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The Illinois Association of School Boards has voted to oppose any legislation that mandates training of school board members, and to reject a proposed ban on teacher strikes. Representatives from 360 Illinois school districts considered a total of 20 resolutions on various public school management subjects at the 2008 Joint Annual Conference, held Nov. 21-23 in Chicago.

IASB already encourages local boards of education to model continuous improvement by pursuing professional development and training opportunities. But supporters said volunteer school boards should not be subject to training requirements that are not imposed on other elected governmental bodies.

"Why are we being told what to do by the state?" asked Andrew Johnson, board president of Wheaton Warrenville District 200, which sponsored the resolution. "Why is it just us?" His comments were made on the floor of the Delegate Assembly, held Saturday, Nov. 22.

To the extent the state does impose school board training, supporters also suggested that the state should continue to look to IASB as the primary provider of such training.

The issue of mandatory school board member training has been prominent in the Illinois statehouse over the past two years, as school accountability measures have been discussed in conjunction with any school funding reform proposal. Until now IASB had adopted no position statement directly addressing such mandatory training.

In fact, school board members already receive more voluntary training than any other category of elected official in Illinois. According to the IASB annual report for FY 2008, 4,064 board members attended at least one IASB training or meeting event this fiscal year, including 726 board members who attended three or more such events; 327 board members who earned Master Board Member credits; and 462 who are IASB LeaderShop Academy members. The annual conference itself last year drew 4,438 board members and superintendents.

But if school board members must have a mandatory training provision, advocates said the same rules should also apply to elected county board members, city councilmen, mayors, park district and library trustees, state legislators, and state constitutional officers.

Delegates also adopted a related resolution calling for IASB to evaluate any school funding reform plan more negatively if it is tied to mandatory training of local boards of education. Both resolutions were submitted by Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200.

Local representatives from around the state also voted to reject a resolution calling for an outright ban on teacher strikes. The resolution, submitted by Huntley CSD 158, called upon IASB to lobby lawmakers to prohibit strikes by all public school employees.

The rationale behind the defeated resolution began with the assertion that, much like police and fire service, a local public school system is a taxpayer-funded entity essential to the stability and growth of its community. Under no circumstances are police officers or fire fighters permitted to strike, even if they are working without a contract. Supporters said adding a new provision in state law to prohibit teacher strikes makes sense for reasons of social stability and community welfare.

The rationale explained that while a public school employee strike is not likely to result in violence or civil unrest, the immediate and long-term impact to the community is devastating in its own right. Considering the large percentage of the property tax bill that goes to the local school district, the taxpayers deserve the right to have their tax dollars protected, supporters said. They said a significant step toward making that happen is to make it illegal for a union to use the threat or actual implementation of a strike in order to pull an unreasonable amount of tax dollars from educational programs and other operational necessities into salary and benefits for school employees.

An IASB committee had recommended adoption of the resolution prior to the delegate voting. Committee members noted that in most states that already have a strike prohibition, there have been many other "trade-offs" included when enacting the strike prohibition (i.e., mediation, arbitration, scope of bargaining contracts). But in Illinois currently there is no real disincentive for a bargaining unit to strike because all school days and teacher pay are recovered.

Some delegates said they voted to reject the proposal out of concern for the many school boards that have worked hard to cultivate a positive working relationship with their teachers' union.

"We have worked very hard with the IEA and IFT [unions] to develop a good relationship," said Cyndi Dahl, a board vice president from Darien District 61. "I sat in a group session with the members of the Illinois Education Roundtable recently, where there were 25 education groups all working together."

Also speaking against a strike ban was Karen Carney, a board member from School District U-46, Elgin: "Teachers and board members make our best strides when we work together. It is hard to walk away from somebody you respect," she explained.

A total of 20 resolutions were considered at the Delegate Assembly; 12 of which were new proposals and eight others that amended or reaffirmed existing positions (see the link below for the complete list).

School board members also voted to push for rapid development and implementation of an appropriate test for those students who are classified as English Language Learners (ELLs). Supporters said the resolution is aimed at providing meaningful data to guide ELL instruction and improve student learning.

"Like others, our district was damaged by removal of the IMAGE exam because our schools were more likely to not make AYP as a result," said Ken Kaczynski, the board president of School District U-46, Elgin. Kaczynski was referring to the Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English or IMAGE exam. He said that the lack of an effective IMAGE replacement test was the main reason why many schools in Illinois fell short of meeting federal standards for Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

He spoke in support of a resolution submitted by Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200 that called for pushing state education officials to contract with a national testing company to develop a statewide assessment exam to test ELL students annually against state learning standards. The tests would be designed to meet the requirements of NCLB.

More than one resolution was adopted on the subject of English Language Learners (ELL)."

Related resolutions were approved, as well, all submitted by Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200, that would: 1) support legislation to modify the state's required ELL student assessments so testing does not go beyond what is required by federal law, and to prohibit any expansion of such student assessment without legislative approval; 2) amend the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to permit alternate assessments and other appropriate measures for ELLs, including but not limited to providing directions and questions in the student's most fluent language; 3) Ask the legislature to pass legislation to amend the state law to make Transitional Bilingual Education optional and not mandatory.

