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The Education Year in Review -- 2009-2010


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Legislative Issues

Illinois Education

The Federal Scene

Significant Developments

Awards and Honors

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

Facing a crippling budget deficit, Gov. Patrick Quinn proposed a major hike in taxes. But his budget proposal featured only a modest increase in education funding, although a windfall in federal stimulus dollars was earmarked for education.

On May 20, the Illinois Senate approved a package of House bills to launch a statewide capital projects program, including funds for school construction. In a rare showing of bipartisanship, the bills passed on the Senate floor shortly after receiving overwhelming support from both parties in the Senate Executive Committee. The capital spending plan was briefly held up the House, however, short of an eventual adoption and trip to the governor’s desk.

The package was held up by parliamentary maneuvers after the governor signaled he would not sign the capital plan unless an acceptable budget plan was also passed.

The $26 billion program approved by the House in late May used a hodgepodge of revenue sources to build roads, bridges, and schools throughout the state. Approved were: HB 255, which created the revenue streams to pay for the bonds, HB 312, which spelled out the spending allocations, and HB 2400, which contained the state bonding authority.

Senate President John Cullerton said HB 312 would make available $1.5 billion to be distributed through the still-current School Construction Grant Program operated by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Capital Development Board. The 24 districts that had been waiting for their promised state construction funding since Fiscal Year 2002 were specifically listed in the bill as recipients of funds. The rest of the school construction funds were supposed to be distributed through existing criteria and procedures used by CDB and ISBE.

Another $100 million was made available for school district maintenance grants.

Legislators avoided tapping the state income tax or gasoline tax to pay for the construction program, opting instead to employ “user fees.”

The legislature finally adopted, as well, what the governor called a 50 percent budget for most education programs. The final Fiscal Year 2010 state budget, approved in mid-July, was immediately signed into law (see Alliance Legislative Report 96-27). It left many state programs underfunded, and left the governor with the task of allocating the funds to programs and services he most wanted to be funded, meanwhile cutting other programs. The budget contained $3.4 billion in “unallocated” lump sum funding – $2.2 billion for human services and $1.2 billion for other sectors of the state budget.

From that $1.2 billion, the governor eventually directed $152 million of discretionary funding to Illinois State Board of Education programs – above the level approved by the legislature and enacted in July. The governor added various amounts to ISBE budget line items for FY 2010 to bring them up to 90% of the FY 2009 budget , including:

  • $1.4 million for the “Grow Your Own Teachers” Program (for a total FY '10 budget of $3.15 million)
  • $85 million for early childhood education (for a total FY '10 budget of $342.2 million)
  • $1.6 million to the Re-Enrollment Student Program (for a total FY '10 budget of $3.6 million)
  • $8 million to the Truant Alternative & Optional Education Program (for a total FY '10 budget of $18 million)
  • $1.3 million to the Agricultural Education Program (for a total FY '10 budget of $3 million)
  • $4.3 million to the Alternative Education/Safe Schools Program (for a total FY '10 budget of $16.7 million)
  • $11.3 million for Bilingual Education (for a total FY '10 budget of $16.7 million)
  • $30 million to the Reading Improvement Block Grant (for a total FY '10 budget of $68.5 million)
  • $5 million to the "After School Matters" Program (previously unfunded)
  • $1 million to the “Classroom Cubed” Program (previously unfunded)

A line-by-line table detailing the governor’s action can be found online at:

http://budget.illinois.gov/documents/budgets/586-ISBE.pdf .

Despite the additional funds provided by the governor, the cuts to educational programs in FY 2010 still amounted to nearly $300 million.   Numerous programs, including Principal and Teacher Mentoring, Textbook Loans, ADA Block Grant, Arts and Foreign Language grants and others, remained at their reduced funding levels for the year.

The spending plan, however, called for an increase in general state aid and boosted the so-called “foundation level” by $160 – raising it to $6,119 per pupil.

