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The Education Year in Review -- 1998-1999


COPYRIGHT NOTICE -- This document is © copyrighted by the Illinois Association of School Boards. IASB hereby grants to school districts and other Internet users the right to download, print and reproduce this document provided that (a) the Illinois Association of School Boards is noted as publisher and copyright holder of the document and (b) any reproductions of this document are disseminated without charge and not used for any commercial purpose.

Highlights of 1998-99

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES
State Board of Education Budget
School Construction Funds
Tuition Tax Credits
Teacher Certification
School Safety

ILLINOIS EDUCATION
Student scores remain steady in ACT testing
Illinois SAT scores rise again
Lake County District leader McGee named State Superintendent

THE FEDERAL SCENE
Congress approves class-size reduction plan, funding
Supreme Court refuses to hear Milwaukee voucher case
Federal "Ed-Flex" legislation aims to cut schools' red tape

SCHOOL BOARD PROGRAMS

AWARDS AND HONORS

Copyright Notice


Highlights of 1998-99


  • Governor Edgar accelerated a $102 million school aid fund payment from July to June to improve cash flow and financial conditions for Illinois schools. The move offset, for one year at least, the effect of a fiscal move the legislature made back in 1992 to stop providing the advance payment annually, June, 1998.
  • IASB and IASA announce plans to file a friend-of-the-court brief -- ultimately on the prevailing side -- in a case before the Illinois Supreme Court to protect the school budgeting process against a potentially ruinous challenge, July, 1998.
  • IASB announces plans to launch an extensive survey of board members and district superintendents, successfully completed in January, 1999, to better ascertain who serves on Illinois school boards, how well they feel they are served by IASB, and how they view their roles and needs, September, 1998.
  • IASB and Motorola complete their first year together in offering two-day leadership development sessions exclusively for board members, the first such workshops ever offered in the United States, November, 1998.
  • IASB, in cooperation with school board associations in four other states, offers a new book focusing on policy development methods to boost student achievement, Targeting Student Learning: The School Board's Role as Policymaker. The publication is intended to supplement the policy and training services available from IASB, November, 1998.
  • George H. Ryan is sworn in as Illinois' 39th Governor, January, 1999.
  • The first statewide exams under the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) are administered to measure the status of students in relation to the new Illinois Learning Standards, February, 1999.
  • Governor Ryan's budget proposal for FY 2000 calls for an additional $342 million in school appropriations, February, 1999.
  • IASB joins other education organizations in filing an Amicus Curiae argument -- ultimately on the prevailing side -- to challenge the legality of a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) formed to "redevelop" an area primarily consisting of farmland, February, 1999
  • Lawmakers approve modest Tax Increment Financing reform legislation -- later signed into law by the Governor -- including provisions designed to prevent most farmland from becoming part of a TIF district, May, 1999.
  • Lawmakers approve a $391 million boost in school appropriations for FY 2000, once again fully funding the statutory levels established under HB 452, May, 1999.
  • Lawmakers approve Governor Ryan's 5-year, $12 billion infrastructure improvement program, called "Illinois First," including $1 billion in new state bonds for school construction and repair, May, 1999.
  • IASB's Board approves the Association's sponsorship of the Illinois Energy Consortium (IEC), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation. The IEC is formed by school management organizations to help schools benefit from reduced electric bills potentially available from electric industry deregulation, May, 1999.
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LEGISLATIVE ISSUES


A $391 million boost in school funding and a $1 billion increase in bonding authority for school construction projects were the key legislative outcomes of 1999. The lion's share of credit for these accomplishments went to the state's new Governor, George Ryan, who kept his campaign pledge to make public education funding a major priority.

The year began with a new General Assembly, a new Governor and a new State Superintendent of education all taking office in January 1999. Understandably there was much speculation about the education agenda for the spring legislative session. Because an education reform bill had been implemented in 1998, however, few major initiatives had been proposed in 1998. The result in 1999 was that over 700 education-related bills were introduced, and 120 of those were sent to the Governor for action. Yet few of them would have significant impact on how public schools would operate.

