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The Education Year in Review -- 1997-1998

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Highlights of 1997-98

School Funding "Reform" Bill – HB 452
State Board of Education Budget
Teacher Pension Enhancement
Governor Announces Advance School Aid Payment

Small gains noted in ACT test scores
Student reading scores increase on IGAP
State Superintendent Spagnolo submits resignation




Copyright Notice

Highlights of 1997-98

  • The Illinois State Board of Education approves learning standards defining what students should know and be able to do as a result of public schooling, July, 1997.
  • IASB’s Board of Directors approves a new logo and slogan for the Association employing the theme "Lighting the Way to Excellence in School Governance," August, 1997.
  • IASB files Amicus Curiae arguments in two important cases—urging the Illinois Supreme Court to find that Chapter I does not provide a private cause of legal action against a school district, and arguing that complaints about the adequacy of education should be addressed by the legislature rather than judicial mandate, October, 1997.
  • The Association announces plans to offer training to school boards and superintendents in the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey’s effective leadership program, based upon his 1989 best-selling book, November, 1997.
  • Major school funding legislation, described by Governor Jim Edgar as "the most significant" such legislation in 30 years, wins legislative approval to deliver more than $400 million in new state funds to public schools and a $1.4 billion school construction grant program over five years, December, 1997.
  • IASB provides Superintendent Searches in 25 school districts throughout the state.
  • Governor’s budget proposal for FY 1999 calls for an additional $270 million in General State Aid, the largest GSA increase in state history, February, 1998.
  • IASB and Motorola announce plans to offer two-day leadership development sessions designed in cooperation with IASB exclusively for board members, April, 1998.
  • IASB, through arrangements with a legal publishing company, offers the latest edition of the Illinois School Code and related legislative acts of interest to schools. A complimentary copy is mailed to school superintendents in member districts. The document is also made available through a user-friendly search engine at the IASB home page on the World Wide Web, May, 1998.
  • Applications for the state’s new School Construction Program total 180 school districts for Fiscal 1999, the first full year of the program. The applications cover $1.7 billion in total construction costs, with the state’s share estimated at $674 million, May, 1998.
  • Lawmakers adopt an elementary and secondary education budget for the state that fully funds the provisions of H.B. 452 and provides an 18.3 percent increase over the prior year’s funding level, May, 1998.
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A $485 million boost in school funding, and major new bonding authority for school construction projects were the crowning legislative accomplishments of 1997.

The push for this new legislation began after the legislature failed to pass a school funding reform bill in the Spring of 1997, and after the education funding debate spilled over into the fall Veto Session. In November, the General Assembly drafted a new school finance plan, a proposal much less comprehensive and less effective than plans debated in the Spring of 1997.

By making the funding solution temporary and by removing the income tax increase component, the Governor and legislative leaders believed that they had a bill that could pass. The bill (HB 452) won Senate approval easily but failed by 4 votes in the House of Representatives in the early hours of November 15, 1997 — the last action of the fall legislative session.

Three days later, Governor Jim Edgar called a Special Session of the legislature to address the school funding issue. After meeting with the four legislative leaders and speaking with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Governor Edgar proclaimed the Special Session. The General Assembly re-convened at high noon on December 2, 1997 for a historic meeting that led to the adoption of "the most significant" education funding bill of the past 30 years, as Governor Edgar later described it. The House immediately passed HB 452 and Governor Edgar signed the bill into law two days later.

The session was successful because it was not designed to re-open the entire school funding debate that had raged throughout 1997. It was called simply to allow the General Assembly to reconsider one specific school funding bill. No new funding plan or legislation on any other topic was allowed to be considered in the Special Session. The lone exception was that supplemental appropriations were adopted to amend the previous year’s budget.

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School Funding "Reform" Bill – HB 452

HB 452 made significant changes to the school funding formula, but the state’s over-reliance on property taxes to fund public schools was not addressed. A reliable and stable funding source for public education was not identified. A long-term solution to this problem was not found, and that made HB 452 simply a stop-gap measure.