Supporters of the latter plan said that while the mandated approach is effective, educational research also supports alternative programs, including those with significant English-based components, which are equally effective in teaching ELL students.

School board delegates also adopted several other new IASB policies, including resolutions that would:

  • Support legislation that will allow members of school boards to be reimbursed for mileage for school board meetings held in compliance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act and for events regarding school district staff. Mileage reimbursement would be paid at the federally allowable travel reimbursement rate. The plan was submitted by Jasper County CUSD 1, Newton.
  • Seek to amend state law in the Illinois Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/18-165, et seq.) to enable boards of education to develop criteria for awarding abatements of school property tax to individual homebuilders. The legislation would provide rural boards struggling with declining enrollments and loss of assessed valuation with a tool to stimulate the growth of both the tax base and population base of their districts. The change in law is needed because the consolidation of farming and the shift of jobs to urban/suburban areas has many rural Illinois school districts facing a loss of population base at the same time they are dealing with a loss of tax base. Supporters say tax abatements would encourage an influx of new people to the rural community, stimulate the local economy, enhance the tax base, and, potentially, bring additional students to the school district. The plan was submitted by Iroquois West CUSD 10, Gilman.
  • Support legislation to modify the General State Aid Formula calculation for school districts subject to the so-called tax cap, also known as the Property Tax Exemption Limitation Law (PTELL). The aim would be to ensure that such districts are not penalized for getting an operating fund rate increase approved by voters. The plan was submitted by Consolidated SD 158, Algonquin.

A total of 360 Illinois school board members voted on these resolutions in setting policy direction for IASB for the coming year.

Before voting on resolutions the delegates received reports on the year just passed from IASB President Mark C. Metzger, and from IASB Executive Director Michael D. Johnson. President Metzger noted that attendance at the 2007 Joint Annual Conference totaled more than 12,200. He recalled the launch in February of a valuable new Diversity and Inclusion Awareness Workshop, which the board of directors attended during IASB's 2008 Leadership Conference. He reported that he also attended the National School Boards Association's 2008 conference in the spring, where he was elected to serve on that association's board of directors.

Metzger said he attended eight IASB division meetings in the spring, and eight more in the fall. He also noted that Illinois schools received a funding increase from the state legislature in the spring, at a time when few other state spending categories saw any increase.

Director Johnson's report also stressed the fact that "the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance secured increased funding for education again this year." The additional funding was secured, he noted, despite the state's budget woes.

"While the funding increases have not always been as much as education needs or deserves, education funding has consistently fared better than any other part of the state budget," he said.

He said this success with legislative funding happened "largely because IASB members have been so responsive in communicating with local legislators about school finance issues and reinforcing, in a practical way that legislators can understand, how decisions on school funding impact local schools."

Johnson also touched upon several significant new services IASB has made available in the past year, which he said are all designed to meet the increasing demands on school districts. For example, he mentioned that IASB has offered expanded policy services, and has introduced a new video-based workshop called Making Meetings Matter, an interactive training tool that focuses on the elements of successful school board meetings, and how to run and evaluate such meetings.

He also reported that IASB was launching a new members-only website at the Joint Annual Conference. It allows members to log in and view customized information about their IASB involvement and credits toward Master Board member status, among other things, he said. And it allows division-specific meeting reminders and communications, as well as access to handouts from the Joint Annual Conference after that event.

IASB's Delegate Assembly voting also included election of officers for the coming year:

President, Mark C. Metzger

Mark C. Metzger was re-elected as President of IASB for a second one-year term. He has been a member of the Indian Prairie CUSD 204 Board of Education since 1991. He has served as president, secretary and committee chair of every committee of his local board. A Naperville attorney, he previously served on the IASB nominating committee and as an Alternate Delegate to the 2004 NSBA Delegate Assembly. He is frequently an invited adjunct presenter at IASB LeaderShop offerings and holds both LeaderShop Academy membership and Master Board Member status, which he has maintained since 1997.

Vice President, Joseph Alesandrini

Joseph Alesandrini was selected by the IASB delegates to serve as Vice President of the association. He is president of the Pekin CHSD 303 Board of Education, and has served as director of the Central Illinois Valley Division of IASB since 1997. He had served as treasurer of IASB prior to becoming Vice President last year. He also chaired IASB's audit committee in 2007, and he presently chairs the resolutions committee.

Districts are encouraged to draft and submit resolutions for the 2009 Delegate Assembly. Deadline for submitting proposals will be June 24. For more information, districts should contact their division resolutions chairpersons or Ben Schwarm, IASB associate executive director for advocacy and governmental relations.

Other links:

IASB Resolutions Adopted – 2008
2008 Delegate Assembly Minutes
2008 Report to Membership

2008 Conference Menu


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