During the campaign in 1998, Governor George Ryan had pledged that education would be his top priority and that 51 percent of all new state revenue would be earmarked for education. Indeed, when his budget was unveiled in February, this was the case. The final budget, though amended slightly by the legislature, still maintained the majority of new spending for elementary, secondary and higher education.

Because the school reform bill approved in December 1997 (H.B. 452) set a statutory foundation level for state aid, there was little latitude for the legislature in crafting the Illinois State Board of Education's fiscal year 2000 appropriation.

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State Board of Education Budget

The appropriation for fiscal year 2000 resulted in an overall funding increase of precisely $391.4 million. The legislature met the statutory per pupil funding requirement of $4,325 and fully funded all mandatory categorical programs (including special education, transportation and free lunch/breakfast). Other significant budget provisions were crafted to:

  • provide funding to allow for a $1.05 calculation rate for high school districts to compute their "available local resources"
  • provide a $16 million increase in early childhood education
  • reinstate $2.75 million for the Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention Program
  • provide $50 million for school maintenance project grants
  • provide $8 million for a new summer bridge program
  • provide $5 million from the state and $51 million in federal funding to allow school districts to hire new teachers and reduce class size, and
  • provide for full funding of the Teacher Retirement System

The budget also included funds to cover the cost of another bill approved in the legislative session, P.A. 91-111, designed to address the property tax cap "double whammy." It provides that the "available local resources" in the state aid formula shall be determined by using an EAV of the district's taxable property that reflects the limitations placed by the property tax cap law. Another provision of the bill, costing approximately $10 million, assists school districts in the south triad of Cook County because of the affect of property tax caps coupled with their triennial re-assessment. A final provision provides for $14 million to be distributed among downstate school districts (any school district outside of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry or Will counties) that would have received less state aid in the 1999-2000 school year than they did the previous year.

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School Construction Funds

On May 4, Governor Ryan unveiled a remarkably ambitious $12 billion public infrastructure program, Illinois FIRST (Fund for Infrastructure, Roads, Schools and Transit). The five-year plan would include over $1 billion for the school construction grant program. Though the legislature had to work a week past its scheduled adjournment date, the plan was approved and signed into law.

The school construction grant program, created in the reform bill, H.B. 452, was in desperate need of an infusion of funds as the original $1.5 billion earmarked for the program had already been promised to eligible school districts that had applied and received an entitlement. Without additional funding, the State Board of Education was not going to be making entitlements for fiscal year 2000.

Along with new money for the construction grant program, the Governor and legislature created a funding stream for school maintenance project grants, made payments to some school districts through the newly created "Fund for Illinois' Future" and funded other "pay as you go" school projects.

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Tuition Tax Credits

Although the Governor initiated and supported the funding increases for public education, another campaign pledge could prove costly for public schools. In October 1998, Governor Ryan stated that he would support a bill allowing for an income tax credit to taxpayers for tuition paid to non-public schools. Because a bill had been approved by the legislature in 1997 -- a bill vetoed by former Governor Jim Edgar -- proponents of the tax credit were excited about the prospects of sending a bill to a Governor who supported the idea.

The Alliance worked closely with the teachers' unions and other interested organizations throughout the session to fight such legislation. In May, however, S.B. 1075 passed the House by a slim majority and was sent to the Governor. Governor Ryan signed the bill within weeks.

The bill provides tax credits for any pupil who is a resident of Illinois, under 21 years of age and a full-time student enrolled in any K-12 educational program at any public or non-public elementary or secondary school. It gives the parents or legal guardian of such students an income tax credit of 25 percent of tuition, book fees and lab fees paid. The bill requires at least $250 to be incurred in qualified educational expenses to be eligible for the credit, and it caps the credit at a maximum of $500 per household. This means that anyone spending at least $2,250 in school tuition or fees would be eligible for the full $500 tax credit. The estimated cost of this tax credit is between $70 million and $150 million. The program will begin with tax years ending after December 31, 1999.