The new law does create a new school funding formula that assigns each kind of school district a calculation rate by which to multiply the district’s "available local resources." To the amount resulting from this calculation, the state adds funding to make sure that each district receives a per pupil foundation level. The foundation level is set at $4,225 in fiscal year 1999, $4,325 in fiscal year 2000 and $4,425 in fiscal year 2001. After 2001, a funding advisory board will make recommendations for the foundation level.

The foundation level is guaranteed for these three years by the creation of a "continuing appropriation." This makes the state aid formula an entitlement. The continuing appropriation expires after fiscal year 2001. HB 452 adds to the guaranteed foundation level a poverty grant that gives additional funding to those school districts with a high concentration of low-income students. A "hold harmless" payment also was created to guarantee that school districts that do not benefit from the new funding formula do not receive less money than they received from the old funding formula.

The result of this new funding formula adds an additional $482 million to public school budgets in fiscal year 1999. To pay for this new infusion of money, the cigarette tax was increased by 14 cents a pack, the telecommunications excise tax was increased from 5 percent to 7 percent, and a graduated tax on riverboat gambling was implemented. The reliability of these revenue sources is questionable.

HB 452 also creates a supplemental payment to provide funds to school districts in counties with a property tax cap. This provision is intended to address the "double whammy," the predicament a school district is in when it cannot access all of the property tax base it is entitled to but has its state aid payment based on the total property tax value.

With some significant changes to the school funding formula, but with many shortcomings evident, the Statewide School Management Alliance viewed HB 452 as a solid education "appropriations" bill — not as a comprehensive school funding reform vehicle. It obviously sets the stage for another major school funding battle in the Spring legislative session of 2000.

There was another important aspect to HB 452. A large portion of the bill contained substantive reform measures, many long sought by the Alliance. First, the bill creates a school construction grant program designed to help school districts finance the construction and renovation of school buildings. This initiative had been pushed by many legislators to help fast-growing school districts and those districts with aging buildings. The $1.5 billion program, to be funded over a five-year period, will be jointly administered by the State Board of Education and the Capital Development Board. The state will provide a matching grant to school districts, with the grant amount based on a sliding scale determined by the district’s local wealth.

Interest in the construction grant program was overwhelming in the first two application filing periods. The concern now is that demand far outweighs supply and funds will not be able to cover the vast majority of construction projects approved.

Many other substantive reform measures were included in HB 452. Some of the more notable provisions include the following:

  • a requirement that after the expiration of any contracts currently in place, school districts may only hire superintendents, principals and other administrators under one-year contracts or multi-year (running up to five years) contracts;
  • a requirement that all such contracts shall be performance-based;
  • a requirement that establishes a five percent cap on growth of administrative expenditures beginning in the 1998-99 school year;
  • a provision to allow school districts to hire registered nurses to provide professional nursing services in schools;
  • a change in the remediation period for unsatisfactory, tenured teachers to 90 days (instead of one year);
  • a change in the probationary period for teachers to four consecutive school terms for teachers first employed by a school district on or after January 1, 1998;
  • the establishment of a new multi-tiered teacher certification process effective July 1, 1999. New teachers would receive an Initial Certification and could receive a Standard Certification after four years upon passing the certification test. Certification would be renewable every five years with proof of continuing professional development;
  • the creation of an alternative teacher certification program allowing a person with a bachelor’s degree and five years’ working experience to enter a program that would lead to expedited teacher certification;
  • the creation of an alternative administrator certification program, allowing a person with a masters degree and five years’ experience in a management-level position to enter an intensive study program that would lead to administrative certification.
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State Board of Education Budget

With the 1998 spring legislative session coming on the heels of the new school funding reform law, it was evident very early that the members of the General Assembly were not ready to tackle any new education initiatives. Being an election year as well, political pundits predicted that this spring would be a "do nothing" session. They were absolutely correct. Few political observers could remember a more quiet and uninteresting legislative session.

Knowing that any bold new initiative or controversial bill would never see life outside of the Rules Committee, the Alliance concentrated on making corrections to HB 452. Several provisions needed to be revisited for reasons of practicality or due to implementation difficulties. The language of the administrative cost cap provision made the concept unworkable. The teacher remediation provision ignored teacher evaluation timelines, so that stipulation was unworkable as well. The hold harmless and "double whammy" provisions needed clarification in order to ensure their implementation.

