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The Education Year in Review -- 2011-2012


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Legislative Issues

Illinois Education

The Federal Scene

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.

Awards and Honors

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

The Illinois Senate approved a House version of the Fiscal Year 2012 state budget that maintained the existing foundation level and fully funded the mandated categorical grant programs at then-current levels. The final budget did not provide any state funding for teacher or administrator mentoring, principal mentoring, standards and assessments, advanced placement or Response to Intervention.

The budget appropriated $6.85 billion to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) – or $171 million less than the FY ’11 ISBE budget. The spending plan maintained the foundation level at $6,119 per pupil. Some provisions of the budget included:

  • a $152 million cut to General State Aid, with a plan to keep the foundation level flat, with a possible proration
  • full funding of mandated categorical grants – including regular transportation, which the governor had slated for the chopping block
  • the elimination of funding for teacher/administrator mentoring, principal mentoring, standards and assessments, advanced placement, growth model assessments, and Response to Intervention
  • restored funding for Regional Offices of Education salaries

Gov. Pat Quinn later trimmed the education budget through the use of his veto pen.   He removed all funding for salaries of regional superintendents of schools and their assistants, and reduced the transportation reimbursement line item by $89 million.

As for the cuts in the transportation line item, the Governor’s office went on record claiming that “getting kids to school is a local responsibility” and he had earlier said that transportation costs can be borne out of a school district’s general state aid (GSA).  

School management advocates criticized that assertion. “Apparently lost in this theory is the fact that any shift of GSA to cover transportation costs will result in less funding available for classroom instruction and student achievement,” said Ben Schwarm, IASB’s associate executive director of governmental relations.

Schwarm added: “Ironically, throughout the spring legislative session the governor had advocated for additional state spending for education. His action…surprised many when he made budget cuts at the expense of public education,” Schwarm said.

During the spring session, House members, in a rare show of agreement between Democrats and Republicans, set $33.2 billion as the maximum budget they would support. That was roughly $1 billion less than Senate Democrats had planned for the budget.

Senators had sent to the House an appropriations bill that added an additional $216 million for K-12 education, attempting to shore up General State Aid funding by $152 million and add funding to other education budget line items. But the House did not concur in the Senate budget amendment and it did not become part of the budget.

At session’s end, then, senators had to retreat from their spending plan, at least temporarily. They could not, for example, convince the House to provide higher funding for educational programs and human services.

Construction grants

Governor Pat Quinn announced on Feb. 16, 2012 that school districts statewide would receive a total of $623 million in capital funding to construct new buildings or expand or update existing ones.

Grant agreements were sent to 31 districts statewide, said David Blanchette, spokesman for the Illinois Capital Development Board.

While many of the grants awarded were for projects that have since been completed in the nearly 10 years since the money was first pledged, school districts will have an opportunity to be reimbursed and may even plan for more changes in the future.

Each of the districts receiving money was officially approved for the funding this fiscal year after their projects were certified by ISBE and the Illinois Capital Development Board. The districts had submitted proposed projects to those two state agencies, which signed off on their plans and the funding for the projects.

The money came to schools through Illinois Jobs Now – an initiative designed to create an estimated 4,000 construction jobs throughout the state – and is provided through funding separate from the general revenue funds. The capital funding, combined with local dollars, was intended to allow the 31 school districts to complete projects totaling more than $1.2 billion.

The single largest share of the money, or $114 million, was earmarked for Chicago District 299. The second-largest share, $56.62 million, was for Marion Community Unit School District 2. The remaining funds were to be distributed to more than a dozen suburban school districts and other districts around the state.

Peoria SD 150, which was to receive, $34.6 million, had a five-part plan that included using the money to pay off about $5 million in existing capital fund debt from projects completed since the grant was first promised. It was to be used to fund mandatory health, life and safety work; to pay for future capital funds projects, which may include adding air conditioning to the schools; to speed up construction work on Peoria High School; and to stabilize the property tax for at least three years.

The reason it took so long to provide the grant money was because state legislators had refused to pass a capital funds bill for many years. Before the passage of the Illinois Jobs Now capital construction program, the state had not had a major capital construction program in more than a decade.

