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The Education Year in Review -- 1999-2000

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Legislative Issues
Budget and Private School Aid
State Board of Education Budget

Education Inspector General
School Breakfast Mandate
TIF reform law

IASB Delegate Assembly and 2000 Legislative Session
Click here to download a file in portable document format requiring the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

llinois Education
Illinois students hit record heights on ACT exam
Weapons-possession expulsions decline
ISBE approves use of Lincoln Foundation criteria

The Federal Scene
Federal agency rules school bus seat belts not needed
Washington continues class size reduction effort
Illinois schools among top e-rate winners

Significant Developments, 1999-2000
Click here to download a file of highlights in education presented in portable document format.

School Board Programs
Policy Reference Education Subscription Service
Televised Workshop
Management Tools
Growing Risk Management Programs
Illinois School District Agency (ISDA)
Investment Pool
Unemployment Claims Control

Participation in IASB Programs
Click here to download a table in portable document format showing numbers of participants in IASB programs for the past three years.

IASB Financial Report
Click here to download the IASB financial report for FY 2000 in portable document format.

Awards and Honors
Thomas Lay Burroughs Award
Cole Awards
Those Who Excel Awards


The Illinois General Assembly provided a $330 million funding increase for public schools for fiscal year 2001 and rejected a proposed $12 million parochial school aid plan. These state budgeting decisions were two of the more significant legislative outcomes of the year.

In elementary and secondary school budgeting, state legislators boosted General State Aid (GSA) by $17.4 million in order to increase the foundation level to $4,425 per pupil, a level required by state law under 1997 legislation. 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 2001 appropriation. Lawmakers simply followed the law.

Lawmakers adjourned the spring legislative session April 15, six weeks ahead of the usual end of May adjournment time. The Speaker of the House, Michael J. Madigan, and the President of the Senate, James "Pate" Philip, had agreed in January to set the early adjournment deadline. In the second year of each legislative cycle, the session is supposed to be designated for budgetary and emergency matters only. This constitutional advice is seldom heeded, however, and few believed that the leaders could pull off the feat of adjourning in April. But the leadership adhered to a bill limit philosophy that meant most bills were held in the Rules Committee, barring many issues from being considered in committee or on the chamber floor.

Of greater importance to legislative leaders, perhaps, was the fact that this was a pivotal election year. Speaker Madigan held a slim majority in the House and President Philip held a slim majority in the Senate. Both men wanted desperately to hang on to their majorities after the November 2000 election. Every ten years lawmakers must re-draw the state legislative boundaries based on the latest census numbers. Whoever is in control of the legislature will also have control of the map-making, and thus hold the power to draw boundary lines that best suit his political party. With such high stakes, neither leader wished to have controversial issues on the table that vulnerable legislators would have to vote on. The best way to avoid tough votes, therefore, was to leave town all together. Thus the early adjournment date.

Budget and Private School Aid -- With no significant issues on the table for debate, the only matter that might have jeopardized the early adjournment was the fiscal year 2001 state budget, and it nearly did.

The initial budget agreement between the governor and the legislative leaders included a provision to send $12 million in state aid directly to non-public elementary and secondary schools throughout the state. Specifically, the plan allotted $80 million to be allocated on a per-pupil basis to every school in the state, both public and private. The aid was intended to cover the costs of the "mandates" placed on the schools (even though private schools are not required to meet such mandated programs). Public schools would have received the other $68 million; the funding would have totaled approximately $38 per pupil. This "parochi-aid" plan was championed by Speaker Madigan.

In the middle of the final week of session, the private school provision was thought to have been a "done deal" as the leaders had signed off on the tentative agreement. Very rarely do rank and file legislators undo what had been established by the leadership. Things would be different this time.