On the last day of session both houses passed HB 1640, a clean-up bill for HB 452. In it, the administrative cost cap language was significantly amended to make the ground rules much more clear. The teacher remediation and evaluation language was fixed, the hold harmless provision was clarified to reflect its permanency, and the double whammy calculation was revamped to more accurately determine this supplemental payment.

With the enactment of HB 452 in 1997, the General Assembly was bound to fund elementary and secondary education in a new way. Because of the continuing appropriation, the general state aid formula must be funded first at a specified level. In the State Board of Education’s budget for fiscal year 1999, the funding standards provided for in HB 452 were met. To meet the $4,225 per pupil funding requirement the appropriation provided an 18.3% increase in general state aid over fiscal year 1998. The hold harmless line item received $58 million to fully fund that provision. The budget included an additional $60 million over the Governor’s recommendations for categoricals, however they still were prorated at the FY 1998 level.

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Teacher Pension Enhancement

After a year-long push by teacher and administrator organizations, the General Assembly approved a bill to change the Teachers Retirement System’s pension formula by establishing a 2.2 percent flat rate for the calculation of benefits. The change will allow members of TRS to reach the maximum pension benefit nearly four years sooner, creating a permanent early retirement program.

The bill was passed on the last day of the Spring legislative session as part of the total budget package. The Governor acted on the bill that same day so the program could become effective immediately. The bill requires an employee contribution of 1% of salary beginning July 1, 1998 and a school district contribution of .3% of total TRS payroll beginning July 1, 1998 and .58% of payroll on July 1 each year thereafter.


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Governor Announces Advance School Aid Payment

Governor Edgar announced in June that he would advance a school aid fund payment of $102 million for that month to help improve cash flow and financial conditions for Illinois public schools.

"This payment accelerates funds to help schools improve cash flow and payment cycles as they see fit," the Governor said. "The state’s solid end-of-year cash balance for FY 1998 and outstanding revenue growth together provided the cushion we needed to help schools by advancing this school aid payment a month early."

A payment of about $102 million that would have been made July 20 was instead provided in June. "It has always been my intention to move those payments up to June again, as soon as funds in the statewide budget allowed us to do that," Governor Edgar explained.

The action offset much of the effect of a fiscal move made at the end of FY 1992. At that time the state was experiencing a fiscal crisis, and legislation changed the school aid payment schedule to stop the practice of providing an advance payment in June, easing pressure elsewhere in the state budget.

The Governor’s action exercised his statutory authority to advance a school aid payment from July to June.

Illinois school boards appreciated the Governor’s action in advancing one of the July state aid payments to June, according to Wayne Sampson, executive director of IASB. "For one thing, this will cut the potential cost of borrowing in school districts with cash flow difficulties.

"Just as important," Sampson said, "this action by the Governor may be a first step toward permanently restoring the full advance payments from July back to June."

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Small gains noted in ACT test scores

Although the national average composite score on the ACT—the entrance exam taken by 60 percent of college freshmen—remained unchanged at 21.0 in 1998, Illinois high school seniors raised their composite score from 21.2 to 21.4.

Most minorities and other groups made modest gains this year in national averages on one or more of the ACT tests in English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning. For a record nine consecutive years, the overall ACT national average has either remained constant or improved slightly. ACT President Richard L. Ferguson said this "unprecedented trend" in the national average score is good news for those concerned about student achievement.

Illinois student scores topped the national average for the eighth consecutive year, with fully 69 percent of Illinois high school seniors taking the exam this year. The number of Illinois students taking the test increased more than 3 percent, rising from 86,802 to 89,452.

The statewide average composite score ranked Illinois 22nd among the 50 states, which compares favorably to, say, Michigan, which ranked 30th. Illinois and Michigan may be good states to compare because they have similar demographics and they test roughly the same percentage of graduates (68 percent in Michigan, compared to 69 percent in Illinois).

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Student reading scores increase on IGAP

Results from the 1998 Illinois Goals Assessment Program (IGAP) showed sizable increases in reading test scores in three of the four grades tested this year. The Illinois State Board of Education reported student scores in mathematics, writing and science were generally stable in all grades tested, but increased in social science at all levels.