But insiders noted there was no guarantee when the district will receive the grant, particularly considering the state’s poor financial health.

Governor Quinn also announced that the state was making available $50 million in School Maintenance Grant Program grants. The dollar-for-dollar state matching grant program provided up to $50,000 in matching funds for the maintenance or upkeep of buildings or structures for educational purposes.

Bill action

The governor signed a number of significant new education-related bills into law in 2011, including:

SB 2147 ( Sullivan, D-Rushville), to pay regional superintendents, was approved by lawmakers in the legislature’s Veto Session on Nov. 10 with an amendment sponsored by Rep. Frank Mautino(D-Spring Valley). State lawmakers had finally agreed on a way to pay the salaries of these officials.

The bill required that the salaries of regional superintendents and regional assistants be paid out of Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax (CPPRT) funds for fiscal year 2012 only. The bill allowed for the regional superintendents to receive their paychecks, retroactively, for the 2010-2011 school year, and to revisit the larger issue of the role of the Regional Offices of Education (ROE) the next year.

The intent was that over the year lawmakers would study the role of each ROE and make changes accordingly. The bill created the “Streamlining Illinois’ Regional Offices of Education Commission” to “explore and examine all duties of the State Board of Education and all regional offices of education and intermediate service centers.”

The commission was also instructed to examine, in order to more appropriately and efficiently deliver services, the boundaries of the educational service regions in order to determine which duties and responsibilities should be provided regionally and whether the boundaries of the education service regions should be expanded to streamline the regional offices of education.

SB 2147 [now Public Act 97-0619] was approved by the House on a vote of 74-36 after the Senate had passed the bill 38-16-1. An accompanying appropriations bill, SB 2458, was also approved by both chambers. The governor signed both bills on Nov. 14, 2011.

SB 79 establishingthe Illinois State Charter School Commission under terms of the Charter School Quality Act of 2011 was signed into law on July 20, 2011.

The bill said educators, parents, community organizations, and others may form a non-profit board to apply to start a charter school. If approved, the non-profit receives a five-year contract or “charter” to operate the school. At the end of the five years, the school’s academic performance is evaluated to determine if the results are strong enough to continue to operate.

A nine-member commission was established to evaluate proposals for new charter schools that are denied by local school districts and subsequently appealed to the state. But the commission was left with the final say on charter startups, rather than local school districts.

School officials said more school districts could see some of their students and state aid diverted to state-chartered schools with the establishment of the Commission. The new panel replaced the Illinois State Board of Education as the authority for approving state chartered schools when local districts oppose a proposed charter.

At its first meeting, Nov. 15, 2011, the Commission began its work of evaluating proposals for new charter schools throughout Illinois.   This law isPublic Act 97-0152.

HB 605 , signed into law in January 2012, (sponsored by Rep. Linda Chapa La Via, D-Aurora), overhauled requirements in the state’s school report card system. It affects how districts and individual schools report their data.

State officials said the revised cards would help the state better evaluate the success of schools, programs and districts by allowing ready comparisons between similar schools across the state, as well as current and past outcomes and progress. New detailed reports are publicly available but designed for use by district and school leaders, with performance breakdowns by demographic subgroups and additional information.

Meanwhile, separate, more compact report cards for parents are now simplified, compressing the over 10 pages of data previously reported into a two-page summary.

The required data for schools to report would change by grade level. The elementary school cards would show, for example, the number of students who attended preschool, while the high school cards would indicate how many freshmen have stayed on track academically at their school and how many graduates are completing their first year of college without the need to take remedial courses.

The revised school report cards were required to roll out by October 2013. No less than 30 days after receiving their cards from the state superintendent, every school district is required to present them to the public at a regular school board meeting, and to post them on the district website, meanwhile making them available to local newspapers, and sending them home to parents when requested.

