparency in government. Some also said they were inspired by news reports about how some Chicago-area school boards were quietly awarding large perks to top administrators.

"We were finding that a number of superintendents would be given huge bonuses and huge boosts on their final salaries, and that would increase their pensions - sometimes doubling it, almost," said Rep. Monique Davis, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored one of the plans.

"This is just a small stab at giving the public the opportunity to have that information," Davis added. "You don't have to go through a big Freedom of Information fight."

Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican who co-sponsored one of the new laws, said the public needs to know "the total cost of a superintendent."

"I have a sneaking suspicion that some school districts -- not all -- hide the true perks and compensation package for their superintendents," he said. "Teachers are not as much of a mystery, and they don't have all the perks that administrators have."

The two laws impose different sets of rules, and they have different implementation dates.

Under the plan previously known as Senate Bill 2270, every school district must post on its Internet site "an itemized salary compensation report" for every employee who holds an administrative certificate and who works in that capacity. The report must include such details as base salary, bonuses, pension contributions, the cost of health insurance and any other form of compensation.

The report must be posted by Oct. 1 of every year, starting on Thursday. It also must be presented at a school board meeting.

Under House Bill 2235, every school board must report the base salary and benefits of the district superintendent, all administrators and teachers by July 1, starting in 2010. The information, including vacation and sick days, bonuses and retirement enhancements, will be sent to the State Board of Education.

Public universities and community colleges must report similar information about their administrators, faculty members and instructors to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

The State Board of Education already makes existing salary data for educators available to the public through Freedom of Information Act requests, said spokeswoman Mary Fergus. The expanded data also will be accessible, but the agency hasn't decided yet exactly how that will be done - through FOIA requests, through its Web site or in some other manner.

Information about public university employees' salaries presently may be obtained through the individual institutions. Once that data is reported to the Board of Higher Education, the agency hopes to post it on the Web for easy access, said spokesman Don Sevener.

The new laws have generated a mixed reaction from the education community.

A spokesman for the Illinois Education Association, a teachers' union, said disclosing information about compensation "is not an issue that makes all of our members happy."

"Some people are comfortable with it. Others are not," said spokesman Charles McBarron. "On the other hand, I think everybody understands the concept of public employees and tax dollars."

Individual teachers who were contacted in the past few days said they recognize that they're public employees and that taxpayers provide the dollars used to compensate them.

"I don't see a problem," said Bob Darling, who teaches at Peoria Richwoods High School.

But he said salary numbers for teachers can be misleading because they don't spell out how many hours teachers work or what extra duties they handle.

While information about educators' pay already is available to the public, the new laws are meant to offer extra details that are easier to obtain.

"Personally, I believe in transparency," said Rep. Sandra Pihos, R-Glen Ellyn. "I think it's important that we be accountable to our public."

The Illinois Association of School Administrators has been working to get the word out about the new laws, and by now their existence is "pretty well widely known in educator circles," said executive director Brent Clark.

"It's part of the new culture, or alleged culture of transparency," he said. "We've not had a lot of that in Illinois."

Some questions remain, though, about how to comply with the new requirements.

"That's the biggest concern that I'm hearing," Clark said. "They want to do it right."

Jacqueline Wernz, an associate at the Chicago law firm Franczek Radelet P.C., which advises school districts throughout Illinois and the rest of the country, said the two new laws are similar in intent.

But she added: "There a number of little differences in the laws which are leading to district confusion."

One issue is whether the information due in July should deal with the just-ended school year or the upcoming school year.

"We've said there's a very good argument both ways," Wernz said.

State Board of Education officials have alerted school districts that they should consult with their own attorneys about meeting the requirements that take effect Oct. 1. ISBE says it will provide guidance later about the data-collection due in July.

Davis said it shouldn't be difficult for school districts to put together the information about their employees.

"I don't foresee any obstacles because all school systems, no matter how poor they are, they have to use computer technology," she said.

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or