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The Education Year in Review -- 2003-2004

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Legislative Issues
Budget Issue
Other Key Issues

Illinois Education
State Board Of Education Developments

The Federal Scene
Nutrition Reforms
E-Rate Extension

Significant Developments

Participation in IASB Programs
Click here to download a table in portable document format showing numbers of participants in IASB programs for the past three years.

IASB Financial Report
Click here to download the IASB financial report for FY 2004 in portable document format.

Awards and Honors



Although the legislature's intended adjournment date this year was May 21, it was not until July 24, 2004 that a budget was finally approved and the General Assembly went home for the summer. Partisan wrangling caused part of the delay, but much of the disagreement was between Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich, and Democrat Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan.

Governor Blagojevich had called for $400 million in new spending for elementary and secondary education, with the per pupil foundation level to be raised by $250. In the end about $389 million in new money was appropriated for public education and the foundation level was increased by $154 per student. This raised the total per pupil foundation level to $4,964 from $4,810, far below the $5,665 minimum level recommended in October 2002 by the Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB), a blue-ribbon education funding reform panel. The appropriations were contained in SB 3340.

About $95 million was allocated for mandated categorical grants, with the reimbursements for special education personnel, special education transportation, special education orphanage, regular orphanage tuition, and the Free Lunch and Breakfast Program funded at 100%. The other line items were funded at a reduced rate so that the prorated level of the mandated categorical grants, in the aggregate, would be about 97%.

Other areas of the education budget that received increases were: 1) Early Childhood Education Block Grant – $30 million; 2) ADA Block Grant – $12 million; 3) Transitional Assistance (so no district received less money than in FY '04) – $10 million; 4) Fast Growth District Grants (a new line item) – $10 million; 5) Bilingual Education – $2 million.

Property Tax Relief Approved – A new law was enacted to increase a number of property tax exemption amounts that opponents said would cause an erosion in the property tax base of all local school districts. SB 2112 increased the senior citizen homestead exemption from $2,000 (downstate) and $2,500 (Cook County) to $3,000 statewide, increased the income eligibility for the senior citizen property tax freeze from $40,000 to $45,000 in all counties, and increased the general homestead exemption from $3,500 (downstate) and $4,500 (Cook County) to $5,000 statewide. The bill also allowed a county board to impose a new 7% cap on the assessment of individual parcels of residential property. The new law became effective on July 12, 2004.

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ISBE Restructuring Approved – Although the Governor pushed to dismantle the State Board of Education and create a new department directly under his control, the legislature refused such wholesale change. Instead, lawmakers passed SB 3000 to keep the ISBE in place but allow the Governor to exercise much more control over the state agency.

The Governor replaced seven members of the Illinois State Board of Education: Andrea Brown, Goreville; David Fields, Danville; Ed Geppert, Belleville; Vinni Hall, Chicago; Brenda Holmes, Springfield; Jesse Ruiz, Chicago; and Chris Ward, Lockport. The two board members staying on to fill the rest of their terms were Joyce Karon (Barrington) and Dean Clark (Glen Ellyn). The Governor named a new board chairman, Jesse Ruiz, a Chicago attorney. For future years, any new Governor was granted the authority to name a majority of the members of the State Board. The Governor would have the authority to remove board members for incompetence, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office. The bill also contained many more provisions requiring long-range planning by the ISBE, and changing its rulemaking process. Optional statewide prescription drug and school commodity purchasing programs were also included. The Alliance and IASB lobbyists worked through weeks of negotiations with the Governor's office and legislators to assure that the drug and commodity purchasing programs were permissive and not mandatory.

Fast-Growth Districts — The creation of a "fast growing district" grant was part of the final budget agreement and was passed in HB 766. This bill allowed the ISBE to distribute grants to school districts that, in the most recent two years, have growth of 1) over 1.5% in a district over 10,000 pupils, or 2) have growth over 7.5% in any other district. It was estimated that 35 school districts would be eligible for such a grant. Funds are to be distributed per pupil; amounts will depend on the amount of money appropriated for such use. A total of $10 million was made available for distribution to the fast growing districts.

Changes in Testing – To enable the funding level for GSA and mandated categorical grants to be at the desired level, about $25 million was re-allocated from other areas of the State Board of Education budget. Approximately $6.3 million was reduced from the Standards and Assessments line item. The result was language contained in SB 2205 that prohibits the ISBE from testing in subject areas that go beyond the federal No Child Left Behind Act, at least for next year. Standardized testing in physical education and health, social sciences, fine arts, and writing will not be required.