School reports previously were published every fall for all public schools and contained a wealth of data, covering everything from key student demographics to test scores to average teacher salary. Under the new law, the report cards must include the following data:

  • School characteristics and student demographics;
  • Curriculum information, including the course and classes offered;
  • Student outcomes, including the percentage of students meeting or exceeding State standards on assessments;
  • Student progress, including the percentage of students who enter high school “on track for college and career readiness;” and
  • School environment, including student and teacher absenteeism, teacher medical leaves, teacher and principal turnover, and the combined percentage of teachers rated as proficient or excellent in their most recent evaluation.

The law is Public Act 97-0671, was effective Jan. 24.

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ILLINOIS EDUCATION

State Board of Education Developments

June 2012 – The ISBE announces that in response to the state’s budget crisis it will remove the ISAT writing assessment for grades 3, 5, 6 and 8 during the 2010-11 school year. The ISAT writing assessments are not part of the federal No Child Left Behind mandate, and Illinois receives no federal dollars to support the writing tests. The NCLB law only requires math and reading assessments.

May 2012 –The Illinois State Board of Education names six people May 17 to serve on a financial oversight panel for East St. Louis to help that district remain financially solvent. The oversight panel will allow the school district to apply for a loan with the Illinois Finance Authority, according to state officials. State Superintendent of Education Chris Koch later recommends the dissolution of the locally elected school boards governing financially troubled East St. Louis SD 189 and North Chicago CUSD 187.

April 2012 – The ISBE announces it is moving forward with plans to implement the Illinois Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS), a comprehensive process to provide data to improve instruction. It is hoped the tool also will help drive policy and professional development to help gauge whether or not kindergartners have the basic skills and knowledge needed to succeed. The KIDS tool is a survey-based process that will yield data for a variety of purposes and move away from a one-time “readiness snapshot.” Officials anticipate that KIDS will be administered to all Illinois kindergartners by no later than school year (SY) 2015.

March 2012 – The ISBE says more high school students in Illinois took Advanced Placement (AP) exams in 2011 than ever before. In all, 29 percent of high school seniors took at least one AP exam, twice the rate of 2001. The rise was particularly evident among Latino students, as participation of Latinos in AP classes quadrupled over the decade. The portion of students passing the tests was up, as well — by 7.5 percent, according to ISBE.

February 2012 – There is a delay for some districts in a recent general state aid (GSA) payment, ISBE reports Feb. 21. The Comptroller’s Office said there was a glitch in their transferring of funds and that for a quarter of all GSA recipients the payment was delayed. It normally would have been released Feb. 10, but was delayed until the following business day. “The Comptroller’s Office assures us this was an unfortunate error and is not indicative of any problems with timely GSA payment moving forward,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch.

January 2012 – The state releases its first-ever report cards for Chicago’s charter school campuses. Results show more than 20 schools in some of the city’s largest charter networks scored considerably below district-wide averages on basic standardized tests. Test scores for charters outside Chicago are below state averages in some cases, as well. The information is available online at: http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/getSearchCriteria.aspx.

December 2011 – Illinois is among the states chosen in the federal education competition to receive a share of $200 million in “Race to the Top” money to improve K-12 education programs, the Education Department announced Dec. 22. Illinois wins $42.8 million. The Obama administration has awarded billions of dollars in such competitions to encourage changes in education that it favors.

November 2011 – Release of the Common Core standards-related Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Model Content Frameworks in math and English/language arts are announced. In addition, two Webinars about the Content Frameworks are promoted by the ISBE.

October 2011 – The ISBE announces that the Illinois graduating Class of 2011’s composite ACT score is the highest of the 10 states that test 90 percent or more of their students. Illinois’ composite score of 20.9 continues the state’s long-term trend of incremental improvement. The state’s high school class of 2011 posts higher scores on the ACT college entrance exam compared to their 2010 counterparts, scoring 20.9 compared to 20.7 the year before.

September 2011 – The ISBE notes the state has released guides for schools, parents and physicians on the Emergency Epinephrine Act. The new law allows schools to keep a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors on hand and for school nurses to administer an injection to a student believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction. The drug can save lives by helping to open closed airways in the lungs.