 

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Teacher Certification

The school reform bill from 1997 also created a brand new way for Illinois to certify its teachers. However, it left the details of the re-certification process up in the air. In 1999, the new State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Glenn McGee, was given an assignment by the education leaders in the legislature - pass a bill on teacher certification. This turned out to be a long, laborious task for the Superintendent, teachers unions, the Alliance and various other parties interested in the issue.

The legislation, P.A. 91-102, was the product of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association and emerged abruptly one day in the Senate Education Committee. Though many legislators were ready to approve the bill immediately, the Alliance was successful in slowing the process in the Senate and making amendments. Likewise in the Illinois House of Representatives, the Alliance was instrumental in slowing the bill's progress to allow interested parties to take a closer look at this significant piece of legislation and make further changes. The bill eventually passed both chambers overwhelmingly.

From the outset the main sticking point for the Alliance was the bill's creation of a Local Professional Development Committee (LPDC). This local committee will approve or deny the re-certification plan of all teachers in the school district. The Alliance's efforts were centered around providing protection to the local school district in the operation of the LPDC. Some of the changes made were: (1) LPDC meetings shall not be scheduled so as to interfere with committee members' regularly scheduled teaching duties (the same provision was added for the Regional Professional Development Review Committees), (2) each school district shall be paid $1,000 per school year for administrative costs associated with conducting LPDC meetings, (3) the regional office shall receive $2,000 to cover costs associated with the regional review committees, (4) LPDC committee make-up was changed to include three classroom teachers, one administrator or his/her designee, and one at-large member selected by the school district, and (5) the list of union activities that could qualify for continuing education was streamlined.

 

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School Safety

School safety was already a hot-button issue at the beginning of the year, but when the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado occurred during the middle of the legislative session, the debate became even more intense. Several school safety bills were passed and signed into law.

H.B. 878 requires the State Board of Education to develop a school safety assessment audit to be distributed to all public schools and requires all the school district to complete the audit and develop a written safety plan if funds are appropriated from the state for this purpose. The bill also creates a 17-member Task Force on School Safety to develop recommendations for school safety procedures. S.B. 757 and H.B. 1193 require the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority to establish the Safe to Learn Program to support and fund school-based safety and violence prevention programs. Several bills passed that require additional reporting and notification requirements of school personnel in cases where weapons violations or other crimes are being committed on school grounds.

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ILLINOIS EDUCATION


Student scores remain steady in ACT testing

The state's average composite score on the ACT -- the entrance exam taken by most college freshmen in Illinois -- remained unchanged at 21.4 in 1999. Scores in Illinois remained above the national average, however, which also remained steady in 1999 at 21.0.

Illinois student scores topped the national average for the ninth consecutive year, with 67 percent of Illinois high school seniors taking the exam this year. The ratio of Illinois students taking the exam fell from 69 percent the previous year.

The statewide average composite score ranked Illinois 24th among the 50 states, which compares favorably to, say, Michigan, which ranked 27th. Illinois and Michigan may be good states to compare because they have similar demographics and they test roughly the same percentage of graduates, 69 percent in Michigan, compared to 67 percent in Illinois. The average state tests only 36 percent of graduates.

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Illinois SAT scores rise again

After hitting new highs in each of the previous two years, SAT scores of Illinois students rose again in 1999, soaring higher than ever above the national average. Illinois students scored 569 on the verbal portion of the exam and 585 on the mathematics portion in 1999, while U.S. student averages stood at 505 and 511, respectively. Only twelve percent of Illinois students took the exam, however, compared to 43 percent of students nationally, which accounts for much of the difference. Yet no state where a comparable percentage of students took the exam boasted higher scores. The SAT is the most widely used college entrance exam in the United States, although in Illinois and much of the Midwest the ACT exam is more widely used.

