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The Education Year in Review -- 2013-2014


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Legislative Issues

Illinois Education

The Federal Scene

Significant Developments

Awards and Honors

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

Gov. Patrick Quinn proposed $400 million in cuts to public education, including about $150 million in general state aid for local schools and $145 million in transportation funding. After three years of living with significant cuts in funding in school districts’ transportation reimbursement, the state funding would have been even more significantly reduced had the governor had his way.

School advocates point out that community unit districts have been mandated to provide school busing for nearly 100 years. Most districts offer transportation because the parents and communities want it to be provided to reduce traffic congestion and increase child safety. But in the governor’s budget, the regular transportation reimbursement line item would have been prorated at 19 percent. Gov. Quinn also had cut the line item in two previous fiscal years.

District officials had anticipated cuts in general state aid, but many said they were blindsided by the proposed deep reductions in transportation. Many districts had received a significant amount of transportation aid. Districts geographically large or more rural had qualified for considerable sums in aid because significant numbers of their students resided more than 1.5 miles from their schools.

As mentioned, the state had cut transportation funding for several years but, unlike the reaction to cuts in general state aid, legislators had said little about these cuts. Many school districts already were operating transportation budgets at a deficit, spending much more than their revenue every year, and in some cases drawing from reserves.

Over the previous three years, the governor and legislature had cut the transportation payments to a 74 percent proration level. As a result, some districts were forced to cut down on bus routes.

The Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance took a lead role in transportation reimbursement discussions in Springfield.

“We should take a long, hard look at any such proposals before making any legislative change,” said IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm. “School board members will first take into account the safety and well-being of the students. And reducing bus routes, requiring parents to drive their children to school, and charging for student transportation may not be in the best interest of the students, parents, and members of the community. The state will just have to pay for some things,” Schwarm said.

Ultimately that viewpoint resonated with state legislators who rejected the governor’s proposed transportation funding cuts when a Fiscal Year 2014 state budget was approved and sent to Gov. Quinn in late May. The spending plan generally spared elementary and secondary education from cuts and held spending levels to the FY 2013 amounts.

General State Aid was once again prorated at 89%, and mandated categorical grants, including regular transportation, were funded at the same levels as FY ’13. The effective foundation level was estimated to be $5,720 per pupil.

Had the governor’s proposed cuts been adopted, the GSA proration would have fallen to 82% and the regular transportation reimbursement would have been decimated.

Some other adjustments to budget line items for the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE):

  • ISBE Learning Standards and Assessments Materials, cut $2 million
  • Arts and Foreign Language, cut $500,000
  • Advanced Placement, cut $27,000
  • ISBE State Tech Support, cut $500,000
  • Teach for America, cut $225,000
  • Alternative Schools, cut $239,000
  • Truant Alternative and Optional Education, cut $500,000
  • Driver’s Education, cut $2.5 million
  • After School Matters, cut $500,000

The Budget Implementation Bill (BIMP) contained provisions to continue to pay the salaries of Regional Superintendents of Schools out of Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax (CPPRT) funds. In fact, it removed any expiration dates on the provision so that this was clearly intended to be a long-term change. The bill also allowed CPPRT funds to be spent for stipends, salary, and additional compensation for chief election clerks, county clerks, and county recorders.

BILL ACTION

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

SB 1307 ( Lightford, D-Maywood) , beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, lowers the compulsory school age from 7 years to 6 years (on or before September 1). The Senate concurred in the House amendment and the bill was signed by the Governor. The bill became Public Act 98-0544.

SB 1625 (Collins, D-Chicago) requires school districts to hold at least one drill each year in every school that specifically addresses a shooting incident. Local law enforcement must be invited to participate in the drill. The bill became Public Act 98-0048.