State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch later warned that without additional revenue, the next year’s education budget picture would be even bleaker than the 2010 fiscal year’s funding plan, which contained nearly $300 million in education cuts. The next year could be worse, he said, because $1 billion in federal economic stimulus money had to be tapped just to fill out the year’s budget for general state aid, and that money would not be available again.

“I would urge you to continue communicating with your lawmakers so that they understand the magnitude of this situation,” Koch told school leaders in his weekly newsletter dated July 28. “Agency staff is working on the impacts to programs from the previous cuts and the additional funding …. we hope to have guidance to the field soon,” Koch added.

Gov. Quinn continued to push for additional state revenues through an increase in the state’s income tax rate to address unfunded education programs.

Bill action

The governor signed a number of significant new education-related bills into law, including:

HB 4711 (Eddy, R-Hutsonville) stipulated that no school district is obligated to comply with any future mandate that is added to the Illinois School Code unless a separate appropriation has also been enacted. The appropriation must provide full funding for the mandate for the school year during which the mandate is required, otherwise the schools are not required to comply. Before discontinuing or modifying a new mandate, however, the school district must petition its regional superintendent of schools on or before February 15 of each year to request to be exempt from implementing the mandate in the next school year. The petition must include all legitimate costs associated with implementing and operating the mandate, the estimated reimbursement from state and federal sources, and any unique circumstances the school district can verify that exist that would cause the implementation and operation of such a mandate to be cost prohibitive. The regional superintendent must then review the petition, convene a public hearing, and on or before March 15, inform the school district of his or her decision. If the regional superintendent does not grant an exemption, the school district must implement the mandate or appeal the decision to the State Superintendent of Education. The bill is now Public Act: 96-1441, and the effective date was August 20, 2010.

HB 5483 (Kosel, R-New Lenox) amended the Open Meetings Act to require a public body to approve the minutes of its open meeting within 30 days after the meeting or at the second subsequent regular meeting. It also requires the minutes to be made available within 10 days (instead of 7 days) after their approval and to post the minutes on the website within 10 days (instead of 7 days) after their approval. Finally, the Act states that any person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials at the meeting. The bill is now Public Act: 96-1473, effective January 1, 2011.

SB 1946 (Cullerton, D-Chicago) established a “two-tier” pension system whereby newly hired school district employees will receive a different standard of pension benefits than those employees that are already participating in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). It does not affect anyone currently participating in a state pension system (including TRS), but only those who enter into a pension system after the effective date of the act (Jan. 1, 2011). For TRS, the Act: calculates the final average salary for pension purposes using the highest average of 8 consecutive years during the last 10 years (currently uses 4 years of last 10 years); increases the age to realize full pension benefits to 67 years old with at least 10 years of service credit in the system; allows for retirement at age 62 with lower retirement annuity; limits the annual average salary for pensionable purposes at $106,800 (indexed to a calculation using the consumer price index); reduces the survivor annuity under certain circumstances; and reduces the cost-of-living adjustment. The bill is now Public Act: 96-0889; the effective date was January 1, 2011 (April 14, 2010 for some parts).

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ILLINOIS EDUCATION

State Board of Education Developments

June 2010 – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopts a revised set of learning standards for K-12 education to better prepare Illinois students for success. A state-led coalition committed to academic rigor and success in the global economy developed the new Common Core State Standards. Illinois had previously joined a coalition of U.S. states driving the initiative to establish fewer, clearer and higher education standards in mathematics and English-language arts.

May 2010 – Illinois students who created a digital archive of their elders’ World War II experiences showcase their work at the ISBE offices in Springfield. The documentaries are made through a project funded by the World War II Illinois Veterans Memorial Board with support from ISBE via the use of facilities and equipment. The documentaries can be viewed at http://wwii.ltc.k12.il.us.