For three days legislators were hammered on by the teachers’ unions and school management. The lobbyists in the education community were working the legislators at the chamber door, but more importantly, school administrators and board members were calling the legislative offices. By Friday afternoon (April 14), the targeted deadline for adjournment, the Speaker had declared the "parochi-aid" issue dead. The votes were not there to pass such a provision. It took an extra day to redraft the budget and the new budget passed on Saturday, April 15, shortly before the legislature adjourned for the summer.

The $12 million earmarked for non-public schools was then added to the State Board of Education’s budget, with $6 million going into the textbook loan line item, and $6 million being added to the transportation reimbursement line item. Both of these line items had a portion of their funds already being sent to non-public schools. It is expected that about $600,000 of the textbook money will go to private schools. No estimate was made by the State Board about how much of the transportation funding might go to non-public schools.

The $38 per pupil that was to go to public schools via "parochi-aid" was kept in the State Board of Education budget. The $68 million was added to the School Safety and Education Improvement Block Grant (the "ADA grant").

State Board of Education Budget -- As mentioned, the ISBE appropriation for fiscal year 2001 resulted in an overall funding increase of $330 million over last year. General State Aid received a $17.4 million increase, to raise the foundation level to $4,425 per pupil; and the hold harmless provision was fully funded with an increase of $17 million; and categorical grants were, again, fully funded.

This was the last year with a guaranteed foundation level set by statute. This provision, of course, was established in HB 452, which passed in the special legislative session of December 1997. That bill changed the school funding formula and set a guaranteed foundation level for fiscal years 1999, 2000 and 2001. Now the governor, as required by law, has appointed an advisory commission to look into the school funding issue. The key questions for the commission will be: Will there still be a "continuing appropriation," which makes education funding a state entitlement? Will the foundation level be set again by statute? Will there continue to be a "hold harmless" provision?

Indeed, school funding will be a hot topic in the 2001 spring legislative session.

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Education Inspector General -- Due to the tremendous response of school board members, administrators, and principals, a bill that would have created an Illinois Educational Inspector General position was resoundingly defeated in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. The bill, sponsored by Senate President James "Pate" Philip, had already passed the Senate.

The inspector general would have had the authority to conduct investigations into allegations or incidents of waste, fraud and financial mismanagement in public education. The far-reaching bill would have given the inspector the authority to conduct investigations into such allegations in "public education grades pre-kindergarten through 12 by any employee, officer, board member, or contractor of any regional office of education, educational service center, joint agreement program, school district, charter school, or the State Board of Education or involving public educational projects managed or handled by third party agents." Authority would have been granted for the inspector to enter any public school building or facility that is owned or leased by any regional office of education, educational service center, joint agreement program, school district, charter school or the State Board of Education. Also, the inspector would have had the power to subpoena witnesses and compel the production of books, papers, software, or other materials pertinent to any investigation so authorized.

The Alliance opposed the bill because it was unnecessary due to all of the accountability standards that a local school district must already meet. Also, the broad drafting of the legislation would have made the inspector general’s office the tool of any disgruntled employee, unhappy parent, or mischievous student. One phone call with an unsubstantiated allegation of fraud or mismanagement could have brought an investigative team into the school building, and into the headlines of local newspapers.

School Breakfast Mandate -- A bill that originally would have required all school districts to establish a school breakfast program and would have required certain school districts to provide a breakfast and lunch program throughout the summer, was significantly improved by an Alliance amendment. The Alliance was able to stall the school breakfast mandate bill for a year after having blocked any movement of the bill through the Senate until the mandate was removed.

An agreement between the proponents of the bill, the State Board of Education and the Alliance removed the mandate and established a financial incentive program that will allow a school district to apply for funding to create or increase participation in a school breakfast program. After the amendment was adopted, the bill easily received approval from both the House and the Senate.

TIF reform law fails to alleviate some school concerns -- A new law that took effect in November 1999 was designed to close loopholes in the state’s tax increment financing (TIF) statute, but some major school concerns were not addressed. The Illinois TIF statute enables municipalities to redevelop blighted areas by using the increased property tax revenue derived from such redeveloped property to defray the cost of the improvements. School districts and other local taxing districts are locked out of receiving increased tax revenue derived from improved TIF property for up to 23 years.