HB 1225 (Burke, D., D-Chicago) requires the Illinois High School Association to post a training video about cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillators on the its website, but only if it is provided to the association free of charge and is no more than 15 minutes in length. It also requires school districts to notify parents and staff in newsletters, bulletins, calendars, or other correspondence currently published by the school district of the posted video and encourage parents and staff to view it. The bill became Public Act 98-0305.

HB 1443 ( Moylan, D-Des Plaines) states that if employees of a school district whose duties including reporting crime fail to report acts of hazing, the employee himself or herself can be charged with the crime of hazing. The bill became Public Act 98-0393.

HB 2418 (Currie, D-Chicago) includes numerous election law changes, including a provision that will require school board candidates to file nominating petitions with the county clerk instead of their local school district. In addition, the law provides that objections to school board member petitions will be heard and acted upon by the county officers’ electoral board that is made up of the county clerk, the state’s attorney, and the clerk of the circuit court. In counties where there is a county board of election commissioners this body would hear and act upon the objections. The bill became Public Act 98-0115.

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ILLINOIS EDUCATION

State Board of Education Developments

June 2014 – After the Gates Foundation announces its support for the idea that the new Common Core aligned assessments should not be used for teacher evaluations for another two years, the state proceeds with a more gradual implementation than some federal officials had urged. “This reaffirms Illinois’ timeline for implementation of the new evaluation systems,” said State Superintendent Chris Koch. Koch added that the timeline was carefully chosen after working collaboratively toward implementation with stakeholders “to ensure we get it right: this is why we resisted federal pressure to change our timeline and why we did not receive a waiver from some aspects of No Child Left Behind until just a few weeks ago,” Koch added.

April 2014 – Equitable funding for schools would require $4.8 billion more in state funds for FY 2015 than in FY 2014. The Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB) votes unanimously to establish that benchmark, updating the recommended level to reflect inflation. Thus the board suggests increasing the state’s per-pupil Foundation Level to $8,767 for Fiscal Year 2015. EFAB also urges state legislators and the governor to consider directing more resources to the Illinois State Board of Education to distribute to districts. State law requires EFAB to provide education funding recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor every two years.

February 2014 – ISBE announces it has resubmitted Illinois’ request for a waiver from some requirements of the NCLB Act but has not yet received a federal response. The waiver has not been approved in the past due to concern about the timeline for including student growth in teacher evaluations. The federal timeline requires districts to implement the new evaluation systems no later than the 2015-16 school year. Under state law, all districts need to be in compliance by 2016-17.

January 2014 – A record number of Illinois graduates are taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams and posting successful scores, according to State Superintendent Chris Koch. This typically signals greater academic success in college for such students than otherwise comparable non-AP peers The number of Illinois high school graduates who take AP exams during the school year has more than doubled in the past decade, Koch notes, with low-income and minority students continuing to make record gains toward closing the achievement gap on these tests.

June 2013 – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) published information about the state’s new Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS), which was to take effect July 1, stipulating the new criteria for out-of-state teaching applicants. Educator certificates had sometimes been unclear about which subjects or grade levels the holder was qualified to teach. To clarify this, the state said it was transitioning from a certificate system to a licensure system, moving from having 60 kinds of certification to just three licenses. An ELIS fact sheet is placed online at: http://www.isbe.net/certification/pdf/elis-fact-sheet.pdf.

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THE FEDERAL SCENE

New federal rules aimed at removing snack foods from schools were announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 27, 2013. The new rules, required under a child nutrition law passed by Congress in 2010, are part of the government’s efforts to cut childhood obesity. Many schools already had made improvements in their lunch menus and vending machine choices. One of the largest changes under the new rules was a near-ban on high calorie sports drinks, which many soda companies had added to school vending machines to replace the more-traditional high-calorie sodas that were pulled in response to criticism from the public health community. But school leaders said new food regulations can impose unique challenges and some negative consequences, including financial strains, because soda and snack machines were a significant revenue source for many school districts.