Teacher/administrator certification – A law was enacted that makes significant changes to the teacher certification, teacher re-certification, and administrator re-certification laws. SB 1553 was originally intended to address the problem with those teachers holding Initial Teaching Certificates that were about to expire. The bill automatically extends for one year the validity period of Initial Teaching Certificates that expired on June 30, 2004. The Alliance played a major role in adding other components to the bill to relieve some of the burden on school boards and administrators in the certification process. A provision of the bill makes it more practical for teachers to receive units of continuing professional development during re-certification; the provision requiring the use of a Local Professional Development Committee was eliminated (a district and bargaining unit may agree to have one); and the expiration date of the substitute teacher provision that allows substitute teachers to teach for up to 120 days in a school year was removed. For administrators, eliminated were the requirements to develop an administrative certificate renewal plan and to submit the plan to a review panel.

Teachers Retired Insurance Program (TRIP) – SB 1553 also contained language that continued the Teachers Retired Insurance Program (TRIP) indefinitely. The Alliance had been working on the TRIP issue for years, successfully fending off attempts to require participation in a statewide health insurance pool for school district employees and large increases in the school districts' contribution to the program. This agreement, brokered by the Alliance, the Governor's office, the teachers' unions and the retired teachers' association, included a series of benefit adjustments that would provide significant savings to the TRIP program, and a modest increase in the contribution rates for school districts, active teachers and the State of Illinois. Other provisions:

  • The contribution rate for school districts would remain unchanged for fiscal year 2005 (.5% of TRS payroll), would increase to .6% of payroll in FY '06, and would remain at .6% of payroll in FY '07.
  • The contribution rate for active teachers would remain unchanged for fiscal year 2005 (.75% of salary), would increase to .8% of salary in FY '06, and remain at .8% of salary for FY '07.
  • The contribution rate for the State of Illinois would continue to match the amount paid by active teachers for each year, with an additional contribution of $13 million each year.
  • Premiums charged to retirees would be limited to an average increase of 6.6% in FY '05, 9.1% in FY '06, and 3.9% in FY '07.
  • After three years (starting in FY '08), the Department of Central Management Services would be given limited authority to increase contribution rates and retiree premiums – specifically limiting the increases to 5% for all four funding sources (i.e. 5% of the .6% contribution rate of a school district).
  • Increases in contribution rates would be the same for all contributors (school districts, teachers, State of Illinois, retirees) in FY '08 and beyond.

The bill retains the current TRIP program and does not include a statewide insurance pool.

Other state legislation approved – Other statutes adopted included the following:

HB 629 contained a provision that, for the nonpartisan and consolidated elections in which school board members are elected, the canvass of votes cast shall be conducted within 21 days of the election, instead of seven days. Another provision called for the organization of a school board within 28 days after the consolidation election instead of seven days after.

HB 3977 required teacher applicants to undergo a fingerprint check with a criminal background check. It provided that the school district or regional superintendent of schools shall submit an applicant's fingerprint images or other identifiers to the State Police when requesting a check and provides for the State Police and FBI to furnish fingerprint-based criminal history records checks and records of convictions, until expunged.

HB 4232 required schools to have an automated external defibrillator (AED) in all indoor physical fitness facilities. It required school districts to have a policy on medical emergencies, to have an (AED) in each indoor physical fitness facility, and to have a trained AED user in each physical fitness facility during school-sponsored physical fitness activities. An indoor physical fitness facility would include: a swimming pool; stadium; athletic field; track and field facility; tennis court; basketball court; or volleyball court.

HB 4247 requires (but had merely permitted) a court's examination of verbatim records in a civil proceeding to be conducted in camera. It also requires public bodies to keep written minutes of closed, as well as open, meetings and removes verbatim recordings of closed meetings from the requirement that the public body regularly review them to determine whether the need for non-disclosure continues.

SB 2115 allows a school or school district to deny enrollment to a student 16 years of age or older for one semester for failure to meet minimum academic or attendance standards if certain conditions are met. It requires a district to identify, track, and report on the educational progress and outcomes of re-enrolled students.

SB 2918 increases the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 17 years of age, and provides that certain provisions that apply to truant officers apply to the regional superintendent of schools or his or her designee in a school district that does not have a truant officer. The bill allows certain students to enroll in graduation incentive programs and lists programs that qualify as graduation incentive programs.

