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The Education Year in Review -- 2004-2005


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Legislative Issues
Budget Issue
Other Key Issues

Illinois Education
State Board Of Education Developments

The Federal Scene
Nutrition Reforms
E-Rate Extension
NCLB

Significant Developments

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

IASB Financial Report
Click here to download the IASB financial report for FY 2005 in portable document format.

Awards and Honors

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

The Illinois General Assembly, after a marathon session in 2004, adjourned on time in 2005 – leaving Springfield on May 31. The Democrat leadership – Governor Rod Blagojevich, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Senate President Emil Jones, Jr. – agreed to a Fiscal Year 2006 state budget package and passed the budget bill on a partisan roll call. A sweeping – and controversial – pension bill was the main component of the session-ending budget agreement.

Facing another significant budget shortfall like the previous three years, the Governor and legislature had to find a revenue stream to fill the hole and fund budget priorities like public education and Medicaid. All proposals that contained tax or fee increases were "dead on arrival" before election-wary legislators; also dead were plans to expand state-sponsored gaming. That is when the legislature turned to the controversial pension proposal to free up much-needed cash.

Budget Issue

SB 27 (Public Act 94-0004) allows the state to significantly reduce payments to the state's pension systems the next two years, thus freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars for the legislature to spend in other budget areas. This provision was labeled a "pension holiday" by opponents of the legislation and "pension debt restructuring" by the proponents. Only about half of the amount scheduled to be paid to the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) in FY '06 and FY '07 will be made. It has been estimated that for every dollar the fund was shorted next year, it will take about seven dollars to replace it in order for the system to be actuarially sound in the future.

To "sweeten the pot," legislators added pension language for members of TRS that would continue an Early Retirement Option (ERO) provision in the pension code. ERO was set to expire on June 30, 2005 and, up to the last few days of the legislative session, it looked as though it would. Led by concerns voiced by Speaker Madigan, legislators were stating that the state could not afford the expensive early retirement provision. So, while many legislators expressed concerns about adding new unfunded liability to the pension systems, the prospect of continuing the popular ERO provision undoubtedly added votes to the measure.

The current ERO provision was extended for two more years for those employees already "in the pipeline." However, for those TRS employees who would give notice of retiring under the provision after June 1, 2005, significantly higher contribution rates will apply for both teachers/administrators and for school districts. The school board will also have the right to implement a "hard cap" on how many employees may use the ERO in a given year.

Also added to the legislation was a provision stating that if a TRS member's salary that is used to determine his or her pension amount is increased by more than 6 percent from the previous year with the same employer, the school board must pay TRS the increased cost to the pension system that resulted from the portion of the increase in salary that is in excess of 6 percent. This "present value" is computed by TRS on the basis of actuarial assumptions and tables used in the most recent actuarial valuation available. The school board must pay the contribution in a lump sum within 30 days of receipt of the bill from TRS. Similar language was added to require school districts to pay for the granting of additional lump sum sick days. These provisions could effectively cap salary and sick days for school district employees as most school districts will not be able to afford to pay the penalty.

In the omnibus appropriations bill, SB 1548, elementary and secondary education saw an increase of about $326 million over the FY '05 funding level. The foundation level in the General State Aid formula was increased by $200 per pupil (for a total of $5,164) and the poverty grant was funded at 100 percent by delaying the "phase-in" added to the law in FY '04. Mandated categorical grants were funded at roughly the same pro-ration percentages (about 97 percent) as in FY '05. The legislature agreed with the Governor's priority to increase the funding level for Early Childhood Education by adding $30 million above last year's funding level. And like last year, the bill provided "Transitional Assistance" – $11.8 million – to ensure that no school district would receive less money in FY '06 than it did in FY '05. Finally, the legislature took the $10 million made available last year in the grant for "fast growth districts" and added it to the line item for the "ADA Block Grant." This bumped the total block grant amount to $64.8 million (or about $34 per student).

Powerful Chicago ally, Mayor Richard M. Daley, meanwhile, said Blagojevich's budget ignored Illinois' most pressing need: a more equitable system for funding public schools. Along with Senate President Jones, Daley threw his support behind a doomed tax swap idea (HB 750) that would have shifted the burden of public education from property taxes and toward increased sales and income taxes.

