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The Education Year in Review -- 2010-2011


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Legislative Issues

Illinois Education

The Federal Scene

Significant Developments

Awards and Honors

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

Governor Quinn signed several bills into law on July 1, 2010 that put the state’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget into effect. The governor spared the General State Aid foundation level funding, which remained at the prior level of $6,119 per pupil. Mandated categorical grants, with the exception of student transportation, were also mostly spared.

The budget was largely written in red ink, and an even wider imbalance was created when the Senate did not call a bill for a vote on a borrowing plan to allow the state to make its annual pension fund payments. Although there was some expectation for the Senate to return before the end of June to address the pension borrowing bill, that failed to materialize, as Senate President John Cullerton continued to say there were not enough Senate votes to pass the bill.

The cost of the pension payment for FY 2011 was $3.7 billion and no revenue source was identified to cover that major payment.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) met in the last week of June to discuss, among other things, the allocation of funding dollars for individual education budget line items. According to the appropriations bill approved by the legislature in May, funding for General State Aid in FY 2011 was intended to fund the existing foundation level of $6,119 per pupil, and funding for the mandated categorical grants was underfunded by $327 million. For all of the other grant items, the legislature issued a lump sum to the ISBE for the board to allocate.

According to the ISBE, several education budget line items were “zeroed out,” appropriating nothing for FY 2011 fiscal year, including: Advanced Placement, After School Matters, Ag Education, Arts and Foreign Language, Summer Bridges, Reading Improvement Block Grant, Grow Your Own Teachers, National Board Certification, Teach for America, ADA Block Grant, Re-Enrolling Students Program, and the School Breakfast Incentive.

The ISBE requested that the governor and the General Assembly appropriate additional funds to cover these budget line items. The FY 2011 ISBE budget can be found online at: http://www.isbe.net/budget/FY11_bd_alloc.pdf.

In finalizing his budget priorities on July 1, 2010, Governor Quinn said he was making public education a priority, especially the General State Aid formula. The appropriation bill for the ISBE was intended to fund the foundation level at the existing level, and this line item was untouched by the governor.  

The mandated categorical grants, announced by the legislature in May as taking a $327 million hit, only saw a reduction of $84 million. This was the result of a cut in regular student transportation reimbursements, a cut totaling 20 percent of the general transportation line item . The governor, however, allocated additional dollars to early childhood education to level fund this line item the same as FY 2010.

School supporters are still trying to decipher the various budget forms, bills, and vetoes to determine exactly how the education budget shakes out. ISBE has announced it should have an updated budget on its webpage soon.

Construction grants

In July the Illinois State Board of Education transmitted a priority ranking of school districts entitled to school construction grants from the Capital Development Board in accordance with Section 5-15 of the state’s school construction law (105 ILCS 230/5-15) and the 23 Illinois Administrative Code, Section 151-School Construction Program.

The program had been on hiatus since Fiscal Year 2003.

Jointly administered by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Capital Development Board, the School Construction Program was revitalized with the passage of a capital bill in the spring of 2010. The legislation provided a $1.5 billion appropriation for the state-local matching grant program.

The FY2003 application cycle had included 94 applications (excluding Chicago Public Schools), 78 of which were eligible for matching grants under the program. In addition, five emergency applications were submitted for the FY2011 application cycle, four of which were eligible for grants.

Districts that filed applications for FY2004 were at long last contacted for updated application information, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. For more information, contact the ISBE’s School Business Services Division at 217/785-8779.

Bill action

The governor signed a number of significant new education-related bills into law in 2010, including:

A bill stating 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 that provides full funding for the mandate for the school year in which the mandate is required. The bill, HB 4711 (Eddy, R-Hutsonville), also applies to any state regulation containing a new mandate added entirely by the Illinois State Board of Education. Before discontinuing or modifying a new mandate, however, the school district must petition its regional superintendent of schools for approval. If approved by the regional superintendent, the school district may choose to discontinue or modify the mandated activity to ensure that the costs of compliance do not exceed the funding received. [Public Act 96-1441, effective Aug. 20, 2010.]

Legislation to amend the Open Meetings Act to require public bodies, including school boards, to approve the minutes of their open meeting within 30 days after their meeting or at the second subsequent regular meeting. HB 5483 (Kosel, R-New Lenox), also required the minutes to be made available within 10 days (instead of seven days) after their approval. It mandated that public bodies post the minutes on the website within 10 days (instead of seven days) after their approval. The bill stated that any person on hand must be permitted the opportunity to address public officials at an open meeting.  