New Position Statements Adopted in 2003

Resolutions adopted by the IASB Delegate Assembly provide major policies for the Association and establish its stance on legislation and related matters of public policy through position statements. The Delegate Assembly, consisting of one voting representative from each member school board, meets each year in Chicago on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

The following new position statements, listed by category, were adopted by the 2003 Delegate Assembly.

No Child Left Behind. Position Statement 1.09 – The Illinois Association of School Boards: strongly disagrees with the premise that the quality and complexity of teaching and learning can be adequately and solely assessed by one achievement test given once during the school year; disagrees with the practice of assessing all schools with inconsistent standards allowed to be used by individual states to determine school accountability and adequate yearly progress; and believes that the federal government has no authority to sanction local school districts.

Therefore, the IASB shall work with the National School Boards Association and other coalitions to urge Congress and the Illinois General Assembly to:

  • amend the provision allowing for one high-stakes test to determine student achievement;
  • remove the provisions for local school district sanctions;
  • focus on professional development for teachers and administrators; and
  • fully fund any requirements placed on local school districts.

Salary Bumps For Pensions-Study. Position Statement 5.16 – The Illinois Association of School Boards shall offer and support legislation aimed at reducing the fiscal and political impact to local Boards of Education caused by retiring teachers and administrators receiving one or more 20% retirement bonuses, such as by reducing the cap on recognizable increases to a lower figure.

Toward that end, the Illinois Association of School Boards shall urge the Illinois General Assembly to direct the Teachers' Retirement System to research and report on the fiscal impact of the Early Retirement Without Discount provision of the Pension Code. Specific emphasis should be given to the provision permitting TRS to recognize a maximum of 20% year over year increases for purposes of determining retirement annuities. The report should include the fiscal impact this provision has on local school districts and the State retirement system, the effect the provision has as a retirement incentive for school district employees, and possible changes that could be enacted to make the provision more cost-effective for the State and local school districts.

Election Schedules. Position Statement 7.09 -- The Illinois Association of School Boards shall offer and support legislation to cause the election of school board members to take place at a non-partisan election in November of odd numbered years. (Adopted 2003)

For information on all other IASB position statements, including those amended or reaffirmed by the 2003 Delegate Assembly, visit the IASB Web site at .

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Fiscal Year 2005 budget underfunds NCLB. Under the proposed FY 2005 federal budget, total discretionary spending on education was to rise 3 percent, or $1.68 billion, from $55.67 billion to $57.34 billion. This would have been the smallest federal increase granted to education since FY96. Funding for No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) programs would total $24.91 billion, an increase of $448 million, or 1.8 percent, over the final FY04 level of $24.46 billion. Funding for Title I programs would increase by $1 billion, for a total of $13.34 billion. That is more than $7.1 billion below the NCLBA authorized level for Title I for FY05 ($20.5 billion).

Under NCLB, schools yielding low state test scores receive additional financial aid, but if a school fails to show sufficient progress after two years, some students may be permitted to transfer to another public school. After three years, some students are to receive federal funds for tutoring or transportation to another public school. The original NCLB legislation included provisions for funding private school vouchers, as well.

Nation's math test scores rise. The 2003 edition of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), was released in November 2003. It showed math scores had risen significantly since 1990, while reading scores remained flat. But in both math and reading, more than six out of ten students scored at or above basic levels by NAEP's standards.

Illinois' eighth graders scored above the national average in math and far above in reading, and the state's fourth-grade students scored roughly on par with the national average in both subject areas.

NCLB's standardized state test standards vary widely. There are huge variations in how much various states expect their students to learn under the No Child Left Behind Act, with Illinois falling roughly in the middle of the pack. So said a 2003 study called "The State of State Standards," which directly compared the difficulty levels of reading and math tests in 14 states. The study was conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit organization that helped develop and administer achievement tests in more than 1,100 school districts nationwide. Researchers said they were shocked by the huge differences in what states consider proficient academic performance. In fifth grade reading, for example, Colorado set its reading proficiency standards so low that 82 percent of fifth-graders nationwide could meet them. In contrast, Illinois set its reading proficiency standards at a level such that 63 percent of the fifth-graders could meet them. Variations in difficulty were gaining national attention and importance because the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires the same sanctions for all schools that fail to pass their state tests, no matter what the state standards are where the schools are located.

Supreme Court lets Pledge stand. The U.S. Supreme Court decreed in June that schools may retain the phrase "one nation, under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance, ruling that a California atheist did not have authority to challenge the oath. The ruling on procedural matters sidestepped the issue of whether the pledge is an unconstitutional mix of church and state. The ruling meant that the Pledge could continue to be recited in every Illinois elementary and secondary school as required by state law.