April 2010 – The state celebrates the 25th anniversary of its Prekindergarten Program for Children at-Risk of Academic Failure. Pre-K Legislation adopted in 1985 has served more than 800,000 at-risk children. “The evidence from the economists indicates that one of the most cost-effective strategies we can use to improve education for all children is early education, said Barbara Bowman, founder and faculty member of the Erikson Institute and Chief Early Childhood Education Officer for the Chicago Public Schools.

March 2010 – The annual financial profile of the state’s public schools uses revised data that takes into account that the state is $894 million behind in payments to school districts. The profile shows that 578 districts, or 66.5 percent of all districts, are doing a sound job managing their finances during the state’s fiscal crisis. Just 29 districts appear on the Financial Watch list, down from 156 in 2004.

February 2010 – The ISBE and Northern Illinois University jointly announce that 975 schools have made the Illinois Honor Roll for their continued academic progress. The 2009 honor roll roster includes elementary, middle and high schools, including charter   schools, and represents 362 school districts statewide.

January 2010 – On January 14, the State Board says it has focused on its core agency mission by recommending a state funds reallocation to maintain the existing foundation level of funding for schools. Thus the State Board recommends level funding to maintain the state aid foundation level at $6,119 per pupil in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. The recommendation is sent to the Governor and General Assembly.

December 2009 – The ISBE announces that Illinois ranks fourth in the nation for having the highest number of teachers achieving National Board Certification in 2009. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) released the findings today as part of National Board Certification Day.

November 2009 – At its organizational meeting after the Conference on Nov. 22, 2009, the IASB Board of Directors elected a new treasurer for the Association and chose executive committee members for 2010. Dane Tippett was elected treasurer to serve a two-year term for the 2010 and 2011 calendar years. Tippett previously had been an officer of the Southwestern Division of IASB, and had served since 1995 as a member of the Triad CUSD 2 Board of Education, Troy. Elected to the 2010 executive committee were: Roger Edgecombe, Warrensburg-Latham CUSD 11; Karen Fisher, Ottawa THSD 140; Roger Pfister, Carbondale ESD 95; and Dale Hansen, Grant Park CUSD 6. Also serving on the committee were: President Joseph Alesandrini, Pekin CHSD 303; Vice President Carolyne Brooks, West Richland CUSD 2, Noble; Past President Mark C. Metzger, Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville; and Treasurer Dane Tippett, Triad CUSD 2, Troy.

October 2009 – The state education agency notes that Illinois students are showing improvement on all tests administered by the state and that more than 40 schools and districts are being removed from improvement status as a result of their student performance, attendance rates and graduation rates.

September 2009 – The ISBE Finance and Audit Committee says it will host meetings on the tight FY 2011 state budget at locales around the state, including Champaign, Chicago, DeKalb, Edwards, Mt. Vernon, Springfield and Wheeling.

August 2009 – The ISBE announces that the class of 2009 maintained or made gains in all subject areas tested on the ACT from 2008 to 2009, increasing its composite score for the third year in a row.

July 2009 – The Illinois State Board of Education calls an emergency meeting for July 21, 2009. State Board of Education Chairman Jesse H. Ruiz calls the meeting under the Open Meetings Act for the purpose of acting upon the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget and specifically to recommend to the governor allocations of school funds after lawmakers send the governor an omnibus funding bill without specified allotments for most school purposes.

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THE FEDERAL SCENE

The percentage of Illinois students who meet and exceed state standards on all standardized tests in all subjects combined rose for the sixth consecutive year, according to figures released in May by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).   The figures measure achievement for students tested in 2008 under the No Child Left Behind Act. The bad news, however, was that the number of school districts making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in every subgroup of students dropped for the second straight year.   The drop, with nearly 100 fewer school districts making AYP in 2008 than in the previous year, may partly be attributable to the ever-rising bar for standards established under the federal NCLB law. NCLB requires all states to measure each public school’s and district’s student achievement and establish annual achievement targets for the state. The larger goal is for all students, and all subgroups of students, to meet or exceed standards in reading and mathematics by 2014.