Another noteworthy bill signed into law established new requirements for principal certification. This bill, SB 226 (Demuzio), allowed the administrative certificate for principals to be issued by an institution of higher learning or a not-for-profit entity approved by the Illinois State Board of Education. The principal endorsement can only be bestowed upon someone with at least four years of teaching experience, except that State Board regulations can provide for someone with less than four years of teaching experience to receive the endorsement. This law also sets out more stringent standards for principal preparation programs and allows the State Board to adopt rules for such programs. [Public Act 96-0903, it became effective on July 1, 2010.]

Legislation, contained in HB 4647 (Davis, M., D-Chicago), requires the Anti-Crime Advisory Council, the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Board of Education to establish a hotline for the purpose of receiving anonymous phone calls for information that may prevent violence. [Public Act 96-0939, its effective date is Jan. 1, 2011, but some parts of the law became effective when the governor signed it on June 24, 2010.]

A bill signed into law as the budget implementation act, SB 3662 (Noland, D-Elgin). Amending the School Code, it retains the existing per pupil foundation level at $6,119. However it states that if the appropriations are not sufficient to cover the costs of the foundation level, General State Aid (GSA) could be prorated. [Public Act 96-0959, effective July 1, 2010.]

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ILLINOIS EDUCATION

State Board of Education Developments

June 2011 – The ISBE announces it is moving forward with the development of a kindergarten readiness assessment. The Kindergarten Individual Development Survey process, or KIDS, would look at things such as a child’s development of language, social, and emotional skills, health and approaches toward learning. But because of state budget cuts to education there is no specific timeline attached.

May 2011 – The Illinois House overwhelmingly passes Senate Bill 7, a sweeping package of education reforms focused on changing how teachers are hired, fired and promoted. The bill, which unanimously passed the Illinois Senate and was quickly signed by the governor. This bill builds on the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) passed the previous year, which tied teacher and principal evaluations to student growth. The new legislation will: make performance a key criteria in layoffs, transfers and teaching assignments; reform tenure to reward a strong record of effective performance; streamline longstanding and cumbersome dismissal procedures; increase transparency in contract negotiations; and give Chicago Public Schools greater ability to lengthen the school day and year.

April 2011 – The Illinois State Board of Education assumes control of financial and educational operations of East St. Louis School District 189. A special educational consultant answerable to State Superintendent Christopher Koch and to the state board is later sent in. Under state law, the consultant reviews all operations and has authority and final say over the school board. ISBE said that District 189 administrative costs were more than twice the state average of 3.5 percent. The district also had been on a watch list of under-performing schools for four years.

March 2011 – A set of amendments to rules pertaining to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) recently adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education are now in effect, ISBE announces. The rules took effect on March 17, 2011.  

February 2011 – ISBE notes that in the previous five years elementary and secondary enrollment has dropped from 2,033,629 students in 2005-06 to 2,003,606 in 2010-11. That’s a loss of 30,023 students, or 1.5 percent.

January 2011 – Firing what is traditionally the first shot in the state budget battle over school funding, State Superintendent Christopher Koch presents his FY11 budget on Jan. 12 and 13. He recommends a “flat budget,” meaning no increase in the foundation level, at $6,119 per pupil. The Illinois State Board of Education’s final budget recommendation calls appropriations for the foundation level in the General State Aid formula to be funded at $4.64 billion in FY11.   This is the amount necessary to fund the foundation level the same as last year, but it represents a $43.4 million increase.

December 2010 – ISBE announces Illinois ranks third nationally for the number of teachers who achieved National Board Certification in 2010 and sixth in the nation for the cumulative total of 4,692 teachers who had earned this professional milestone. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) informed ISBE of the findings on Dec. 15. It was the fifth year in a row that Illinois ranked among the top 10 states.

November 2010 – The Illinois State Board of Education adopts a “Code of Ethics” for all Illinois educators, including it in state regulations under Chapter 23, section 22.20. No school board policy or administrative procedure is required or recommended, but the code, which applies mainly to teachers and other certificated educators. But officials said the code may be of note to school leaders who wish to ensure that their district’s professional educators comply with ethical guidelines.