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Lake County District leader McGee named State Superintendent

The first Illinois Superintendent of Education to be chosen directly from the ranks of school district superintendents, Glenn W. McGee was selected in late 1998. The sixth appointed state superintendent, McGee previously had spent 23 years as a teacher, principal and local district superintendent in Illinois.

After 7 years of service as superintendent of Deerfield District 109 in Lake County, McGee, 48, was selected by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) from roughly 100 candidates. He formally assumed the State Superintendency January 1, 1999.

McGee was recognized as an exemplary superintendent, and as an individual who works effectively with people from all areas of the state to build coalitions to work on behalf of improving education. As a member of the Executive Committee of Education Research and Development (EdRed), and President of the Lake County Superintendents, he had worked with legislators of both political parties. He had authored position papers and legislative language for numerous school improvement measures, including special education funding reform and reading grant eligibility.

"I am deeply honored to have been chosen to be Illinois' next State Superintendent," McGee said. "A strong foundation has been built for students," he said, referring to the ISBE's Leadership Agenda. "I believe that we can use that agenda to achieve high standards for every student in every school every day."

As Superintendent of Aptakisic-Tripp School District 102 in Buffalo Grove from 1986 to 1991, McGee led the district to recognition as one of the top suburban districts. He developed and implemented a system to integrate technology in the curriculum district-wide and passed two referendums to build two new schools and a major addition.

At Deerfield, his accomplishments included development of a culture of continuous quality improvement with both a district and school quality review system. He is also credited with improving student performance while decreasing per pupil expenditures, and district adoption of a bond referendum.

McGee succeeded Joseph Spagnolo, who resigned the post in July, 1998, effective August 31. The State Board of Education accepted Spagnolo's resignation July 17 and hired a professional search firm soon afterward. The board also appointed an Interim State Superintendent, Robert Mandeville, who ran the State Board of Education agency from September 1, 1998 through January 1, 1999.

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THE FEDERAL SCENE


Congress approves class-size reduction plan, funding

Congress approved an administration program in late 1998 aimed at reducing class sizes in grades 1-3 by providing $1.2 billion to help school districts hire roughly 30,000 new teachers. Illinois expected to receive an allocation of more than $50 million to hire an estimated 1,289 new teachers, mostly in large urban school districts, as the program was targeted to high-poverty communities.

The omnibus budget bill also included a new literacy program and major increases for some existing programs.

President Clinton hailed the new teacher initiative as a victory for his education proposals and called the $1.2 billion appropriated for fiscal 1999 a "down payment" on the administration's $12 billion proposal for adding 100,000 new teachers.

Overall the omnibus budget bill increased education funding by $3.6 billion, or 12.6 percent, over the previous fiscal year. Despite threats by some congressional leaders to further cut or eliminate the e-rate program, Congress kept the program intact. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had voted in June 1998 to chop more than 40 percent from the federal e-rate subsidies designed to help schools and libraries purchase telecommunications services.

The 4,000-page omnibus budget bill also included an improvement in vocational education funding. The bill changed the state and local mix, with the ratio of federal funding that goes to the local share increased from 75 percent to 85 percent.

The bill also attempted to strengthen the quality of vocational and technical education by requiring states to support programs that expand the use of technology, and by funding professional development opportunities for vocational education staff.

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Supreme Court refuses to hear Milwaukee voucher case

The United States Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a major voucher case from Milwaukee, thus allowing a pro-voucher ruling to stand. The Wisconsin supreme court had ruled that taxpayer-supported tuition payments to nonpublic schools do not violate the constitutional requirement for separation of church and state.

While it did not establish any new national precedent, the high court's refusal to review the Wisconsin case did prolong the national debate over vouchers used to provide public tax support to private and religious schools. "Certainly, this debate is not over. Once several state supreme courts have heard voucher cases and come to different conclusions, the issue will be ripe for review by the Supreme Court," said Julie Lewis, a legislative specialist with the American Association of School Administrators.