Reading scores among third graders remained unchanged at 246. But reading scores rose by 19 points among sixth graders, from 229 to 248; and by 10 points among eighth graders, from 227 to 237; and by 20 points among tenth graders, from 208 to 228. IGAP uses a 500-point scale for all tests except writing, which uses a 32-point scale.

The rebound in Illinois reading test scores followed a five-year decline. From 1993 through 1997, reading achievement slipped eight points among third graders; 38 points among sixth and eighth graders; and a staggering 42 points among tenth graders.

State Superintendent of Education Joseph A. Spagnolo hailed the sudden improvement as evidence a statewide focus on teaching reading had been a success. He credited the Illinois Right to Read Initiative, among other recent efforts, with making the difference.

The improved reading test scores came in the wake of allegations of flaws in IGAP test scoring. Those allegations were registered by two university staffers who contributed to the design of the original IGAP reading exam.

State officials said they believe reading declines shown on the IGAP exam were genuine, but they conceded scoring techniques adopted in 1993 may have exaggerated the severity of the declines.

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State Superintendent Spagnolo submits resignation

State Superintendent Joseph Spagnolo submitted his resignation to the Illinois State Board of Education in mid-July, effective August 31, 1998.

"I have accomplished what I was hired to do, to set the Illinois education system on a course of change and reform that would result in improved student achievement," Spagnolo said.

"The State Board brought Joe Spagnolo to Illinois to make changes in the schools and in the agency. He is a visionary and his ability to transform vision into reality has restored Illinois’ place as a leader in school reform and renewed our emphasis on teaching and learning," said State Board Chair Louis Mervis of Danville.

Since he became Illinois’ fifth appointed State Superintendent in June 1994, Spagnolo had led efforts to establish the Illinois Learning Standards as the academic target for all students and to design a state testing program, the Illinois Standards Achievement Test. This test directly measures how well students are progressing toward the state standards. Spagnolo’s leadership was instrumental, as well, in helping successfully integrate technology into the classroom in a growing number of schools.

Spagnolo also had pushed to strengthen teacher training, creating a new certification system and requirements, establishing teacher standards, and expanding and redesigning continuing professional development for all educators. Moreover, he initiated reform programs aimed at improving reading (Right to Read), and mathematics and science.

The State Board of Education (ISBE) announced that a new State Superintendent of Education could be selected by late October. The Board appointed Robert Mandeville as Interim State Superintendent to begin running the agency September 1. Mandeville had headed the bureau of the budget under Governors Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar.

The Board voted to accept the resignation of State Superintendent Joseph Spagnolo. The Board put out a call for bids to hire a professional search firm and approved a search schedule that begins immediately and would conclude in October unless a suitable candidate cannot be found during that period. That timetable led to political controversy, however, as critics charged ISBE should not make its final choice until after the next Governor is selected in November.

"Why don’t they wait another 12 days and discuss the matter with the new governor," said Illinois Sen. Vince T. Demuzio (D., Carlinville), who heads the statewide Democratic Party. Yet a board spokeswoman said the deadline was set entirely as a matter of logistics.

In addition to hiring a professional firm to assist them, the Board began the search by meeting with groups of educators, parents, business people, lawmakers and others to seek their advice on what skills and qualifications a new superintendent should have and what issues that individual will likely face on the job.

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Special Education—IDEA services may be suspended for up to 10 days. The federal Education Department (ED) indicated in late 1997 that new special education regulations will no longer require schools to continue providing special services to disabled students serving a short-term suspension. A newly updated federal law on special education, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), generally prohibits schools from interrupting services. ED official Judith Heumann said this will not apply, however, to suspensions of 10 days or less. Heumann is ED’s assistant secretary of special education and rehabilitative services.

The federal agency’s new stance on this issue was first publicized when a letter was sent to U.S. Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). The letter also suggested that "good practice" would require schools to evaluate the circumstances that led to a suspension and to assess whether the student was being served as outlined in an individualized education plan.

FCC chops $1 billion from ‘e-rate’ program. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in June 1998 to chop more than 40 percent from the new federal "e-rate" subsidies designed to help schools and libraries purchase telecommunications services. Thus the FCC said it would collect $1.28 billion for the program in 1998, well short of the $2.25 billion annual cap the agency had set for it. The total also falls short of the $2.02 billion in funding requests for 1998 submitted by schools and libraries earlier in the year.