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August 2003 – Four school boards opt to become the first to contract with IASB to post and maintain their policy manuals on the Internet, complete with updates as needed and links to legal references.

October 2003 – The announcement of three new member districts swells IASB's total membership to 860, out of a total of 887 Illinois school districts.

November 2003 – The Joint Annual Conference features a new welcome and orientation session for first-time attendees, and a new IASB benefits and services assistance area for members in the Hyatt's Comiskey Room.

November 2003 – Agreeing that NCLB is inconsistent and unrealistic, IASB member delegates vote to seek reforms in the federal law. Representatives of more than 280 school boards vote for sweeping changes and full funding.

December 2003 – IASB Past President Myron W. Clark passes away at age 91. Clark is believed to be the only individual ever to serve as president of two different states' school boards associations: Illinois (1974-75), and Minnesota (1949-50).

February 2004 – IASB publications launch an in-depth examination of childhood nutrition and obesity relating to public schools. The series is compiled on the IASB Web site at: .

February 2004 – Seventy IASB directors, division officers and staff meet at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to learn how to detect a school district vision. This new workshop is twice repeated for IASB's general membership in April.

March 2004 – Meetings are held to acquaint eligible districts with IASB's new Targeting Achievement Through Governance program. It aims to provide services and information to boards that have had schools identified as not making Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB.

May 2004 – The IASB Board meets in Springfield and reviews and accepts a budget for 2004-2005 containing revenue of $7.14 million, and expenses of $7.02 million.

June 2004 – IASB offers its first-ever LeaderShop Symposium in Bloomingdale for School Board LeaderShop Academy members. Included is an interactive presentation on the "nuts and bolts" for increasing local support.

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Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. Gerald Mastio of East Richland Community Unit School District 1, Olney, was the recipient of the twelfth annual Thomas Lay Burroughs award at the 2003 Joint Annual Conference in November. The award recognizes the state's most outstanding local school board presidents, and celebrates the work of all school boards for their service to children and to education. Specifically, the award is presented annually by the Illinois State Board of Education to local school board presidents who have shown outstanding leadership on behalf of improved student learning, educational excellence, equal opportunity, and crisis resolution. The Award is named in honor of the late chairman of the State Board of Education.

Superintendent of the Year. James T. Rosborg of Belleville District 118, was named 2004 Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators at the 2003 Joint Annual Conference. Award winners are selected based on their work demonstrating: creativity in meeting students' learning needs; strength in personal and organizational communications; commitment to growth through upgrading their administrative knowledge and skills; and their community involvement.

Cole Awards. Fifteen different Illinois newspapers received recognition in the 2004 Robert M. Cole competition for best coverage of local school board issues. The contest is sponsored by IASB and conducted by the Illinois Press Association. A small daily paper—the Morris Daily Herald—repeated as a first-place winner in the 24th annual competition. The Daily Times, Ottawa took home first-place honors in the medium daily newspaper category; and The Dispatch, Moline, won first prize in the large daily category. Sun Publications, Naperville, earned top prize in the non-daily category. Other papers winning awards included: the Hyde Park Herald, Chicago; Press Publications, East DuPage, Oak Brook; Woodford County Journal, Eureka; Daily Leader, Pontiac; Breeze-Courier, Taylorville; Morning Sentinel, Mt. Vernon; Pekin Daily Times; Kane County Chronicle, Geneva; The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale; Rockford Register Star; and The Pantagraph, Bloomington. Named in memory of the first executive director of IASB, the Robert M. Cole Award recognizes outstanding newspaper coverage of education issues that emphasizes the community's connection with its local public school district.

Those Who Excel. Nine school board members were honored by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2004 for their outstanding contributions to Illinois schools. The school board members receiving Those Who Excel awards included: Scott Anderson, Champaign C.U.S.D. 4; Rooney Barker, Highland C.U.S.D. 5; Gary W. Bozick, Pleasantdale District 107, Burr Ridge; Lynn Davis, T.H.S.D. 211, Palatine; Andrea Freier, Kildeer Countryside C.C. District 96, Buffalo Grove; Saundra J. Hudson, Edwardsville C.U.S.D. 7; Mark Johnson, DuPage High School District 88, Villa Park; Wendell Marshall, Brooklyn District 188, Lovejoy; Michael W. Scott, Chicago District 299.

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