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SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS, 2010-2011

July 2013 – IASB puts the finishing touches on a seamless policy manual development and maintenance service for member districts that have completed a policy manual customization in the past 20 years, but may not have kept the manual current. Like a full policy manual customization, this new service provides the guidance of an IASB policy consultant and full customization of the manual to meet individual district needs. Because districts that have completed policy manual customization are familiar with the IASB policy system, the development can be done faster, thus saving everyone both time and money.

August 2013 – IASB publishes a new document that will become the cornerstone of board development efforts designed to assist school boards in community engagement. “Connecting with the Community: the Purpose and Process of Community Engagement as part of Effective School Board Governance ” is the result of a two-year effort to develop new tools and training around this critical work. The purpose of the report is to help school boards and superintendents understand what community engagement is, why it is critical, what they can expect to accomplish with it.

September 2013 – A year-long series on the history of the association concludes in the September-October issue of The Illinois School Board Journal. This issue features the most recent 20-year timeline, from 1993 to 2012. The entire series is archived online at https://www.iasb.com/centennial/articles.cfm.

October 2013 – IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy helps to head up a new implementation review committee for state leaders, one charged with reviewing state education mandates and initiatives. The review panel, formed at Eddy’s suggestion, holds its first meeting in October to begin to look into the implementation of recent key Illinois state education initiatives and mandates.

November 2013 – The IASB Information Room (Comiskey Room) in the headquarters Hyatt at the Joint Annual Conference features a pictorial mural of the association’s 100-year history. Also featured: a drawing for one of four Centennial gift baskets, a kiosk to show video greetings sent by local districts, and two giant greeting cards that visitors are asked to sign. Centennial themed gifts are on sale at the conference bookstore, including everything from key chains to yardsticks.

January 2014 – The turnover rate of Illinois school board members in the 2013 board elections was 23.3 percent, the highest since 2007, IASB reports. The net turnover rate was much higher than in the 2011 election and represents the highest turnover rate seen since 2007, IASB membership records indicate. A total of 1,383 new members filled board seats in 2013, out of 5,932 positions. In 2011, 1,288 new board members were seated out of a total of 5,931 available positions. Turnover rates among Illinois school board members over the previous 12 elections ranged from a low of 21.7 percent in 2011, to a high of 30.4 percent in 1989, when 1,852 new members were elected out of a total of 6,093 board members.

February 2014 – A new book by IASB staff member Patrick Rice explores why school boards are vital yet endangered. In Vanishing School Boards, author and IASB staff member Rice identifies efforts to marginalize boards, and notes that a looming teacher shortage will have dire consequences unless the state acts decisively to address that concern. He also discusses the importance of board training and how the superintendent can assist the board in the mission of delivering a quality education to all students. The aims of public education are increasingly being federalized and privatized, Rice states, thereby undermining the local control of public schools.

March 2014 – The March/April issue of The Illinois School Board Journal looks at the effects of poverty on student achievement and offers suggestions for districts as they look for ways to help students and families. In addition, an article about homelessness offers questions for districts to ponder regarding the related financial problems that are incurred by accepting students displaced because of poverty. Two other articles examine ways building personnel can help students in poverty learn resilience in addition to their academic lessons, and how collaboration can help students in all situations.

April 2014 – The Association is represented at the NSBA Delegate Assembly. Illinois delegates include: President Karen Fisher, Vice President Phil Pritzker, Immediate Past President Carolyne Brooks, and Treasurer Dale Hansen. Alternates are directors Rosemary Swanson, DuPage Division, and Jackie Mickley, Blackhawk Division. More than 350 Illinois school district representatives attend the NSBA conference April 5-7 in New Orleans, including nearly 250 board members.

May 2014 – IASB announces that its membership has remained at historically high levels the past several years, according to association records. Fully 849 of the state’s 859 school districts, or 98.7 percent, are dues-paying members. IASB’s membership rate has stood at or above 98.5 percent of all Illinois school districts since 2008. In 2007 it was 97.9 percent, with 17 nonmember districts. Two school districts joined IASB in the 2014 fiscal year.

