Sent: Friday, November 01, 2002 12:22 PM
To: District Superintendents, ROEs, Directors of Special Education
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 11-1-02

Good afternoon.  Just days remain in this highly contested election season, but it is the fall veto session and the spring session with a new governor and a potentially transformed legislature that pose the greatest possibilities – and challenges – for the future of public education in our state.

Below is the guest commentary/letter to the editor that I have submitted to the media statewide.  It serves as yet another reminder to lawmakers and all Illinois citizens that the “perfect storm” is upon us.  It is up to all of us to ensure that public education not only survive the storm, but thrive in its aftermath.

Also in today’s message:

Ÿ    Additional public hearings scheduled on assessment/accountability

Ÿ    Application deadline nears for ISBE vacancies

Ÿ    State Board meeting summarized: October 16-17, 2002

Ÿ    Burroughs Award nominations due soon


Illinois and Public Education:  Penny Wise – Pound Foolish

Commentary/Letter to the Editor by State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller

The conventional wisdom of paying a little now to save a lot later is everywhere in our daily lives.  As any homeowner knows, it is cheaper to patch that small leak in your basement today than it is to clean up after the flood and replace the contents.

Then why are we so “penny wise – pound foolish” when it comes to educating our children?  You have probably heard the startling comparison – Illinois schools annually spend as little as $4,000 to as much as $17,000 per student, while we spend more than $21,000 to imprison an adult and more than $50,000 to incarcerate a juvenile.

We have lost sight of our priorities and consequently have put our public schools in a terrible bind by pitting our demand for higher student achievement against declining state and local funding.

Unquestionably, student achievement in Illinois must improve.  About 37% of elementary students failed to meet state reading and mathematics Standards in 2002.  Achievement is significantly lower among poor children, especially black and Hispanic students.  Based on current trends, Illinois will fall short of meeting the federal goal set out in No Child Left Behind that all students meet reading and math Standards by 2014.

Yet every school funding study done in Illinois has inevitably concluded that, overall, it will take more money to provide our children with an adequate education, and even more money to help low-income students catch up and keep pace academically.

Schools, like many families and businesses, must tighten their belts when money is short.  That will work for a time, but eventually, the quality of education, like the quality of life, declines.  Our schools – rural, urban and suburban – are caught in that decline.  The current funding system for schools is too inadequate and inequitable to support the kind of school improvement efforts we need to increase student achievement. 

Ÿ    About 61 percent of our districts are operating in a deficit.  That number can only rise as state revenue continues to decline in a recession economy. 

Ÿ    About $173 million was cut from the state’s education budget from last school year to this school year. 

Ÿ    It will take $300 to $350 million in new funds for next year just to maintain school spending at current levels as the state’s total budget deficit climbs to nearly $3 billion.

Ÿ    While local property taxes in the aggregate are increasing, many of the increases are offset by tax caps, Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts, Property Tax Appeals Board decisions and declining farmland assessment.

 It might seem that Illinois’ school funding efforts and problems would be no worse than in other states.  Certainly, many other states are feeling the pinch, too, but we are much farther behind in doing our part.  Compared to other states, Illinois ranks

Ÿ    49th in the difference in revenue per student between the state’s highest and lowest poverty districts 

Ÿ    48th in the share of school funding provided by the state (approximately 36%)

Ÿ    36th in state and local funding effort for education per $1,000 in personal income

Ÿ    34th in total state and local tax burden as a percent of personal incometed for the cost of living.

Where does that leave us?  State revenue is declining and its sources are limited.  Local tax revenues are being eroded.  We are asking our schools and our students to do much more with much less.

In the most recent national Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, nearly 60 percent of the people said they would increase state taxes to avoid education cuts.  On October 6, the Daily Southtown in suburban Chicago report poll results that indicated 50.5% of Illinoisans would favor increasing the state income tax in exchange for lower property taxes and more funding for education.  But is there enough political will among our candidates and elected officials to revamp the entire school funding system in the near future? 

These are big questions that clearly have no easy answers.  It often takes a crisis to move a state to make big decisions to solve complex problems, and the solutions will not come from the top down.  They must come from the bottom up, from a public groundswell, a grass-roots movement that raises public discussion about the school funding crisis to its highest level and gives lawmakers the support they need to make those big decisions. 

Talk to your neighbors, your family and friends, your colleagues at work about the funding issue and possible solutions.  Talk to the candidates, then your newly elected lawmakers, about concrete, viable solutions for adequate state revenue sources and more equitable ways to distribute state funds to schools.  The crisis is here, today, and it is yours and mine to solve for the sake of our 2.2 million children in school today and for the generations to come.


Reminder – Application Deadline Nears for ISBE Vacancies

Applications for the management vacancies at ISBE are due November 6.  Information and an application form are available at


 Additional public hearings scheduled on assessment, accountability

A task force established by State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller is holding two additional public hearings to discuss Illinois’ assessment and accountability system for schools in light of new federal No Child Left Behind Act requirements (see schedule below).

“Through the first three public hearings, we have gained a better understanding of what schools expect in student testing and accountability,” Schiller said. “The additional hearings will generate even more public input. With that feedback we are taking an in-depth look at how we can better support schools in their efforts to improve student achievement.”

