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School boards seek to avoid pension cost shift, regulate virtual charter schools
November 25, 2013

CHICAGO – The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) will not support any reform legislation seeking a “cost shift” of the teacher pension burden onto local school districts in the wake of the state’s failure to meet its own payment obligations to the teacher retirement system.

Representatives from more than 390 Illinois school districts considered that proposal among 14 new resolutions on public school issues in a meeting of the Association’s annual delegate assembly. The assembly was held in conjunction with the 2013 Joint Annual Conference, Nov. 22-24, in Chicago.

The measure was passed overwhelmingly by delegates at a conference where school board members from across the state also celebrated their Association’s 100 th anniversary. The groundwork for what would become one of the largest state public education associations in the nation was laid by a group of 22 school board members on Dec. 13, 1913, in Quincy, Illinois.

This year’s conference was attended by nearly 9,000 school board members, administrators, board secretaries, exhibitors, school attorneys, regional and state education agencies, and guests. In addition to voting on resolutions, the delegates also voted to elect a new president and vice president.

The pension reform resolution was submitted by WheatonWarrenville CUSD 200. The proposal seeks legislation to resolve Illinois’ current pension crisis “in a way that is fully compliant with prevailing actuarial science standards to achieve fully funded and sustainable state pension funds,” according to the sponsor.

The rationale behind the resolution states that Illinois’ pension problem can only be truly solved by addressing the state’s failure to: a) meet its financial obligations and b) adhere to actuarial principles when expanding pension benefits.

The new president of the Association is Karen Fisher, who also serves on the Ottawa THSD 140 board of education. The new vice president is Phil Pritzker, a member of the Wheeling CCSD 21 school board. Both will serve one-year terms.

A former teacher at Marseilles Elementary School, Fisher has served on her local board since 1979, and served on IASB’s Board of Directors from 2007 to 2011. She has served as IASB vice president for the past two years.

Pritzker has been a member of the Wheeling CCSD 21 board since 1989. He has been on the IASB board of directors since 2009, representing the Association’s North Cook Division.

In noting that she had attended meetings in every corner of the state during her tenure as IASB president, Brooks said “I have been impressed with the passion you all have for our efforts to preserve our democracy.”  

Accepting the nomination, Fisher said: “I am greatly honored and very happy to accept the office of IASB president and I look forward to the challenges we will face in leading this great organization into its next century.”

Delegates also heard from IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy. In his annual report, Eddy said “I am more optimistic than ever that together we can provide the leadership that will result in the best quality education possible for all of our children attending Illinois public schools.”

Representatives also approved a resolution seeking to regulate state-authorized “virtual” charter schools. The aim is to ensure that such schools, which would allow students to attend school entirely online, meet the full needs of Illinois students and follow the intent of the current state laws. Currently, virtual schools could draw the same amount of public funds from local school districts as if they were brick and mortar schools, taking the equivalent of 75 to 125 percent of the local district tuition.

The IASB resolution addresses concerns that arose in February when 18 Illinois school districts received petitions from what appeared to be a not-for-profit organization seeking to operate an online “virtual” charter school for students throughout the 18 districts. The petitions revealed, however, that management of curriculum, teachers and student assessment was to be outsourced to a for-profit education firm that was the subject of extensive complaints and investigations in several states.

In the spring, all 18 districts rejected the chartering petition, raising questions as to whether the proposal met the spirit and intent of the current charter school law requirement demanding a not-for-profit operation. The state has since placed a one-year moratorium on the virtual charter school process.

Terry Hall, a board member of Woodland CCSD 50, Gurnee, and the sponsoring school district, said the state should be funding any schools they establish “in the same way they fund the Illinois Math and Science Academy,” a state-authorized school in Aurora, Illinois.

A total of 15 resolutions were submitted; 14 new proposals and one amendment. Others reaffirmed existing position statements. Local member districts are encouraged to draft and submit proposals in the spring. After a committee reviews them and offers its recommendations, the delegate assembly votes on the resolutions. Those approved are used by IASB and other school management supporters to establish an agenda for their lobbying efforts.

More than 80 percent of the state’s 860 school districts attended the 2013 Joint Annual Conference. This was the 81st meeting of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of School Business Officials.

The conference offered a wide variety of professional development programs in 116 panel sessions, seven pre-conference workshops, three general sessions, and other learning opportunities. More information about this year’s conference can be found on the Association’s website: A list of the Association’s position statements can be found at

IASB is a voluntary organization of local boards of education dedicated to strengthening public schools through local control. Although not a part of state government, IASB is organized by member school boards as a private, not-for-profit corporation under authority granted by Article 23 of the Illinois School Code.

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