June 2014 – The association announces a national purchasing cooperative known as BuyBoard is IASB’s latest sponsored program, is designed to save participating school districts time and money when purchasing products they use every day. Most Illinois school districts will now be able to use the program whose aim is to give districts the advantage of leveraging a cooperative’s ability to obtain bulk discounts and combine that with the ease of online, web-based shopping and ordering. It can be used to purchase anything from pencils to laptop computers.

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AWARDS AND HONORS

Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. Brenda Murphy, board president of Community Consolidated School District 62, Des Plaines, was named the winner of the 2013 Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. In their nomination letter, Murphy’s colleagues referred to her as a “visionary leader who exhibits the utmost courage, integrity, and tenacity.” 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. Kelly Stewart, district superintendent at Benton CHSD 103, was honored during the second general session of the Conference as 2014 Illinois Superintendent of the Year. Chosen annually by the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the award for was presented Nov. 23, 2013 in Chicago. 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. Sixteen newspapers received awards in the annual Robert M. Cole Awards competition for 2013, including the Chicago Tribune, which earned first place in the large daily newspaper category. The Cole Awards are sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards and conducted by the Illinois Press Association. There were 26 entries in this, the 33rd year for the Cole Awards program, which is part of the Illinois Press Association’s “Excellence in News” contest. Other first-place Cole Award winners were: Woodford County Journal, Eureka, small weekly division; The Galena Gazette, mid-size weekly division; and The Daily Journal, Kankakee, mid-size daily division. 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 Friday, June 14, at the annual convention of the Illinois Press Association in Springfield.

Those Who Excel. Two school board members were among the winners announced at the 39th annual Those Who Excel/Teacher of the Year banquet on Oct. 19, 2013 in Normal. Receiving the Award of Recognition were board members: Susan DeRonne, Elmhurst CUSD 205, and Michael Skala, Consolidated School District 158, Algonquin. In addition, the entire school board of Waukegan CUSD 60 won the Award of Recognition for its exemplary work as a team. The superintendents honored, and their awards and school districts, were: Robert Lupo, Recognition, Ridgewood Community High School District 234, Norridge; Jane Westerhold, Excellence, Des Plaines CCSD 62; James Stelter, Recognition, Bensenville Elementary School District 2; and Thomas Mahoney, Merit, Oregon CUSD 220. Candidates for the honor are nominated by their local school districts or members of their communities. The nomination includes a brief biography of the nominee, his or her philosophy of education, professional development, community involvement and views on the state’s most pressing educational needs. Letters of recommendation are required. A committee of peers, organized through the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), chooses 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.net/news/pdf/those-who-excel-list13-14.pdf.

Holly Jack Award. Pam Burgeson, board secretary and administrative assistant to the superintendent of Geneva Community Unit School District 304, was honored as the recipient of the fifth annual Holly Jack Outstanding Service Award during the third general session of the 2013 IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference. The Holly Jack Award recognizes the demanding work of school district and board secretaries. Nominees must demonstrate performance, initiative, innovation, staff development, self-improvement, passion, and dedication. Burgeson received the award on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013 at the Third General Session of the Joint Annual Conference. “I’m honored to be the 2013 recipient of the Holly Jack Outstanding Achievement Award and to be part of IASB’s 100th Anniversary celebration.” Burgeson noted that she had personally benefitted from the publications and materials of IASB for over a quarter of a century, listing as “particularly helpful” the Illinois School Board Newsbulletin and the Illinois School Board Journal, as well as the Guide to Successful School Board Meetings. She added: “My copy of the Guide is covered with Post-it notes on every square inch.” Burgeson was chosen from a group of 35 nominees to receive the award. Burgeson said she would retire in June 2014 after 33 years with the Geneva K-12 district, located in the Kishwaukee division, a district that has an enrollment of 6,000 students.

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