Other Key Issues

The General Assembly passed sweeping legislation to address concerns in the Election Code (HB 1968), the Workers' Compensation Law (HB 2137), and Medical Malpractice (SB 475). Several key education-related bills were approved as well:

Increased Graduation Requirements

SB 575 (Public Act 94-0676) increases the high school graduation requirements, phased in over the next four years. It would require at least two years of science (instead of one); require three years of mathematics – including algebra and geometry – (instead of two); require at least two "writing-intensive courses," one being an English course; and require English every year of high school (instead of three years). Passage of these courses would be a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. The new law became effective Aug. 24, 2005.

Board Approval of Financial Contracts

HB 3480 provides that the annual budget of a school district shall separately identify revenue from taxes and revenue from all other sources, including without limitation vending machines, and disclose all school board-sanctioned contractual agreements and the estimated revenue to be received as a result of these contracts. It requires the approval of the school board for all contracts and agreements that pertain to goods and services and that are intended to generate additional revenue and other remunerations for the school district in excess of $1,000 and provides that the annual budget shall contain a statement of the cash on hand, an estimate of the cash expected to be received, an estimate of the expenditures from revenues, and a statement of the estimated cash from all other itemized sources (rather than all other sources). The Governor issued an amendatory veto on the bill– changing the due date for the new budget form to July 1, 2006.

Schools in Financial Difficulty

SB 1853 (Public Act 94-0234) establishes new criteria to determine whether a school district is in financial difficulty. This will include the issuance of teacher orders, the issuance of short-term debt against two future revenue sources, and the refusal to provide financial information to the State Board of Education. The bill also requires school districts to adopt and file with the state board an annual balanced budget. To the extent that the budget is not balanced, the district shall also adopt and file a deficit reduction plan to balance the district's budget within three years. The deficit reduction plan must be filed at the same time as the budget. The new law became effective July 14, 2005.

Interfund Transfers

HB 676 (Public Act 94-0176) extends the time period during which a school district may transfer monies from specified funds for any purpose to June 30, 2007. The new law became effective July 12, 2005.

Drivers' Education Reimbursement

SB 297 (Public Act 94-0525) provides that if a school district has adopted a policy to permit proficiency examinations for the practice driving part of the driver education course, then the school district is entitled to only one-half of the reimbursement amount for the practice driving part for each pupil who has passed the proficiency examination. The new law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2006.

Open Meetings Act

SB 226 (Public Act 94-0028) requires that a public body that has a website that is maintained by full-time staff post on its website the agenda of any regular meetings and a notice of the schedule of regular meetings. The failure to post a notice on the website shall not invalidate any meeting or actions taken at a meeting. The new law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2006.

School Plan Inspections

SB 383 (Public Act 94-0225) requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules for the documentation of school plan reviews and inspections of school facilities and to convene a task force for the purpose of reviewing these documents and making recommendations regarding training and accreditation of individuals performing reviews or inspections. The new law became effective July 14, 2005.

Use of Bio-Diesel Fuel

HB 112 (Public Act (4-0346) requires that, beginning July 1, 2006, all diesel-powered vehicles owned or operated by the State, any county or unit of local government (including school districts) use a blend containing at least 2 percent bio-diesel fuel. Exempted from the requirement are school buses that have been retrofitted to burn ultra-low sulfur fuel. The new law became effective July 28, 2005.

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ILLINOIS EDUCATION

June 2005 – The state announces the launch of the Illinois School Purchasing Network.

May 2005 - The first in a series of open forums is scheduled seeking input on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) draft Strategic Plan.

April 2005 – ISBE unveils the "Illinois School Profile: A Brief Guide for Parents," designed to provide a concise, understandable overview of the information and data from the NCLB-mandated School Report Card.

March 2005 – The state announces a list of 288 schools as Illinois Honor Roll Schools, to be honored for making progress toward or maintaining academic excellence.

February 2005 – ISBE approves a change in state regulations that would prohibit public schools from denying any services to children because they lack documentation of immigration status or legal presence in the country.

January 2005 – The state makes payments to eight school districts for consolidation incentive grants totaling $1.98 million. The grants are made possible after the legislature and governor restore funding.

December 2004 – ISBE releases the Illinois State Report Card for the 2003-2004 school year, showing that 133 more schools and 110 more districts met NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements.

November 2004 – The ISBE announces plans to streamline its agency operations by an estimated $2.6 million in FY 2005 and $3.8 million in FY 2006.

October 2004 – ISBE issues $10 million in grants to 44 Illinois school districts under the "Fast Growth Grants" program.

September 2004 – The State Board appoints Dr. Randy J. Dunn to the position of Interim State Superintendent of Education. He succeeds Robert Schiller, who had resigned.