Rather than providing $2.25 billion in discounts over a period of one year, as originally pledged, the FCC now intends to provide $1.9 billion over a period of 18 months. Some in Congress had pressured the FCC to scale back the program—or even terminate it—after long-distance telephone companies announced plans to increase customers’ phone bills to pay for it. In addition, some consumer groups had called for the program to be curtailed.

Despite the cuts, long-distance telephone companies began adding special charges to residential phone bills, starting July 1. The e-rate program represented a portion of what those new fees were designed to finance.

Acknowledging that the funding level would leave some schools’ requests unfulfilled, the FCC adopted rules of priority to direct money first toward providing discounts for recurring services, such as telecommunications services and Internet access. Yet only the most disadvantaged schools and libraries were to receive discounts for internal connections, such as classroom wiring.

Vocal e-rate critics in Congress were not appeased by the changes. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, stated, "The FCC’s latest attempt to recalibrate its schools and libraries program is an exercise in futility." Another federal lawmaker, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.), introduced a bill to repeal the e-rate program. Meanwhile, other efforts were launched in the House and Senate to eliminate or delay implementation of the program.

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Policy Reference Education Subscription Service. The policy subscription service called PRESS was a valuable resource tool for a growing number of administrators and school board members in 1998. Subscribing school districts continued to receive a Policy Reference Manual, along with periodic and timely policy revisions and updates, thus enhancing school board leadership and effectiveness. PRESS is the first comprehensive policy service to combine policy statements with required procedures, explanations and full legal citations. PRESS helps districts maintain their policy manuals while providing a useful encyclopedia on policy and legal issues. The service ended the fiscal year in 1998 with more than 600 current subscriptions, another large increase over the previous year.

The IASB-customized policy service continued to offer valuable direction to districts in adopting broad policy statements that represent "the law." Districts using the service are encouraged to streamline their policies, leaving most procedural matters to the superintendent and administrative regulations.

Televised Workshop. For the eighth year in a row, IASB worked with Western Illinois University in providing an interactive workshop by satellite television.

The workshop, broadcast live to participants at nearly 50 locations around the state, was designed for school board candidates and served as an introduction to the roles and responsibilities of board service.

Litigation. Upon invitation, the IASB participates in cases having statewide significance. Last year, the IASB filed an Amicus Curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to find that Chapter 1 does not provide a private cause of action to students or parents to challenge the manner in which funds are spent. The School Code grants state funds for the dual purpose of improving educational opportunity for economically disadvantaged children and minimizing fiscal disparities of Illinois school funding. These funds are known as Chapter 1 funds. Districts are prohibited from using Chapter 1 funds for general purposes. Parents of disadvantaged children sued the Chicago Board of Education alleging misuse of these funds. The Supreme Court found that Chapter 1 allows these parents a private right of action. Noyola v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago.

The National School Boards Association and the IASB jointly filed an Amici brief in a case being heard by the entire panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit. The case concerned whether school officials are responsible for the conduct of student journalists. Massachusetts statute grants students the right of freedom of expression in public schools. Thus, the school board gave student journalists control over newspaper and yearbook content. The students rejected a proffered advertisement in support of abstinence. The group submitting the ad sued the school district claiming that its refusal to publish the ad violated their free speech and equal protection rights.

In its initial decision, the First Circuit imputed the actions of the student journalist to the school district. Thus, it found that the school district violated the Constitution by failing to require the student journalists to include the ad. On rehearing, however, the First Circuit reversed its earlier decision and agreed with IASB’s assertions. Decisions regarding the advertisement’s exclusion were neither made nor controlled by school officials. Here, where school officials did not exercise editorial control over the students, the school district was not liable for the acts of the student journalists. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision. Yeo v. Town of Lexington.

The Illinois Supreme Court accepted an Amici Curiae brief filed by the IASB, along with other interested associations, in a tort action brought under the Structural Work Act. The IASB urged the Court to find that the Tort Immunity Act grants immunity to public entities for any injury caused by failure to supervise an activity on public property, including immunity from the failure to supervise construction activities. The Supreme Court agreed with the IASB and held that the Tort Immunity Act bars actions under the Structural Work Act. Epstein v. Chicago Board of Education.

