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The Education Year in Review -- 2005-2006


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Legislative Issues
Pension "clean up" signed
School reorganization bill signed
PTELL legislation signed
School Board Member Oath of Office
Reporting Child Abuse
Open Meetings Act
Principal Mentoring and Evaluations

Illinois Education

The Federal Scene
Bush plan to expand NCLB testing
NAEP shows few students proficient
NCLB draws more criticism
Debate will study threshold for subgroups

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 2006 in portable document format.

Awards and Honors

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

The fiscal year 2007 budget for elementary and secondary education followed closely the recommendations made earlier in the year by the State Board of Education and the Governor. SB 1520, the 863-page omnibus state government appropriations bill, contained an increase of nearly $416 million over the FY '06 funding levels. The Governor had initially requested a $400 million increase. The majority of the funds went towards General State Aid, mandated categorical grants, early childhood education, and the ADA Block Grant.

No funding for the School Construction Grant Program was included in the budget bill. Bills were defeated on both the House and Senate floors that would have provided $500 million for school construction. Since these bills required new State bonding, a super majority vote was needed. So instead of the majority party being able to pass a bill (like with the budget), these bills required Republican votes for passage. Since there was no agreement worked out between the two parties on how the bonds would be paid for or which projects would be included in a construction bill, both bills were defeated on partisan roll calls with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans voting in opposition.

Though there is an outside chance that a major capital construction bill, including school construction, could be addressed when the legislature returns to Springfield after the election in November, it is more likely that the issue will be taken up in the spring of 2007.

Pension "clean up" bill signed. Governor Rod Blagojevich signed SB 49 (Public Act 94-1057), the bill that makes adjustments to last year's teacher's pension law. Most of the changes are exemptions to the 6% salary limitation. The bill now becomes Public Act 94-1057, effective July 31, 2006. The new law exempts from the 6% limitation salary from: "overload" work, in-district promotions, "master teacher" stipends, and any salary paid to a teacher when the teacher is 10 or more years from retirement eligibility.

School reorganization bill signed. Governor Blagojevich also signed his school district reorganization bill into law. SB 2795 (Shadid, D-Peoria) is designed to give greater flexibility to school districts looking to reorganize without forcing consolidation. The bill now becomes Public Act 94-1019, effective July 1, 2006. The law will give new options for combining certain types of school districts, especially for elementary school districts that wish to merge with high school districts to form a new unit school district. The new law addresses minimum EAV and population requirements, size limits for school district conversions, and authorizes certain school districts to consolidate even if the boundaries are not contiguous.

PTELL legislation signed. Governor Blagojevich signed SB 1682 (Harmon, D-Oak Park and Tryon, R-Crystal Lake) that makes significant changes to how referenda questions will appear on the ballot for voters in counties under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL). The bill re-writes the tax rate increase ballot question and adds that the supplemental information for the rate increase question must include a statement of purpose or reason for the proposed change in the tax rate and the approximate amount of the new increase on a single family residence having a fair market value of $100,000. It also changes the definition of "limiting rate" for PTELL taxing districts, sets forth new ballot questions for PTELL counties, and allows a taxing district that was subject to PTELL prior to 1995 and that approved a tax increase at a general election held after 2002 to be allowed to choose the number of years to implement the Rate Increase Factor.

School Board Member Oath of Office. HB 4310 (Public Act 94-0881) contains a requirement that newly elected school board members take an oath of office – a form of the oath to be taken is contained in the legislation. It also states school board member duties as they relate to the superintendent.

Reporting of Child Abuse. HB 5375 (Public Act 94-0888) contains language regarding mandated reporting of child abuse or sex abuse of a minor. The bill states that "If an allegation is raised to a school board member during the course of an open or closed school board meeting that a child who is enrolled in the school district of which he or she is a board member is an abused child as defined in Section 3 of this Act, the member shall direct or cause the school board to direct the superintendent of the school district or other equivalent school administrator to comply with the requirements of this Act concerning the reporting of child abuse."