The Task Force on Assessment and Accountability is comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. He said the group is being guided by the best research available coupled with information gained through the public hearings throughout the state.

Schiller personally co-chairs the Task Force with Robert S. Nielsen, Superintendent of Bloomington School District 87.

“These individuals bring a vast amount of knowledge and expertise to this important task, and I am very grateful they have accepted this important challenge,” Schiller said. The Task Force plans to conclude its review and recommendations in time for any necessary legislation to be introduced in the spring session of the General Assembly.

The focus of Task Force meetings to date has centered on steps necessary to comply with NCLB testing requirements in reading and math for grades 3-8 and an analysis of the Illinois Alternate Assessment for students with disabilities.


Thursday, November 7,  6 p.m. to 8 p.m. –- Homewood District 153,
James Hart School, 18220 Morgan Street

Monday, December 2,  6 p.m. to 8 p.m. –- Galesburg,
Galesburg High School Media Center, 1135 West Fremont Street


Wednesday, November 6, 10 a.m.  to 3 p.m. – Springfield,
Alzina Building, 100 North First Street, Board Room-Fourth Floor

Monday, November 18, 10 a.m. – Springfield,
Alzina Building, 100 North First Street, Board Room-Fourth Floor

Tuesday, December 10,  10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Naperville (NCREL),
1120 East Diehl Road

Link to:  Members of the State Superintendent’s Task Force on Assessment and Accountability


State Board Meeting Summarized:  October 16 & 17, 2002

Note:  Please see October Board agenda/packet materials and/or the “Twenty Minute Packet” at where you click on “Calendars & Meetings” for information about issues on the October agenda.

Quick Takes

The State Board:

 Middle Level Endorsement

·        Responding to local educator concerns about creating a separate middle-grade teaching certificate, the State Board voted to focus on redesigning the current middle-grade endorsement.

ü      The goals of the redesign process are to ensure that middle-grades teachers have the content knowledge and the range of skills needed to meet the unique needs of their students. 

ü      The State Board agreed that the study group originally appointed to review this issue should be asked to redesign the middle-grade endorsement based on standards that group had developed for the proposed middle-level certificate.

ü      Once the endorsement redesign process is complete, each teacher preparation program will be expected to design coursework aligned to the standards selected for the endorsement.

ü      Additional information about the endorsement redesign project may be obtained by contacting Mike Long, in the division of Professional Preparation and Recruitment Division, at 217/782-4330.

 Financial Profile

ü      This Profile would result in assigning all districts a rating based on multiple indicators of financial stability.

ü      Final Board action on this proposal is scheduled for November, with implementation in the spring of 2003.

ü      The current system, known as the Financial Assurance and Accountability System (FAAS), uses only one measure, the fund-balance-to-revenue ratio, to determine the financial recognition of school districts. Using the FAAS, only 11 of Illinois’ 893 school districts are on the 2002 “Financial Watch List,” which was released in March.

ü      The proposed Financial Profile would use fund-balance-to-revenue ratio as one of the indicators of financial condition and add four other measures to complete the picture of school district financial health. The other four measures include:

1.      Expenditures to Revenue Ratio: indicates how much the district spent for every dollar received. The total expenditures for the education, operations and maintenance, and transportation funds (the main operating funds of districts) are divided by the total revenues for those funds to arrive at this ratio.

2.      Days Cash on Hand: an estimate of the number of days a district could operate without additional revenue.

3.      Percent of Short-term Borrowing Remaining: the total short-term borrowing allowed by law minus the percent of Tax Anticipation Warrants outstanding.

4.      Percent of Long-term Debt Margin Remaining: District incurs long-term debt (repaid over more than one year) for major expenses such as construction, long-term leases, installment purchases of land, etc.)

 Special Guests & Events

         The Board:

 Additional Announcements

ü      A special conference presentation on health and physical fitness featured Illinois physical education teacher Phil Lawler, who described his innovative physical education program in Naperville School District 203.  (See page 12 of the October 23rd issue of Education Week for a description of this presentation.

ü      Another key presentation during the conference was a report on the progress that NASBE has made in reviewing policies to restructure high schools.


 Burroughs award nominations due soon

Nominations should be submitted to the address listed on the next page by the close of business on Friday, November 8, 2002.  You may fax your nomination to 217/782-3097 to meet that deadline, and then follow with a hard copy for receipt after November 8.  If you have questions, call Patrick Mogge or Kay Evans at 217/782-9560.

 The Burroughs Award is intended to recognize extraordinary leadership on behalf of education at the local level, especially through characteristics similar to those shown by Tom Burroughs.  The criteria for this award recognize the following three areas of accomplishment:

            Leadership on behalf of improved student learning and educational excellence,

            Leadership on behalf of equal educational opportunities, and

Leadership in resolving a crisis or major difficulty.

For the purpose of this award, leadership is defined as including group skills, such as consensus-building and teamwork, as well as individual traits such as vision, courage, integrity, etc.

If you are fortunate enough to have a board president who has provided outstanding leadership in one or all of these areas, we hope you will nominate him or her for the 2002 Burroughs Award.  Anyone who has served as president of a local school board in 2002 is eligible for consideration, including those who might have been nominated last year.