The Illinois Supreme Court denied the IASB permission to file an Amici Curiae brief in a case brought under the educational article of the Illinois Constitution. The IASB sought to support the State Superintendent and the Board of Education, East St. Louis School District 189, in their efforts to overturn an appellate court decision. According to that ruling, the Constitution’s educational article provides a cause of action for students to compel a school district and school officials to provide a safe and adequate education. The IASB Amicus brief would have urged the Court to defer complaints regarding the adequacy of education to the legislature and, alternatively, to limit relief to an action for mandamus with no compensatory damages recoverable. Lewis v. Spagnolo.

The IASB submitted an Amicus brief to the Court of Appeals in support of Paris Union School District. The Court of Appeals agreed with our position that the referenda provisions in Section 162a of the Illinois Revenue Act do not apply to schools. Citizens may not, therefore, use Section 162a to place the question of establishing a tax rate limit on the ballot.

Section 162a’s applicability to school districts depended on the statute’s meaning. Section 162a applies to "any taxing district" whose rates are subject to the referendum provisions of the "General Revenue Law." The issue was whether the phrase "General Revenue Law" is interpreted to include any revenue provisions, including those in the School Code, or limited to those in the Revenue Act itself. The Court adopted two of our arguments regarding statutory construction: (1) that a publisher’s footnote referencing the phrase "General Revenue Law" in Section 162a indicates that the phrase is commonly understood to mean the Revenue Act, and (2) that the use of upper case letters and the singular form are indications that the limiting language refers to the Revenue Act and not to revenue laws in general. Thus, the referendum provisions to alter the maximum tax rates for education purposes are found exclusively in the School Code. Fayhee v. Paris Union School District No. 95, (1998).

Pending Litigation. The IASB and IASA filed an Amici Curiae brief with the Illinois Supreme Court in support of current budget and tax levy practices. While the case arises out of DuPage County, it is of extreme importance to hundreds of school districts. Tax levy objectors construe the School Code to require districts operating on a cash basis to adopt an annual budget before passing a levy for the year in question. Such a rule would require adoption of a school annual budget 18 months or more in advance of the fiscal year to which the levy pertains. The friend-of-the-court brief will argue that a tax levy filed before the December deadline is for that fiscal year regardless of when the district intends to spend the money. In re. Application of DuPage County Collector for the Year 1993 v. ATI Carriage House.

The IASB joined the Board of Education of the City of Chicago in an Amici Curiae brief supporting a very favorable appellate court decision. The Illinois Court of Appeals held that the immunity provisions in the School Code and the Tort Immunity Act apply independently to school districts; the School Code’s immunity does not limit the immunity granted by the Tort Immunity Act.

Due to spine fusion surgery, the plaintiff-student informed the district that he was permanently restricted from participating in contact sports. He was injured during a water basketball game in PE class. He alleged that by allowing him to participate, knowing of his preexisting medical condition, the district engaged in willful and wanton misconduct.

The immunity granted by the Tort Immunity Act is broader than that granted by the School Code. Specifically, the Tort Immunity Act grants immunity for injuries resulting from a failure to supervise activities on public property, even those alleged to be willful and wanton misconduct; the School Code does not. The plaintiff-student unsuccessfully argued that the Tort Immunity Act is inapplicable to situations involving alleged improper supervision in a school setting. As the legislature did not express an exception to the immunity granted under the Tort Immunity Act for alleged improper supervision by a teacher, the court refused to create one. The plaintiff-student is appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court. Henrich v. Libertyville High School.

According to a recent decision, the Rockford School District may not use the tax levy provision of the Tort Immunity Act to fund federal court desegregation remedies. A local government may use Tort Immunity Taxes to "protect itself against" tort liability. Thus, local governments, including school districts, use Tort Immunity Fund taxes to pay for a variety of activities in the name of "protecting itself against" tort liability. In the Rockford case, a judge ruled that Tort Immunity Fund taxes may only be used to fund compensatory damages

The Board of Education of the City of Chicago and the IASB jointly filed an amici brief demonstrating that the Tort Immunity Act is an appropriate source for funding a school district’s remedial tort obligations. In Re: Consolidated Objections to Tax Levies of School District 205.