Open Meetings Act. SB 585 (Public Act 94-1058) amends the Open Meetings Act to redefine a "meeting" to include gatherings, whether in person or by telephone call, video or audio conference, electronic means (such as e-mail, chat, and instant messaging), or other means of contemporaneous interactive communication for the purpose of discussing public business. It allows board members to participate by electronic means, but requires that at least a quorum of the board be present in the physical location of the meeting.

Principal Mentoring and Evaluations. SB 860 (Public Act 94-1039) restructures the processes for the mentoring, evaluation, and induction of new principals in Illinois. It establishes a new principal mentoring program and requires each school district to evaluate a principal at least once in the final year of the principal's contract by February 1st (failure to evaluate by the February 1st date automatically extends the principal's contract).

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ILLINOIS EDUCATION

State Board of Education Developments

June 2006 – The Illinois Early Learning Council publishes a report detailing recommendations that had served as the blueprint for preschool expansion legislation adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support. The new law, to be administered by the Illinois State Board of Education, will make Illinois the first state in the nation to declare all 3- and 4-year-olds eligible for state-funded preschool.

May 2006 – Announces a new streamlined process for school districts to follow in appealing their Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status under the federal NCLB Act, starting with a letter from the district superintendent to ISBE simply stating the issue and rationale behind the appeal.

April 2006 – Tells school superintendents that Washington, D.C.— in the opinion of State Superintendent Randy Dunn — seems to be shifting towards pushing "educating for workforce skills" rather than providing a liberal education or educating for a democratic society.

March 2006 – Releases financial profile for Illinois school districts, which indicates that the number of districts in deficit spending declined for the second straight year.

February 2006 – Organizes a push for legislation to streamline district reorganization.

January 2006 – Offers a new e-mail service to provide direct information on state testing of students, with periodic updates.

December 2005 – Provides new parent-friendly school profiles for every Illinois school via the Web, briefly summarizing key data such as attendance numbers, test scores and graduation rates.

October 2005 – Launches effort to recognize the exemplary achievements of school board members, teachers, administrators and students by sending out State Board resolutions lauding those achievements.

September 2005 – Removes the interim title from then-interim State Superintendent of Education, Randy Dunn.

August 2005 – Completes a series of strategic plan forums that gather feedback on action steps to implement a new Comprehensive Strategic Plan, including an expanded definition of literacy, and a new emphasis on teacher induction and mentoring, and professional development.

July 2005 – Forms purchasing network for districts to enable schools to obtain supplies and services at lower costs.

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THE FEDERAL SCENE

Bush proposal to expand NCLB testing languishes. The President's plan to expand the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing program into the nation's high schools languished and died in committee in the Congress during the summer of 2005. The plan would have required annual testing from the time a student entered third grade all the way through the eleventh grade. It would also have required a test for high school seniors to indicate how well a district has educated students. The plan also called for eliminating the largest current source of federal funding for high schools — the $1.3 billion Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Act.

NAEP shows few students at proficiency levels. Illinois students' scores for 2005 mirrored the national average on a nationwide reading test, but their math scores lagged a bit behind the national average, particularly at grade 4. The scores are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federally mandated comparison of how students in each state perform on a standard reading and math test given every two years. The NAEP tests were given to 660,000 fourth- and eighth-grade students in all 50 states. Educators and policy experts said the national test results raised questions about how much of a difference the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is making.

NCLB draws more criticism. A national study in February 2006 contended the Bush administration's signature education policy achievement, the NCLB Act, is a failure. The study, by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project, also charged that the U.S. Department of Education had negotiated regulatory changes individually with states, thus nullifying any uniform standard of accountability intended by the 2001 law. The administration went from strict interpretation and enforcement of the controversial law in its first two years to state-by-state policy changes by 2005, so that today no two states are subject to the same requirements, according to the study. Illinois State Superintendent of Education Randy Dunn criticizes NCLB on opposite grounds, however, stating: "While I believe that every child can learn and show progress over time, it is NCLB's lockstep approach that makes me uncomfortable."