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Federal "Ed-Flex" legislation aims to cut schools' red tape

In order to give schools greater flexibility in spending federal education funds, Congress approved a bill to would allow states to waive certain federal mandates. President Clinton signed the so-called Ed-Flex bill this spring, thereby expanding to all states an Ed-Flex pilot program already functioning in 12 states, including Illinois.

An evaluation of the pilot program by the General Accounting Office, however, said only Texas and Maryland used Ed-Flex effectively; the other 10 states did not take full advantage of it. The report also cited concerns about accountability. Thus, the U.S. Education Department also proposed an expansion of the Ed-Flex program but unsuccessfully sought to require states to meet more rigid performance criteria.

The final Act covers roughly $12 billion in federal K-12 programs, but does not apply to federal laws on disabled students or civil rights. It requires states to adopt plans showing how they would use Ed-Flex waivers to improve student achievement, and it requires states to waive state regulations related to federal regulations that are waived.

"For too long, Washington has been part of the problem with education, enacting many well-intentioned programs that result in more red tape and regulation," said Sen. Bill Frist (R., Tennessee), who sponsored the bill. Frist said Ed-Flex would free local schools from the burdens of red tape.

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SCHOOL BOARD PROGRAMS


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 1999. 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 1999 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.

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Televised Workshop. For the ninth 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 roughly 30 locations around the state, was designed for school board candidates and served as an introduction to the roles and responsibilities of board service.

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Litigation. Upon invitation, the IASB participates in cases having statewide significance.

IASB joined the Board of Education of the City of Chicago in an Amici Curiae brief urging that the immunity provisions in the Tort Immunity Act and the School Code act independently. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the IASB position and held that the School Code's immunity does not limit the immunity granted by the Tort Immunity Act. Despite being legislatively overturned, this decision illustrates the Court's unwillingness to legislate.

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. Henrich v. Libertyville High School, (1998).

The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the IASB and IASA in another decision this year. It held that a tax levy filed before the December deadline is for that fiscal year regardless of when the district intends to spend the money. The Court quoted from our Amici Curiae brief several times and adopted our position. Legislation adopted during the 1999 session further quelled tax levy objectors' contention that districts operating on a cash basis must adopt an annual budget before passing a levy for the year in question. Such a rule would have required adoption of a school annual budget 18 months or more in advance of the fiscal year to which the levy pertains. In re. Application of DuPage County Collector for the Year 1993 v. ATI Carriage House, (1999).

The Court of Appeals, Second District, disagreed with us in a matter involving what is appropriate to be levied under the Tort Immunity Act. The Rockford Board of Education's attempt to levy taxes under the Tort Immunity Act to fund federal court desegregation remedies was met with numerous tax objections. A trial judge found for the objectors. While the Rockford board did not appeal, the citizens who were plaintiffs in the desegregation case intervened and sought an appellate ruling that the board was authorized to levy taxes under the Tort Immunity Act to fund injunctive relief. The Board of Education of the City of Chicago and the IASB jointly filed an Amici brief urging that the Tort Immunity Act is an appropriate source for funding all remedial tort obligations.

The Court of Appeals held that school districts may not levy funds under the Tort Immunity Act in order to fund injunctive relief. The Act provides: "A local public entity is empowered and directed to pay tort judgment or settlement for compensatory damages for which it . . . is liable . . . " (emphasis added). Injunctive relief is different from "compensatory damages." As the Tort Immunity Act does not specifically authorize levies for funding injunctive relief, the tax objections are valid. In Re: Consolidated Objections to Tax Levies of School District 205, (1999).