Management Tools. IASB member districts received a variety of management and public relations tools from their association during the year. Two publications of the State Board of Education were mailed to all school board presidents: State, Local and Federal Financing for Illinois Public Schools and the annual Teacher Salary Study. Many districts also obtained bulk supplies of IASB pamphlets on school funding for distribution to local constituents.

Election guidance. Each IASB member district received a packet of tools in October for the April 1999 school board election, including a calendar of key dates and guidelines for the board secretary. Member districts also requested hundreds of special kits addressing such issues as the recruitment of new board members, informing candidates about board work, and promoting voter turnout, as well as hundreds of kits for board candidates and more than 10,000 copies of Your School Board and You, a booklet about school boards. IASB staff respond to numerous questions from member districts during the months preceding any school board election.

Resource Center. The IASB Resource Center serves staff and member school boards with prompt research assistance. An automated catalog is used to facilitate staff access to the Association’s small, specialized collection, which consists of books, reports, many serial titles and a vertical file with hundreds of headings. Through telecommunications connections, however, the Center has access to resources far beyond its walls. The Resource Center is a member of the Rolling Prairie Library System and the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center, Inc.) an international bibliographic database which contains over 35 million records. OCLC is used for cataloging documents and providing reference services. The Resource Center has access to over 800 Illinois libraries through ILLINET Online, and has full Internet access as well.

The Resource Center’s catalog data base continued to expand at a rapid pace in 1998, along with requests for services, and growth in materials available. The growing aggregate of materials available through the Resource Center results from its own burgeoning collections, cooperative relations with other institutions and an increase in on-line materials offered for loan. One significant data base deals with school design and architecture, and another provides an index of newspaper articles obtained from the Association’s account with the Illinois Press Association’ clippings service. In addition, the Center honors a growing number of direct requests for the use of IASB materials by Illinois school districts.

Growing Risk Management Programs. The Worker’s Compensation Self-Insurance Trust (WCSIT) ended the 1998 fiscal year with 381 members under the trust’s coverage, and has earned nearly 9.8 million in contributions. In addition, the WCSIT experienced a renewal rate in the 90th percentile through July 31, 1998. This phenomenal rate is attributed to the unique package of benefits in addition to the competitive workers’ compensation coverage that WCSIT provides its members.

Back in 1996 the WCSIT Board of Trustees added to its coverage package by approving a guaranteed dividend plan to qualified members until the year 2000. Qualified WCSIT participants who are members of record on September 15 of the following plan year (of eligibility) will be guaranteed dividends of at least 20 percent of their annual audited paid contributions (premium). The dividend for the 1997-98 plan year is an impressive 30 percent. In the 1999-00 program year, the dividend amount will be reviewed and determined by the WCSIT Board of Trustees depending on the available surplus at the time.

Qualified WCSIT members also receive School District Treasurer’s Surety Bonds as a benefit of membership in any amount up to $15 million to protect the faithful performance of their districts’ treasurers. An additional benefit of membership is the School Board Legal Liability coverage program (school board errors and omissions coverage) that provides coverage up to $7 million to qualified participants. WCSIT members also receive specialized loss control services as an additional benefit of membership.

The WCSIT has emerged to be one of the most financially successful workers’ compensation pools available to Illinois school districts today, as the WCSIT has declared a total of $14.9 million in dividends and distributions to its members since its inception in 1982. In addition, the WCSIT has never asked for additional assessments from its members in its 16-year history and waived the possibility of assessing its members through the 1997-98 program year. As of June 30, 1998, the WCSIT holds a healthy surplus of approximately $11.3 million (unaudited amount.)

The Illinois School District Agency (ISDA) provides property/casualty coverage to more than 160 school districts across Illinois. For the 1997-98 program year, the ISDA experienced a renewal retention rate in the 90th percentile and received approximately $4.6 million in contributions. In addition to receiving competitively priced property/casualty coverage, ISDA members receive specialized loss control services and access to low-cost property appraisals.