August 2004 - Announces that the average ACT score in Illinois rose for the second straight year; graduating seniors in 2004 earned an average composite score of 20.3 on the ACT, up from 20.2 last year and 20.1 in 2001.

July 2004 - Announces that 45 school organizations and education partners are to receive 21st Century Grants worth more than $80 million over the next five years in order to address achievement gap issues.

New Position Statements Adopted in 2004

Resolutions adopted by the IASB Delegate Assembly provide major policies for the Association and establish its stance on legislation and related matters of public policy through position statements. The Delegate Assembly, consisting of one voting representative from each member school board, meets each year in Chicago on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

The following new position statements, listed by category, were adopted by the 2004 Delegate Assembly.

Advanced Placement for Students. Position Statement 1.10 – The Illinois Association of School Boards shall offer and support legislation guaranteeing that the graduates of Illinois public high schools who achieve the following scores on Advanced Placement examinations shall be accorded, at minimum, the following benefits by all Illinois public colleges and universities:

For scores of 3, 4 or 5, full credit for completion of the college or university course corresponding to the Advanced Placement exam, including the award of the semester or credit hours (or their equivalent) which would have been earned if the student had successfully completed the coursework and any predecessor coursework at the postsecondary institution.

In all cases, Illinois public colleges and universities shall be free to award credit or benefits for scores below 3 as they see fit. Similarly, Illinois public colleges and universities shall continue to be free to grant such additional credit and placement in still higher coursework for scores of 4 and 5 as they see fit. (Adopted 2004)

School Attendance Days. Position Statement 1.11 – The Illinois Association of School Boards shall support a policy variance by the Illinois State Board of Education to allow Unit School Districts the option to stagger the start and end date of schools within their district based on developmental and educational appropriateness, without penalty to state aid appropriations, provided that all students in the district meet required student attendance requirements.

School Funding and Taxation Reform. Position Statement 2.25 – The Illinois Association of School Boards shall actively support the general concepts regarding school funding reform, property tax relief and tax reform identified in the legislative outline prepared by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in June of 2004 (and originally contained in Senate Amendments #1 and #2 to HB 750 in the 93rd General Assembly). Legislation resulting from that legislative outline shall be supported by the Illinois Association of School Boards provided that: the State guarantees the payment of property tax relief grants will be made in a timely fashion with no loss of funds to the school district: school districts have continued access to local property tax revenues through levies and referenda: and the legislation meets the criteria outlined in the IASB Position Statement 2.34 – School Finance Reform.

Property Tax Cap Expiration. Position Statement 2.45 – The Illinois Association of School Boards shall support a change in State law to create a four-year sunset on the implementation of the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law in each county in which PTELL has been enacted. The four-year sunset would also apply to the enactment of PTELL in any county approving PTELL after the effective date of the legislation. Any desire to extend PTELL beyond the four years would require the County Board to again place the question on the ballot and receive a positive majority of votes in the next general election.

Bilingual Education. Position Statement 6.19 – The Illinois Association of School Boards shall promote legislative action calling for the Illinois State Board of Education, the U.S. Department of Education and school districts to study the alignment of, and full financial support of, the implementation of second language, native language and bilingual education programs.

For information on all other IASB position statements, including those amended or reaffirmed by the 2004 Delegate Assembly, visit the IASB Web site at http://www.iasb.com/files/positions.htm .

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THE FEDERAL SCENE

The Federal Scene

Major child nutrition reforms adopted. Roughly 50,000 more disadvantaged children received free school meals in 2005 under a child nutrition bill (S. 2507) passed by Congress in June 2004. The new law automatically qualified students for free meals at school if their families are on food stamps. It also reduced the amount of paperwork schools must handle in order to give children free or reduced-price lunches. The law extended for five years programs that together cost nearly $16 billion per year, including: the federal school lunch program, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Other key components of the law include: local wellness policies that govern foods sold on school campuses, a nutrition network that funds nutrition education programs and personnel, and many pilot and grant programs to support school districts in improving student nutrition and physical activity.

E-rate extended for one year. School lobbyists celebrated final passage of legislation that renewed the "e-rate" program for schools and libraries for another 12 months. The bill was the final measure approved during the 108th Congress. The e-rate is a federal program enacted in 1996 to give schools and libraries discounts of 40 to 90 percent on Internet access and equipment, as well as telephone service. The program provides nearly $100 million a year, on average, to Illinois schools and libraries and is funded by a Universal Service Fee that appears on all consumers' telephone bills.