October 2010 – Christopher Koch, state superintendent of schools, renews his message of caution and fiscal restraint in regard to school finances – a message he has offered to school board members and superintendents for more than a year. “Be careful with raises because you don’t know what the future holds,” Koch told those assembled in Fairbury for IASB’s Corn Belt Division dinner meeting on Oct. 14. Koch said teacher raises right now may also send the wrong message to the public and the legislature.

September 2010 – ISBE releases its Guidelines for Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Illinois Schools. Every school board is required to implement a policy based on these guidelines by Jan. 1, 2011, according to Public Act 96-0349. The guidelines, include checklists and training resources.

August 2010 – The State Board submits a progress report to its Strategic Plan as required by Public Act 93-1036. ISBE was required in 2005 to develop a five-year Comprehensive Strategic Plan for Elementary and Secondary Education in Illinois and to update it annually. The Progress Report for 2010 can be viewed at http://isbe.net/reports/strategic_plan10.pdf .

July 2010 – Illinois becomes the 13 th state to give final approval to the Common Core State Standards, joining a push to create a single standard for reading and math instruction across the nation.

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THE FEDERAL SCENE

Federal stimulus money funds programs. Gov. Pat Quinn officially applied to get $415 million from the federal government on Aug. 17   to help Illinois schools hire more teachers. Congress approved the controversial additional spending earlier that month, in legislation focused on reducing the number of teacher layoffs in local school districts across the nation. The legislation provided $10 billion to help save an estimated 160,000 jobs nationwide, including nearly 5,700 teaching positions in Illinois. “In a matter of weeks, Illinois will have this money so that many of our hard-working teachers of our state can get back to work ensuring students receive the best education possible,” Quinn stated.   The governor submitted Illinois’ application for funds to the U.S. Department of Education, which had been made available on Aug. 13. “It’s our understanding that the governor and comptroller believe that it would not require the General Assembly to come back immediately to appropriate the funds,” Vanover said. The Illinois State Board of Education had already approved giving State Superintendent Chris Koch the authority to distribute the money faster.

Stimulus money masks state revenue shortfall. Sizable growth in federal sources masked the extremely poor performance of the state’s own revenue sources. In fact, when $899 million in federal source growth is excluded, all other revenue would have been down a crippling $944 million. More than a billion in federal stimulus dollars flowed to local educational agencies in Illinois in 2010, part of a nationwide effort to stave off mass layoffs and program cuts stemming from the national recession and worsening state budget shortfalls. Illinois received $3 billion in federal aid in 2009 and 2010 combined.   The money was used to pay general education expenses and avoid state funding cuts for schools, particularly cuts in General State Aid. State legislative sources confirmed, however, that despite being in the early stages of an economic recovery by 2011, sources of state revenue related to the the larger economy, such as income and sales, continued to suffer tremendously from the recession’s effect.

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SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS, 2010-2011

July 2010 – IASB records show more than 98.7 percent of all school districts in Illinois belong to the Association. That represents the highest proportion of membership ever. Of 866 school districts in the state, 855 districts hold membership in IASB.

August 2010 – Four of the new policy-setting resolutions proposed by member districts relate directly to the ongoing fiscal crisis faced by school districts. One of the more controversial resolutions offers a plan to allow schools to withhold monthly payroll tax payments to the state department of revenue. The resolution, courtesy of Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville, calls upon IASB to push for legislation allowing school districts to set off income tax payments due to the state against the amounts owed to them by the state. Proponents said this could provide school districts with critical funding and lessen the impact of past-due state payments.

September 2010 – IASB announces that in a salute to the nearly 6,000 school board members in the state, November 15, 2010, is designated as “School Board Members Day” in Illinois. A postcard is mailed from the Association to give advance notice of this opportunity to build community awareness and understanding about the crucial role an elected board of education assumes in a representative democracy. IASB offers materials and suggestions for celebrating board members and thanking them for their service.

October 2010 – Many Joint Annual Conference panel handouts prepared for the 2010 “big event” begin arriving at IASB offices for posting to the Members-Only website, http://members.iasb.com. This year an effort is made to post as many handouts as possible on that site even earlier than in 2009, the first year such handouts were posted online.

November 2010 – IASB resolves to seek to have General Assembly determine the amount of available funding for educational entitlements and general state aid to schools by March 31 each year rather than late May. A vote favoring greater state funding certainty takes place on the floor of the Delegate Assembly Nov. 21. The proposal is one of six resolutions considered by more than 315 Illinois school districts at the annual Assembly held Nov. 20 in Chicago. Sponsors note that local school leaders have been forced to make decisions on school district budgets without any reliable guidance on the level of state funding.