Both the WCSIT and ISDA programs are designed specifically for Illinois school districts by school districts. Each pool is controlled by a board that is composed of Illinois school district administrators, school board members and business officials. Together, these school district representatives voice what their peers want in workers’ compensation and property/casualty coverage. In an effort to keep Illinois school districts informed of insurance-related issues that affect their operations, the WCSIT and ISDA contribute information to IASB School Board Newsbulletin, the Association’s monthly newsletter, which is distributed to school districts across the state.

Working together to provide sound and viable coverage to Illinois school districts, the WCSIT and ISDA are endorsed by the IASB and are administered by Hinz Professional Insurance Program Managers, Inc. (HPIPM), which assists Illinois school districts through its Chicago and Springfield offices. WCSIT and ISDA are the sole financial sponsors of the State Superintendent’s breakfast each year at the Joint Annual Conference, where they bestow the WCSIT and ISDA’s risk management TEAM award. This award signifies a school district’s remark-able strides in risk management for the year. The 1997 winner was Carlyle CCSD #1.

The IASB-sponsored Unemployment Program is entering its fourteenth year with Gibbens Company, which administers this program for members. During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1998, 1,680 unemployment claims were processed on behalf of 300 IASB program participants. Of those claims protested, favorable decisions were reached in approximately 90 percent of the cases, resulting in savings of over $2.9 million to IASB member districts.

Liquid Asset Fund. The Illinois School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus now boasts 475 actively participating school districts, educational service regions, community colleges and insurance pools. Endorsed by IASB, the Fund offers school districts and other members a variety of ways of investing funds. Members can choose between two Standard & Poor’s AAAm-rated money market-type funds and a wide range of fixed-rate investments, including U.S. government securities and agencies, FDIC-insured certificates of deposit and high-quality commercial paper. Members can also choose an unlimited checkwriting account that earns a competitive interest rate until checks actually clear, thus earning interest in the interim.

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National Leadership. IASB Past President Barb Wheeler was chosen as the National School Board Association’s President at NSBA’s annual conference in April 1998.

Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. Gery Chico, president of the Chicago School District 299 Board of Education, received the sixth annual Thomas Lay Burroughs award at the 1997 Joint Annual Conference in November. The award recognizes the state’s outstanding local school board president and is named in honor of the late chairman of the State Board of Education. The award is presented annually by the State Board to the local school board president who has shown outstanding leadership on behalf of improved student learning, educational excellence, equal opportunity, and crisis resolution.

Cole Awards. Ten Illinois newspapers received recognition in the 1998 Robert M. Cole competition for best coverage of local school board issues. The contest is sponsored by IASB and conducted by the Illinois Press Association. Among the larger newspapers, the Cole Award plaque went to the Wednesday Journal, Oak Park, last year’s second honorable mention winner; while among the smaller newspapers, The Free Press Advocate, Wilmington, won top honors for the first time. The State Journal-Register newspaper, in Springfield, and the Glen News, Glen Ellyn, finished second and third, respectively, among the larger papers. Large paper Honorable Mention went to the Rockford Register. Among smaller papers, the second-place winner was the Breeze-Courier, Taylorville, which also won second prize last year; and the third-place winners was the Paris Beacon-News. Meanwhile, First Honorable Mention went to The Enterprise, Plainfield; Second Honorable Mention went to the Salem Times-Commoner; and Third Honorable Mention went to the Morris Daily Herald.

Over 100 different newspapers have received recognition in the 19 years IASB has sponsored the competition. The awards are named in honor of the Association’s first full-time executive director.

Those Who Excel. Many school board members were honored by the State Board of Education this year for their outstanding contributions to Illinois schools. The 13 board members receiving Those Who Excel awards were: Rick E. Heironimus, Springfield District 186; Ralph A. Sabetti, Beardstown C.U. District 15; Burdell D. Chapman, Rich Township High School District 211; Donald C. Clark, Jr., West Northfield District 31; Miriam Cooper, Township High School District 214, Arlington Heights; Marcia Heuser, District 130, Blue Island; Anita B. Mittelman, Skokie District 69; Joan M. Murphy, Tinley Park District 146; John K. Schroder, Lombard Elementary District 44; Darell O. Bellm, Highland C.U. District 5; Dale L. Neudecker, Alton C.U. District 11; Howard C. Olsen, Edwardsville C.U. District 7; and Dennis L. Petry, Triad District 2, Troy.

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