President pushes for NCLB testing in high schools. President George W. Bush called upon Congress to expand his No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing program to the nation's high schools. The ill-fated plan would have required annual testing from the time a student entered third grade through eleventh grade. It also would have required an additional test for high school seniors. The administration sought to require states to annually test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 11, an expansion of the NCLB law, which already required those tests in grades three through eight, and at least once during the period from grade 10 to grade 12. While launching the new high school initiative, the President proposed ending 48 existing education programs, with cuts in vocational and technical education, education technology, arts education, and state grants under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program.

NEA, three states file suit over NCLB funding. The nation's largest teacher organization, the National Education Association (NEA), and school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont filed a lawsuit on April 21, 2005 to force the federal government to pay more of the costs of NCLB. NEA claimed that the federal law aimed at boosting test scores was under-funded by $27 billion, forcing districts to divert resources or risk being shut down.

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SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS, 2004-2005

August 2004 –IASB publications on the Web are revised to provide an explanation of a new state ethics law, and new laws affecting school finance referenda.

September 2004 – IASB publishes an updated second edition of its top-selling book Essentials of Illinois School Finance, by James B. Fritts.

October 2004 – IASB announces an Annual Conference panel will cover a new IASB service available via the Internet, called il.schoolboard.net. The program aims to enhance board effectiveness and boost communication among board members, administrators and the public they serve.

November 2004 – Two Joint Annual Conference panel sessions explore the "Targeting Achievement Through Governance" program, designed to serve the needs of school districts currently not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

January 2005 – the IASB opens its Online Learning Center – the answer for those board members who want to learn more about board work but who can't afford to take away valuable time from their work or families. Participants earn both LeaderShop and Master Board Member credit.

February 2005 – IASB leaders and staff attend a three-day lobbying conference in Washington, D.C., the 2005 Federal Relations Network Conference, which concludes with a visit to congressional offices.

March 2005 – IASB unveils a page on its Web site to help school boards orient newly elected members, including a link to workshops and other tools.

April 2005 – IASB pledges support for a new national public education center — which will benefit Association members and the public, pledging $150,000, or $30,000 a year over the next five years.

May 2005 – The IASB Board meets in Springfield and approves a budget for 2005-06 that contains total revenue of $7.69 million and total expenses of $7.66 million.

June 2005 –A total of 535 people attend IASB's new board member workshops on the Basics of School Law and Finance and the Basics of Governance at 10 different locations across the state.

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AWARDS AND HONORS

Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. Jane Wojtkiewicz of East Maine School District 63, Des Plaines, was the recipient of the thirteenth annual Thomas Lay Burroughs award at the 2004 Joint Annual Conference in November. The award recognizes the state's most outstanding local school board presidents, and celebrates the work of all school boards for their service to children and to education. Specifically, the award is presented annually by the Illinois State Board of Education to local school board presidents who have shown outstanding leadership on behalf of improved student learning, educational excellence, equal opportunity, and crisis resolution. The Award is named in honor of the late chairman of the State Board of Education.

Superintendent of the Year. Fran Karanovich of Macomb CUSD 185, was named 2005 Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators at the 2004 Joint Annual Conference. Award winners are selected based on their work demonstrating: creativity in meeting students' learning needs; strength in personal and organizational communications; commitment to growth through upgrading their administrative knowledge and skills; and their community involvement.

Cole Awards. Twelve different newspapers received recognition in the 2005 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. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch won first prize in the large daily newspaper category, while the Morris Daily Herald, repeated for the fourth consecutive year as first-place winner in the small daily newspaper category. The Journal Gazette, Mattoon, won top prize in the medium-size daily category, and the Ledger-Sentinel, Oswego, took home first-place honors in the non-daily newspaper category. Other papers winning awards included: the Rockford Register Star; The Naperville Sun; The State Journal-Register, Springfield; the Pekin Daily Times; the Daily Times, Ottawa; the Coal City Courant; the St. Louis American; and the Wednesday Journal, Oak Park. Named in memory of the first executive director of IASB, the Robert M. Cole Award recognizes outstanding newspaper coverage of education issues that emphasizes the community's connection with its local public school district.

Those Who Excel. Seven school board members were honored by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2005 for their outstanding contributions to Illinois schools. The school board members receiving Those Who Excel awards included: Mari A. Carlson, Warren THSD 121, Gages Lake; Lisa Hunsche, Highland CUSD 5; Larry Malaker, Aurora East District 131; Pat Priniski, CUSD 95, Lake Zurich; Sharon R. Rothe, Bethalto CUSD 8; Debra Strauss, THSD 211, Palatine; Peter W. Wilkinson, Sterling CUSD 5.

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