Debate will study threshold for subgroup testing. Federal officials announced that state officials would be summoned to a conference in the fall of 2006 to discuss minority subgroup size thresholds used in reporting test scores under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Local and state education officials had taken issue with an Associated Press story published in April that suggested they might be exploiting some kind of "loophole" on subgroup size to get around NCLB penalties. Apparently that AP story prompted the additional federal scrutiny. Characterizing the threshold as a loophole left some with the impression that a district could work with its data to make it look better. But that is not the case, according to local school officials. School districts turn all of their testing data over to the Illinois State Board of Education, which produces the reports that are used to determine compliance with NCLB requirements. All student scores are turned over, and all schools and school districts are meeting state guidelines on testing and subgroups.

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SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS, 2005-2006

August 2005 – The list of education-related Web sites is expanded on IASB's Web site to include more sites directly relevant to school governance.

September 2005 – Newly compiled figures show 90 percent of Illinois school board members first elected to a board in 2001 have since participated in Association activities.

October 2005 – Staff members complete a series of workshops called "School Board Leadership" that focuses on IASB's Principles of Effective Governance."

November 2005 – Ray Zimmerman, immediate past president, passes the presidential gavel to newly elected IASB President Marie Slater at the close of the Delegate Assembly meeting during the Joint Annual Conference in Chicago.

December 2005 – IASB releases final figures showing attendance was up 7.7% at the 2005 Joint Annual Conference, as 11,507 school leaders from 750 school districts attended sessions, workshops and exhibits.

January 2006 – IASA invites members to chat with training experts by phone while linked online at il.schoolboard.net in order to participate in a new wave of "webinars." The training covers use of schoolboardnet, IASB's online communications service.

February 2006 – Thirteen IASB representatives join delegates from around the nation in visiting member of Congress during the 2006 Federal Relations Network Conference in Washington. Delegates convey local school wishes, urging Congress to fix and fully fund NCLB and IDEA.

March 2006 – IASB hosts its 11th annual job fair for teachers, administrators and education majors, this time at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.

April 2006 – IASB staff members contribute time and effort to help to make the 66th annual NSBA conference a major success. The event is held in Chicago for the first time since 1960.

May 2006 – The Illinois School Board Journal looks at the superintendent hiring process, from the availability of candidates to closing the deal with the best contract. A special four-page center section features a hurricane relief fund-raiser for gulf coast schools hosted by IASB in conjunction with NSBA's April conference in Chicago.

June 2006 – IASB's Policy Services Department announces it has developed two reference charts to assist school administrators as they prepare for ISBE audits. The two cross-reference charts are designed to help with two kinds of ISBE audits: accountability, and external assurance.

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AWARDS AND HONORS

Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. Barbara Somogyi of Elk Grove CCSD 59, Arlington Heights, was the recipient of the fourteenth annual Thomas Lay Burroughs award at the 2005 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. Thomas Leahy of Quincy Public SD 172, was named 2006 Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators at the 2005 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 newspapers received recognition in the 2006 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. The Herald News, Joliet, won first prize in the large daily newspaper category, while the Marion Daily Republican was the top-place finisher in the small daily newspaper category. The Naperville Sun won top prize in the medium-size daily category, and The Zephyr, Galesburg, took home first-place honors in the non-daily newspaper category. Other papers winning awards included: Rockford Register Star; The Pantagraph, Bloomington; The Daily Times, Ottawa; the Pekin Daily Times; the Breeze-Courier, Taylorville; The Macomb Journal; The Galena Gazette; Ledger-Sentinel, Oswego; and the Orion Gazette. Named in memory of the first executive direction 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. Four school board members were honored by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2006 for their outstanding contributions to Illinois schools. The school board members receiving Those Who Excel awards included: Jacqueline Walton, Kildeer-Countryside CCSD 96, Buffalo Grove; Janice B. Mandernach, Decatur SD 61; Julie Loy, Southwestern CUSD 9, Piasa; Rene' Friedel, Highland CUSD 5.

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