Stimulus money arrived just in time for the second consecutive year. Facing a crippling state budget deficit, Gov. Patrick Quinn proposed a major hike in taxes. But his budget proposal featured more than $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars earmarked for education. The money was used to pay general education expenses and avoid state funding cuts for schools, particularly cuts in General State Aid.

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SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS, 2008-2009

July 2009 – Wayne L. Sampson, 67, former executive director of IASB and former president of the Association’s board of directors, died on July 21, 2009. He served with distinction as executive director of IASB from 1989 until his retirement in 2000. To read more about his career and life, visit https://www.iasb.com/press/sampson.cfm .

August 2009 – IASB announces that housing in a totally renovated Palmer House hotel is just one of the new features added to the 2009 IASB/IASA/Illinois ASBO joint annual conference in Chicago, Nov. 21-23, 2009.   One of the numerous hotels where conference goers may stay at reduced rates, the Palmer House was once the event’s headquarters hotel.

September 2009 – A conference held in Springfield on Sep. 24, co-sponsored by IASB, aims to help school district administrative professionals, including board secretaries, excel. Four breakout sessions cover 20 topics, including: electronic board meetings; student records; Freedom of Information Act; electronic records and the Open Meetings Act; budgeting; employee benefits management; time management; relationship-building; and many other concerns encountered by support professionals.

October 2009 – IASB announces it has handed out more than 300 school board member awards at division dinner meetings in the fall to board members from throughout Illinois. Included were 222 who received Master Board Member awards. Growing participation in the program is observed via IASB’s Members-Only website, http://members.iasb.com, which is the place where program participants go to register participation in relevant activities and track their progress

November 2009 – At its organizational meeting after the Conference on Nov. 22, 2009, the IASB Board of Directors elected a new treasurer for the Association and chose executive committee members for 2010. Dane Tippett was elected treasurer to serve a two-year term for the 2010 and 2011 calendar years. Tippett previously had been an officer of the Wabash Valley Division of IASB, and had served since 1995 as a member of the Triad CUSD 2 Board of Education, Troy. Elected to the 2010 executive committee were: Roger Edgecombe, Warrensburg-Latham CUSD 11; Karen Fisher, Ottawa THSD 140; Roger Pfister, Carbondale ESD 95; and Dale Hansen, Grant Park CUSD 6. Also serving on the committee were: President Joseph Alesandrini, Pekin CHSD 303; Vice President Carolyne Brooks, West Richland CUSD 2, Noble; Past President Mark C. Metzger, Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville; and Treasurer Dane Tippett, Triad CUSD 2, Troy.

December 2009 – IASB releases figures showing the addition of one new member district on the year brought the Association’s membership count to 857. With the addition of Oakdale CCSD 1, fully 98.7 percent of Illinois school districts are members of IASB.

January 2010 – An intensive one-day seminar is held on Jan. 20 at IASB’s Springfield office, designed to assist current superintendents regarding employment as a superintendent. Limited to current superintendents, the seminar includes a detailed description of the Illinois Association of School Boards’ superintendent search process.

February 2010 – IASB announces that its Job fair will go on hiatus for at least one year, a victim of the recession. Due to the economic conditions facing school districts, the Association chose not to host a Job Fair the first time in 15 years for member districts looking to hire teachers and administrators.

March 2010 –   IASB announces it has developed a new publication, “Recruiting School Board Candidates,” to help bring on good board candidates. This material is intended to support an ongoing process of identifying, recruiting and mentoring future school board candidates. The publication is a packet of seven brochures that address various aspects of the recruiting process.

April 2010 – Chicago once again hosts the National School Boards Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition. Approximately 936 Illinois school board members and administrators register and attend. Many IASB staff also joined in the events, held April 9 to 12 at the new McCormick Place West.

May 2010 – IASB announces that Douglas P. Blair, Senior Director of Field Services, has retired after 43 years with the Association. He began his career with IASB on Aug. 23, 1976.   Blair, a former school superintendent, was long “the face of IASB to board members, superintendents, the ISBE state superintendent advisory council, and the IHSA,” said Michael D. Johnson, IASB executive director emeritus. He was involved with approximately 500 superintendent searches.