A key reform provision benefiting schools requires reimbursements to school districts for any new students who enroll as a result of such TIF redevelopment, including the construction of additional residential housing. School advocates decry the fact, however, that the reforms do not ban the use of TIFs for residential development. They point out that the original intent of the TIF statute was to allow business and industrial improvements, not residential development.

The new law revising TIF provisions, Public Act 91-478, not only requires reimbursements for any new students, it also slightly tightens the definition of blighted areas. Blighted areas remain the only places eligible to be designated and redeveloped as TIF districts. The revised law will no longer permit municipalities, however, to use TIF funds to build golf courses and municipal buildings.

Loopholes remain in the TIF law’s definition of blighted areas, however, according to school advocates. School districts still lack the authority, for example, to block the designation of a TIF area that would be harmful to local schools.

While future reforms may close these loopholes, legislative sponsors of the 1999-enacted reforms said they would wait at least a year to see how modifications of the law were working before they submit further TIF proposals.

IASB Delegate Assembly and 2000 Legislative Session -- Click here to download a file in portable document format requiring the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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Illinois students hit record heights on ACT exam -- The state’s average composite score for students on the ACT—the college entrance exam taken by most high school students in Illinois—reached an all-time high at 21.5 in 2000. Scores in the state remained well above the national average, which stood unchanged at 21.0.

Illinois student scores topped the national average for the tenth consecutive year, with 72 percent of Illinois high school graduates taking the exam in 2000 The ratio of Illinois graduates taking the exam rose from 67 percent the previous year. On average nationwide only 38 percent of graduates were tested.

The rising performance of Illinois students was all the more remarkable in light of the rising percentage of the state’s high school students taking the ACT exam. When only the brightest high school students take the exam, averages are higher. As more students ranked in the lower half of their class take the exam, statewide average composite scores typically fall. Despite rising student participation, however, neither state nor nationwide scores fell in the year 2000.

Weapons-possession expulsions decline -- Only 86 students were expelled in Illinois during the previous school year for weapons possession, the federal Education Department reported in August 1999. What’s more, the number of such expulsions was well down.

In contrast, California public schools expelled 382 students for weapons possession, Texas expelled 424, and Pennsylvania expelled 193 in 1997-98. All three states had much higher rates of such expulsions than Illinois, which had 3.8 expulsions per 100,000 students, the lowest rate in the Midwest.

ISBE approves use of Lincoln Foundation criteria to meet state standards -- The State Board of Education and the Lincoln Foundation for Business Excellence (LFBE) announced in fall 1999 that schools participating in the LFBE process will meet all requirements of the State Board’s quality assurance review. By meeting the Lincoln criteria for education excellence, districts will bypass the State Board’s quality assurance reviews, school improvement plans, and internal reviews based on the ISAT/IGAP scores.

In effect, LFBE involvement offers districts a different path to achieving continual improvement while meeting state standards. Undertaking this process, however, demands greater rigor and discipline from all district stakeholders. It is another way for public schools to show the state that they are succeeding. This approach may be particularly appropriate for districts that "desire more rigor to avoid the ‘averageness’ of the Quality Assurance process," experts on the LFBE say.

Thus, participation in the LFBE process may take more time and effort compared to involvement in the State Board’s new standards review process. Yet there are distinct benefits in pursuing the LFBE approach, including the collaborative teamwork that is developed within a school district under the LFBE process.

Under LFBE, seven key areas of education criteria for performance excellence are evaluated. They include: leadership, strategic planning, student and stakeholder focus, information and analysis faculty and staff focus, educational and support process management, and school performance results. The ultimate aim is continuous improvement in all these areas.