The Illinois Court of Appeals, Fifth District, agreed with the Amici Curiae brief filed by the IASB, IASA, and IEA and struck a TIF ordinance. The ordinance placed 1,300 acres of productive farmland and 50 acres of improved land into a Tax Increment Financing District. The Amici brief successfully argued that this TIF failed to meet the statute's requirements for establishing a TIF. This case represents another victory for school districts concerned with the burgeoning number of TIF districts arising due to liberally construed TIF criteria. Mascoutah Community Unit School District v. City of Mascoutah, (1999).

Seven organizations are supplying legal counsel for five individual plaintiffs to challenge the constitutionality of the Education Tax Credit legislation. These organizations are: the IASB, IEA, American Jewish Congress, IASA, Americans for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way Foundation, and Illinois Congress of Parents and Teachers.

Two of the individual plaintiffs are public school board members, Barbara B. Toney and Deborah S. McCleary. The IASB asked Barb Toney to be a plaintiff after her forceful opposition to the tax credit's passage expressed during a LEND press conference.

Beginning with the 2000 tax year, the Education Tax Credit authorizes the use of money that otherwise would be paid to Illinois as state income tax, to pay for tuition and expenses incurred in sending children to Illinois elementary and secondary schools. Almost all of these expenses will be incurred by pupils who attend private schools - the vast majority of which are sectarian.

The complaint will be filed in October 1999. It contends that the Education Tax Credit is unconstitutional because it: (a) violates the fundamental principle of separation between church and state embodied in Article I, sec. 3, and Article X, sec. 3, of the Illinois Constitution, (b) allows public funds to be used for non-public purposes in violation of Article VIII, sec. 1(a), of the Illinois Constitution, and (c) establishes a tax classification that is not reasonable in violation of Article IX, sec. 2, of the Illinois Constitution.

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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.

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Election guidance. Each IASB member district received a packet of tools for the 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 over 2,000 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.

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Resource Center. The IASB Resource Center serves staff and member school boards with prompt research assistance. An automated catalog facilitates each staff member's desktop access to the Association's small, specialized collection, consisting of books, reports, many serial titles and an extensive vertical file. 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 42 million records. On-line connections play an important role in supplementing the Resource Center's collections in its reference, research, documentation and cataloging services. Among these on-line resources are: full Internet access; OCLC; FirstSearch (16 specialized data bases available through a grant from the Illinois State Library); ILLINET Online (a window into libraries throughout Illinois); and subscription to listervs of interest to school board members, educators and special libraries.

The Resource Center's materials (both print and non-print formats) continued to expand at a rapid pace in 1999, along with requests for services. A small, rotating collection was established in the Lombard office to better serve staff there. 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.

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Growing Risk Management Programs. The Workers' Compensation Self-Insurance Trust (WCSIT) ended the 1999 fiscal year on June 30 with 371 members under the Trust's coverage, and has earned nearly $9.5 million in contributions for the 1998-99 plan year. For the fifth consecutive year, the WCSIT experienced a renewal rate in the high 90th percentile. This phenomenal renewal rate is attributed to the unique package of benefits in addition to the competitive workers' compensation coverage that WCSIT provides its members.

The WCSIT package of benefits is designed with school district needs in mind. Qualified WCSIT members receive School District Treasurer's Surety Bonds as a benefit of membership in a required amount up to $15 million to protect the faithful performance of their districts' treasurers. The School Board Legal Liability coverage program (school board errors and omissions coverage) provides coverage up to $7 million to qualified participants. WCSIT members also receive specialized loss control services as an additional benefit of membership.

A new benefit of membership was added for the 1999-2000 plan year. WCSIT is now providing student accident coverage to eligible members. This coverage helps to protect students and their families against the high cost of medical expenses related to accidental injuries that occur while attending regular school sessions or while the student is participating in activities sponsored by the school, except for tackle football and ice hockey, grades 9-12. WCSIT is excited to be able to include this new benefit in its unique package of benefits.