December 2010 – IASB announces it is offering a new Online Learning Center course called “Introduction To Parliamentary Procedure.” This course is a must for all school board members. The purpose is to help enrollees learn the basics of parliamentary procedure and how to use these skills in their board work.   

January 2011 – The IASB executive committee affirmed the following assignments for its own membership at its Jan. 22 meeting: Roger Edgecombe, Roger Pfister, Karen Fisher, Dale Hansen; in addition to President Joe Alesandrini, Vice President Carolyne Brooks, Immediate Past President Mark C. Metzger, and Treasurer Dane Tippett.

February 2011 – The National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) lobbying effort by school board leaders, known as the 38th Annual FRN Conference, is held in Washington, D.C. Conference participants join with colleagues from across the nation to seek NCLB repair, and the adoption of a school board ‘agenda’ that supports local public school districts.

March 2011 – Beginning this month IASB hosts several workshops designed to help district secretaries learn about free, online tools and how to use them more effectively. Topics include MS Word software techniques and tips, and other free, online tools that can make the district secretary’s job easier and more productive. Organizers say district secretaries who attended these workshops on Tech Tools for the 21st Century Secretary learn how to best use such tools to raise their level of professionalism. The half-day workshops are held at three locations.

April 2011 – IASB announced that starting in June it will post online the registration and housing forms needed for the 2011 Joint Annual Conference, meaning that the forms will no longer be mailed in early June as they have been in previous years. The change was made to more equitably provide conference registration and housing applications to all member school districts.

May 2011 – IASB new board member workshops for spring and summer are listed in the Illinois School Board Newsbulletin in the wake of the April school board elections. “The Basics of Governance” workshop will focus on board and board-member roles and responsibilities and what effective school district governance looks like. Topics will include: the role and work of the school board and how to distinguish it, from the role and work of the superintendent and staff, the school board’s relationship to the community, how each member relates to the full board, plus some practical tips and pitfalls to avoid.

June 2011 – IASB announces that effective with the July 2011 issue, the Illinois School Board Newsbulletin will become an online-only publication, saving on money on production costs and time in distribution. In addition to being available online in text or PDF format, anyone who provides IASB with a valid e-mail address can receive regular notifications when the next issue is available online.

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AWARDS AND HONORS

Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. Joanne Zendol of Berwyn South SD 100, was honored as the year’s Thomas Lay Burroughs Award winner at the 2008 Joint Annual Conference in November. Zendol, who won the award that goes to the outstanding board president of the year, reflected on a 20-year career serving a district of 3,900 students. The district and school board president were praised for displaying sharp focus in passing a referendum in 2009 to equalize opportunities for students, regardless of where they live.” 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.   Robert Gillum, superintendent of Ball-Chatham CUSD 5 was awarded the Illinois Superintendent of the Year honors from the Illinois Association of School Administrators at the 2010 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. The 2010 top winners in the newspaper coverage award sponsored by IASB, were: The Doings, Hinsdale (weeklies division A); Lemont Reporter/Met, Suburban Life Publications (weeklies division B); Wednesday Journal, Oak Park (weeklies division C); Morris Daily Herald (dailies division D); Quincy Herald-Whig (dailies division E); The News-Gazette, Champaign (dailies division F). The competition recognizes “outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community’s connection with its local public school district.” Entries were judged on: their contribution to public understanding of local school governance; and their support for effective dialogue that helps the community and school board define major public policy issues Members of the IASB communications staff judged the entries and considered enterprise, depth of reporting and clarity of writing.   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. Seven school board members are honored by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2010 for their outstanding service to Illinois schools at the 36th annual Those Who Excel/Teacher of the Year banquet on Oct. 16 in Peoria. One board member receives the top-level Excel award, the Award of Excellence, namely Steven G. Adams, Community Consolidated District 62, DesPlaines. Five school board members won the Award of Merit, including: Robert J. LeFevre, Jr., Township High School District 211, Palatine; John S. Ewald, Hamilton County CUSD 10, McLeansboro; Bonnie Shlensky, Township High School District 113, Highland Park; Stephen Omolecki, Ottawa Elementary District 141, Ottawa; and Jill Bertels, Edwardsville Community Unit School District 7. One other board member honored in the school board category of the Excel Awards was Barbara Stanger, Westchester District 92½.

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