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Federal agency rules school bus seat belts not needed -- In September 1999 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended a series of steps to prevent injuries in school bus accidents—but the agency said seat belts are not needed. Adding seat belts to school buses actually could harm children, the board found. Videotaped reconstructions of school bus collisions showed that seat belts secured children in their seats, making their heads snap dangerously back and forth.

"The current seats are not designed for seat belts, and that’s the bottom line," explained Joe Osterman, head of the board’s highway division. The NTSB left open, however, the issue of whether seat belts should be included on next-generation bus seats.

Washington continues class size reduction effort -- President Bill Clinton and congressional leaders reached agreement on class size reduction funding in the final days of the 1999 Congress, part of a major fiscal year 2000 education appropriations package. The agreement gave school districts more flexibility in how they might use the new funds to reduce class size, allowing as much as 25 percent to go to teacher training. Previously, districts could spend no more than 15 percent of such funds on teacher training.

The $35.7 billion appropriation for the federal Education Department, up from $33.5 billion the previous year, included $1.3 billion to reduce class size. The reported plan was that this $1.3 billion would enable school districts to retain the 29,000 new teachers hired in the first year of the program. It also made good on a bipartisan promise to eventually hire 100,000 teachers to reduce class size in the early grades. In pursuit of that goal the bill provided funding for roughly 8,000 additional teachers. In November 1999, the administration released a report showing that the class size reduction initiative was working. Teachers reportedly were being hired in areas of greatest need and urban teachers were receiving high-quality training.

Illinois schools among top e-rate winners -- Just six states captured a larger share of program funding per school-age child than Illinois in the second year of the federal e-rate program. The e-rate program provides discounts of 20 to 90 percent on the purchase of educational technology services. An analysis of e-rate program funding data conducted by a consulting firm called Funds For Learning found Illinois schools and libraries obtained roughly $104 per school-age child. The top-ranked state in terms of e-rate funding was Alaska, at $172; lowest-ranked was North Dakota, at $37.

Meanwhile, schools and libraries filed a record number of applications for funding in the program’s third year, with over 36,000 applications, compared to roughly 32,000 the previous year. Detailed information about the e-rate program is available on the website:

Significant Developments, 1999-2000-- Click here to download a file of highlights in education presented in portable document format.

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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 2000. 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 2000 with more than 600 current subscriptions.

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 tenth 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.

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

Budget and tax levy cycles were maintained thanks to a ruling by the state’s highest court. The Illinois Supreme Court, agreeing with the IASB and IASA, 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 an IASB Amici Curiae brief several times and adopted the Association’s 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 pertained. In re Application of DuPage County Collector for the Year 1993 v. ATI Carriage House.

In another case a court eventually disagreed with IASB over whether a TIF ordinance should be struck. On rehearing, the Illinois Court of Appeals reversed its previous position. The Court initially 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 argued that this TIF failed to meet the statute’s requirements for establishing a TIF. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed itself and upheld the ordinance. The IASB, IASA, and IEA continue to be deeply concerned with the burgeoning number of TIF districts due to liberally construed TIF criteria. Thus, these three associations joined together to file another Amici Curiae brief before the Illinois Supreme Court. Mascoutah Community Unit School District v. City of Mascoutah.

On the federal level, IASB and several other state associations joined NSBA in an Amici Curiae brief before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court refused to hear the diversity case in question. The brief urged the court to answer this question: can a local school board take intentional steps to ensure a diverse learning environment?

Montgomery County Maryland Public Schools enacted a district-wide policy, the purpose of which was to maintain a racially blended student enrollment among its various school buildings. Pursuant to that policy, the system denied Jacob Eisenberg, a white second-grader, a transfer to a math-science magnet school, citing the adverse impact on racial composition at both the sending and receiving school. Overriding a district court decision in the school district’s favor, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found for Eisenberg.

This case was worthy of Supreme Court review—IASB, IASA, and IEA asserted—because it presented the critical issue of race and student assignment in elementary and secondary schools. The Supreme Court, however, refused to give school leaders further guidance on the issue of using race to further the mission of diversity. Eisenberg v. Montgomery County Maryland Public Schools.