During the 1998-99 program year, the total contributions to the Trust since inception surpassed $100 million, making WCSIT a major provider of workers' compensation coverage to Illinois public school districts. The WCSIT is one of the most financially successful workers' compensation pools available to Illinois school districts today. Since its inception in 1982, the WCSIT has returned a total of $14.5 million in dividends and distributions to its members. Furthermore, the WCSIT has never asked for additional assessments from its members in its 17-year history. As of June 30, 1999, the WCSIT holds a healthy surplus of approximately $8.1 million (unaudited amount.)

The Illinois School District Agency (ISDA) provides property/casualty coverage to more than 160 school districts across the state. For the 1998-99 program year, the ISDA experienced a renewal retention rate in the 90th percentile and received approximately $4.4 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 WCSIT and ISDA programs are designed specifically for Illinois school districts by school districts. Each pool is controlled by a board composed of Illinois school district administrators, school board members and business officials. Together, these school district representatives voice the wants of their peers in workers' compensation and property/casualty coverage.

Working together to provide sound and viable coverage to Illinois school districts, the WCSIT and ISDA are sponsored by the IASB and administered by Hinz Professional Insurance Program Managers, Inc. (HPIPM). HPIPM provides loss control and other assistance to 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 David Binotti Risk Management award. This award signifies a school district's remarkable strides in risk management for the year. The 1998 winner was Colchester C.U. District 180.

For more information about the WCSIT and ISDA programs that are tailored to meet the needs of Illinois public school districts, visit their website at http://www.wcsit-isda.com today.

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The IASB-sponsored Unemployment Program is entering its fifteenth year with GatesMcDonald Company (formerly Gibbens Company), which administers this program for members. During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1999, 1,342 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 $3.7 million to IASB member districts.

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Liquid Asset Fund. The Illinois School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus now boasts 439 actively participating school districts, educational service regions, community colleges and insurance pools. Sponsored 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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AWARDS AND HONORS


National Leadership. Two members of the Illinois Council of School Attorneys are represented on the 1998-99 NSBA Council of School Attorneys. Those honored are: Anthony G. Scariano, of the firm Scariano, Kula, Ellch & Himes, Chicago; and Nancy Fredman Krent, of Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn, Arlington Heights.

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Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. Michael G. Minger, president of the Metamora Community Consolidated School District 299 Board of Education, received the seventh annual Thomas Lay Burroughs award at the 1998 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.

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Cole Awards. Seven different Illinois newspapers received recognition in the 1999 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, top honors went to The Courier-News, Elgin, which also took first prize back in 1997. Among smaller papers, the first-place winner was the Landmark, Oak Park; the second-place winner was the Highland News Leader; and the third-place winner was the Morris Daily Herald. Meanwhile, among smaller papers, First Honorable Mention went to the Chillicothe Times-Bulletin, Peoria; Second Honorable Mention went to The Herald, Bourbonnais; and Third Honorable Mention went to the Breeze-Courier, Taylorville.

Well over 100 different newspapers have received recognition in the 20 years IASB has sponsored the competition. The awards are named in honor of the Association's first full-time executive director.

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Those Who Excel. Thirteen school board members were honored by the State Board of Education this year for their outstanding contributions to Illinois schools. The board members receiving Those Who Excel awards included IASB Directors William A. Jenner, O'Fallon Township High School District 203, and Marie C. Slater, C.U. District 200, Wheaton. Other board member winners included: Julia A. Norem, Belvidere C.U. District 100; Scott Umbreit, Rich Township High School District 227, Olympia Fields; Bruce E. Beckman, Community High School District 99, Downers Grove; Suzanne Crofts, Cass District 63, Darien; Michael W. Kiss, Township High School District 113, Highland Park; Marc Spivak, Kildeer Countryside C.C. District 96, Buffalo Grove; Jeffrey Perkins, Decatur District 61; Donald L. Davinroy, Collinsville C.U. District 10; Janet S. Hood, McLean County Unit District 5, Normal; Anne H. Adler, Moline District 40; David J. Kurlinkus, Hononegah Community High School District 207, Rockton.

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