August 2011 –In pursuit of new state standards for public schools, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) releases draft model content frameworks for public review Aug. 3. The frameworks identify the main ideas in the Common Core State Standards for each grade level and aim to help determine the focus for various state assessments being developed. Final frameworks will be released in the fall. PARCC is 24-state consortium working to develop common assessments. Visit http://www.parcconline.org for more information.

July 2011– Posting of 2011 Prairie State Achievement Exam scores are delayed because of widespread flooding. Scores for the 2011 PSAE were originally scheduled to

be posted by July 12, 2011. Due to severe spring flooding experienced by many southern Illinois school districts, additional PSAE makeup testing is allowed to take place one week later than the original makeup testing dates.

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THE FEDERAL SCENE

Illinois chosen to pilot federal meals plan. Illinois was one of three states selected to pilot a federal universal option that promises to expand access to free meals to all students in schools that have high percentages of low-income children. More than 1,200 public schools in Illinois were eligible to participate and provide free meals to more than 500,000 students at the start of the 2011-12 school year. “This option eliminates some of the paperwork for schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch.   The program announced in June eliminated the use of applications and parental income verification in high-poverty schools under the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Schools can use preexisting data to determine the amount of reimbursement they claim from USDA. To participate, a district needed at least one school with 40 percent or more of students “directly certified” for federal free meals programs.   For more information, including a recorded webinar and CEO worksheets, visit: http://www.isbe.net/nutrition/htmls/hunger_free.htm.

AYP numbers released . Fully 65 percent of the state’s schools fell short of making adequate yearly progress stipulated under the federal No Child Left Behind Act after 51 percent of the state’s public schools fell short the previous year under the law. Test scores released on Oct. 31, 2011 for every school in Illinois showed some gains, but not enough to meet what most educators characterized as questionable expectations under the federal NCLB Act. That had been the case in Illinois and other states for some time. But this year, the results came as federal education officials said they will offer new flexibility under the waivers to the law that requires that every child pass state tests by 2014. Calling for a new system of accountability, Illinois education officials said they would apply for one of the federal waivers in February. “We are mislabeling the performance of schools. It alarms people unnecessarily in many cases,” Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico said. “The current system does not measure or acknowledge progress.” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan admitted NCLB had been a failure, stating: “Whether it’s 50 percent, 80 percent, or 100 percent of schools being incorrectly labeled as failing, one thing is clear: No Child Left Behind is broken. That’s why we’re moving forward with giving states flexibility from the law in exchange for reforms that drive student success.” The NCLB law has been up for renewal since 2007. But lawmakers have been stymied for years by competing priorities and disagreements over how much of a federal role there should be in schools.

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SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS, 2010-2011

July 2011 – IASB announces a new on-line application process for executive searches that means information about and from candidates can be accessed quickly and candidates can apply and modify their materials at their convenience. The new online process eliminates the need for mailing, emailing or faxing application packets to candidates or waiting for applicants to submit their materials in the same manner, according to Donna Johnson, director of IASB executive searches. The application process starts at: https://illinois.executivesearchservices.com/applicant/login.aspx.

August 2011 – IASB’s newly revised Basics of Governance workshop is well received at multiple locations. While the governance workshops were all wrapped up for the year in August, other new board member workshops would continue through Sep. 24.

September 2011 – IASB membership now totals 852 school districts or 98.6 percent of all school districts in the state. That announcement is made after East Prairie District 73 Skokie, rejoins as a member district after being gone for a year.

October 2011 – To thank the nearly 6,000 elected school board members in Illinois, IASB announces that November 15, 2011, is designated as “School Board Members Day.” IASB develops a package of materials to help celebrate, and encourages appropriate district personnel to contact their community leaders, business partners and local civic groups to join in recognition efforts.

November 2011 – The November/December issue of The Illinois School Board Journal explores cyberharassment issues as well as offering information on using new technology in classrooms, mandatory training for board members and reasons to conduct better screening for volunteers in schools.

December 2011 – The Association announces it will offer a new course beginning in the spring designed to provide state-mandated Open Meetings Act training for school board members. Another new online course is designed for those board members who want to meet the state’s new training requirements for school board fiduciary responsibilities.