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.

Growing Risk Management Programs -- The Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Trust (WCSIT) ended the 1999-00 fiscal year on June 30, 2000 with 375 members under the Trust’s coverage, and has earned nearly $9.7 million in contributions for the 1999-00 plan year. For the sixth 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 1999-00 program year, the total contributions to the Trust since inception surpassed $120 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 declared more than $15.6 million in dividends and distributions to its members. Furthermore, the WCSIT has never asked for additional assessments from its members in its 18-year history. As of June 30, 2000, the WCSIT holds a healthy surplus of approximately $5.4 million (unaudited amount.)

The Illinois School District Agency (ISDA) provides property/casualty coverage to more than 175 school districts across the state. For the 1999-00 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.

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 today.

Investment Pool -- Through Cadre Financial Services, Inc., IASB joins IASA and IASBO in sponsoring the Illinois School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus, and investment pool whose objectives are safety, liquidity and comprehensive yields for Illinois districts, with immediate access to invested funds. The program offers two Standard & Poor’s AAAm-rated money market funds and a wide range of fixed-rate investments for a longer maturity and higher potential return. Such investments include FDIC certificates of deposit, US Government Securities, Bankers’ Acceptances and A1P1 Commercial Paper.

The Illinois School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus now boasts 447 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 FDIC-insured Certificates of Deposit, US Government Securities, BA’s and A1P1 Commercial Paper. Members can also choose an unlimited checkwriting account that earns a comprehensive interest rate until checks actually clear, thus earning interest in the interim. In addition the Fund’s Administrator, Cadre Financial Services, Inc. has developed an on-line informational and transactional Internet site called COMPASS. That may be accessed by participants at

The IASB-sponsored Unemployment Claims Control Program is entering its sixteenth year with GatesMcDonald Company. During the calendar year ending December 31, 1999, 1053 unemployment claims were processed on behalf of 300 IASB program participants. Of those claims protested, favorable decisions were reached in approximately 80 percent of the cases, resulting in savings of over 3.6 million to IASB member districts. Through education and expert claims management, GatesMcDonald keeps unemployment cost at a minimum for all member districts.

Participation in IASB Programs -- Click here to download a table in portable document format showing numbers of participants in IASB programs for the past three years.

IASB Financial Report -- Click here to download the IASB financial report for FY 2000 in portable document format.


Thomas Lay Burroughs Award -- Ernesto E. Mickens Jr., president of the Dolton West School District 148 Board of Education, received the eighth annual Thomas Lay Burroughs award at the 1999 Joint Annual Conference in November. The award recognizes the state’s outstanding local school board president, while celebrating the work of all school boards for their service to children and to education. Specifically, 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. The Thomas Lay Burroughs Award is named in honor of the late chairman of the State Board of Education.

Cole Awards -- Eight different Illinois newspapers received recognition in the 2000 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 Daily Times, Pekin; the second-place winner was the Courier-News, Lincoln; third-place winner was The Telegraph, Alton; and honorable mention went to the Austin Weekly News, Oak Park. Among smaller papers, first place went to The Courier, Lincoln; second place went to the Woodford County Journal, Eureka; third place went to The Free Press Advocate, Wilmington; and honorable mention went to the Morris Daily Herald. Over 115 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.

Those Who Excel -- Ten 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 Joseph T. Alesandrini, Pekin District 303, and Barbara Somogyi, C.C. District 59, Elk Grove. Other board member winners included: Cheryl Jackson, Bloomington District 87; Dan Prezell, Oak Park Elementary District 97; Karen C. Geschwend, Highland C.U. District 5; Glen A. Marcum, Joliet Public School District 86; Harry Peterson, Madison C.U. District 12; John Ratliff, Township High School District 214, Arlington Heights; Joan L. Sheppard, Alton C.U. District 11, and Edward M. Yung, C.C. District 15, Palatine.

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