June 2010 – The 2010-2011 Illinois School Code Service becomes available. IASB offers the newest edition in a package that includes both the “2010 Illinois School Code” and the “2011 School Code Supplement.” Both the School Code and the Supplement consist of print and CD versions of the entire publication. The Association obtains the School Codes from LexisNexis, publishers of state statutes.

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AWARDS AND HONORS

Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. A Jasper County school board president was named recipient of the 2009 Thomas Lay Burroughs Award at the 2009 Joint Annual Conference on November 23. The Illinois State Board of Education presented Fred Huddlestun, president of the Jasper County CUSD 1 Board of Education, with the 2009 award during the annual conference in Chicago. 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. Edward F. Rafferty, leader of Schaumburg CCSD 54 since 2004 and a district employee since 1976, is named the 2010 Illinois Superintendent of the Year at the 2009 Joint Annual Conference. The award is sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Administrators. 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. An expansion of the number of circulation categories for the annual Robert M. Cole Awards competition for 2009 resulted in 17 newspapers winning awards in a competition that is part of the Illinois Press Association’s “Excellence in News” contest. The Cole Awards are sponsored by IASB and conducted by the IPA to recognize newspapers that are doing an outstanding job of covering local school boards. Winning newspapers included: Forest Park Review (Division A); Ledger-Sentinel, Oswego (Division B); Morris Daily Herald (Division D); Sauk Valley Newspapers, Sterling (Division E); The News-Gazette, Champaign (Division F). Named in memory of the first full-time executive director of IASB, the Robert M. Cole Award recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasizes the community's connection with its local public school district. Winners were announced Oct. 9 at the annual convention of the Illinois Press Association. Linda Dawson, IASB director/editorial services, presented plaques to first place winners. Members of the IASB communications staff judged the contest.

Those Who Excel. Five school board members were honored by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2009 for their outstanding service to schools at the 35 th annual Those Who Excel banquet in October. Two school board members received the Award of Excellence: Mark R. Hosto, Highland CUSD 5; and James J. Speciale, Edwardsville CUSD 7. Three school board members won the Award of Merit: Stephanie Duckmann, Community Consolidated School District 62, Des Plaines; Ernestine Stover, Calumet District 142, Calumet Park; and Dean Reschke, Naperville CUSD 203. Candidates were nominated by their local schools and by people in their communities. The nomination included a brief biography of the nominee, his or her philosophy of education, professional development and community involvement and their opinions of the state’s most pressing educational needs. Letters of recommendation are also required. A committee of peers chose the award winners. The committee represents statewide education organizations and includes former award winners. A complete list of award recipients can be found online at http://www.isbe.state.il.us/news/pdf/those_who_excel_list09-10.pdf .

Holly Jack Award. Janet Miller, a 15-year veteran of the Mt. Vernon School District 80 administrative office, was recognized as the first recipient of the Holly Jack Outstanding Service Award. The award, presented at the Joint Annual Conference in November, was created to recognize outstanding work by a school board secretary in memory of a long-time IASB administrative assistant, Holly Jack, who was instrumental in organizing the professional development offered for board/district secretaries at the Conference. Jack died in 2008. “It was a pleasure to work with Holly,” Miller said. “She was a remarkable woman and an inspiration to many.” Miller was chosen from among 22 applicants for the award and her selection was based on the criteria of performance, initiative, innovation, staff development, self-improvement, passion for public education and dedication. The award was presented Friday morning in front of 160 peers who had gathered for the sixth annual board/district secretaries’ workshops. Michael D. Johnson, executive director emeritus of IASB, presented the award in an emotional ceremony for all. Joining the ceremony were Holly Jack’s husband, David, and their three children. Miller was also recognized by IASB President Joe Alesandrini at the third general session on Sunday.

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