January 2012 –IASB membership records show the turnover rate of Illinois school board members in 2011 elections was 21.7 percent. The results nearly match the 2009 election results, representing the lowest turnover rate seen in the previous 12 biennial elections. Records indicate 1,288 new members filled board seats in 2011, out of 5,931 board seats. In 2009, 1,297 new board members were seated out of a total of 5,967 board seats. Turnover rates over the previous 12 elections ranged from a low of 22.0 percent in 1999, to a high of 30.4 percent in 1989.

February 2012 – Roger Eddy of Hustonville is chosen as the new executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards by the organization’s board of directors at their quarterly meeting Feb. 26. Eddy, 53, agrees to assume the post July 1, replacing Michael D. Johnson, retiring June 30, 2012 after nearly 12 years as the Association’s CEO.

March 2012 – IASB’s Illinois School Board Newsbulletin reports that the popularity and use of the Association’s public website was evident in 2011, as the number of “hits” to the site topped 1.5 million for the first time. Total page “views” topped 1 million for the third year in a row.

April 2012 – IASB announces it is surveying members that use the Association’s policy subscription services, seeking feedback on their experiences with these services. Policy subscription services include School Board Policies Online, publishing local school board policy manuals online; PRESS Plus, providing full-maintenance of local school board policy manuals; and BoardBook ®, providing e-delivery of board meeting packets and e-board meetings. Policies online and PRESS Plus surveys were sent by email in April.

May 2012 – IASB announces that by early September it will begin to offer Open Meetings Act (OMA) training online. The course will fulfill the state’s mandatory training requirement for school board members. This course, an online version of the IASB’s OMA training offered at the Joint Annual Conference and in each of its 21 divisions over the previous several months, is tailored specifically for school board members and board meetings.

June 2012 – Incoming IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy names his choice for deputy executive director, naming Ben Schwarm to that important position, effective July 1. Schwarm has been with the Association since 1990, serving in various capacities in the governmental relations department. He began as assistant director for governmental relations, was promoted to director of the department, and had been serving as associate executive director and heading up IASB legislative efforts for 12 years.

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AWARDS AND HONORS

Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. Shelly F. Marks, board president in Homewood SD 153, was honored as the year’s Thomas Lay Burroughs Award winner at the 2011 Joint Annual Conference in November. Marks, who won the award that goes to the outstanding board president of the year, was honored for her accomplishments and for being “highly visible with a very approachable style.” In her nine years as board president the district cut its achievement gap in half while spending less per pupil than the state average. Marks praised her fellow board members for their dedication and for coming to the table without an agenda. But, she added, “It takes everyone from the lunch ladies and the aides on the playground right up to the superintendent and the parents to make things happen.” 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.   Peter F. Flynn, superintendent of Freeport District 145was awarded the Illinois Superintendent of the Year honors from the Illinois Association of School Administrators at the 2011 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 top winners for 2011 in the 30 th annual newspaper coverage award sponsored by IASB, were: Woodford County Journal, Eureka, (Weekly under 3,000 circulation); Paxton Record (Weekly 3001-10,000 circulation); Daily Chronicle, DeKalb (Daily under 10,000 circulation); Quincy Herald-Whig (Daily 10,001-40,000 circulation); Belleville News-Democrat (Daily more than 40,000 circulation). 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 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. Eight school board members are honored by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2011 for their outstanding service to Illinois schools at the 37th annual Those Who Excel/Teacher of the Year banquet on Oct. 22 in Bloomington. Two board members received the top-level Excel award, the Award of Excellence, namely William Dussling, Township High School District 214, Arlington Heights; and Anthony Quagliano, Consolidated District 158, Algonquin. Three school board members won the Award of Merit, including: Daniel Romito, Ridgewood High School District 234, Norridge; Beverley Scroggins, Granite City CUSD 9; and Scott Lay, McLean County Unit District 5, Normal. Three other board members honored in the school board category of the Excel Awards were Raymond Imig, CCSD 62, Des Plaines; Marc Tepper, Kildeer Countyside CCSD 96, Buffalo Grove; and Monica Laurent, Edwardsville CUSD 7.

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