Sent: Friday, November 22, 2002 1:23 PM
To: District Superintendents, ROEs, Directors of Special Education
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 11-22-02

Good Afternoon.  It has been an event-filled week.  In Springfield, attention has focused on the fall session of the General Assembly, another meeting of our Assessment and Accountability Task Force, the November report of the Economic and Fiscal Commission, the release of the report of the After-School Initiative, and the dedication of the new Lincoln Presidential Library.  In Chicago, the State Board met in an abbreviated session and the annual Triple I Conference provided an opportunity (which will continue throughout the weekend) for formal and informal learning experiences and the renewal of old friendships. 


In today’s message:


Triple I Opportunities


One final reminder that the State Board’s Information and Hospitality Room will be open all day Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23.  As in the past several years, this is located in the Comiskey Room in the West Tower of the Hyatt, just off the lower-level tunnel from the East Tower.


In addition to key staff who will be available in the Comiskey Room to answer questions, several Board members and I will be there off and on throughout the two days.  I will be there from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, and look forward to seeing many of you  In addition, I will be making a presentation at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Sheraton 5 Ballroom, which is on the fifth floor. 



General Assembly Actions


Although the General Assembly engaged in substantial discussion about educational issues this week, including the Hazel Crest School District financial crisis, no final actions were taken.  The legislature is in recess until December 3, 2002.


State Board Meeting Highlights


Culminating more than two years of study and planning, the State Board adopted a new five-year plan for learning technology and a new school district financial profile system.  In addition, the Board approved a new NCATE Protocol and Partnership.  Information about these important initiatives can be found at the State Board website   

and in press releases at


   (New System Provides More   Accurate Reporting of School Finances)


   (State Board of Education          Approves Five-Year Technology Plan)



State’s Fiscal Condition


The Economic and Fiscal Commission issued its monthly report on the state’s fiscal condition this week.  That report, which can be accessed at, forecasts that the state will collect only $415M more in tax revenue this year, down from the $800M it estimated last spring. 


The immediate implications are for this year’s budget and spending.  The Comptroller is holding hundreds of millions of state bills for weeks at a time and has insufficient cash flow to pay them in a reasonable period of time.  This is despite the fact that the state has already borrowed $1 B for cash flow purposes.  In addition, the Governor has asked state agencies (other than education) to identify $250 million in cuts that could be implemented, if needed, before he leaves office.


The IEFC reports that the economy remains depressed and appears unlikely to be able to generate the kind of funds that will allow the state to meet all of the budget demands for FY04.  We could there fore face a potential $2B budget shortfall for the next fiscal year (FY04).


Another recent report, this one from a Chicago-based civic organization, calculated the FY 2002 deficit at $715 million and FY '03 (assuming constant spending and no increases in revenues) at $2.9 billion.


These projections will obviously translate into difficult financial decisions during the FY04 budget process.  During the December Board meeting, we will provide the Board and the public with a report on the condition of education in Illinois and a variety of options for funding key programs and initiatives for next year and into the future.  We look forward to your reactions to those scenarios and to your assistance in developing a comprehensive and prioritized plan for the upcoming budget debates. 


Assessment and Accountability Task Force


The Task Force met again on Monday to begin its review of your responses to the draft paper on changes to the state testing system.  We have received a great many thoughtful comments and they are proving very helpful.  If you have not already done so, please take a look at the paper at and get back to us with your reactions and suggestions by December 6.   Email your comments to, fax them to t he Task Force at 217/524-4928 or mail them to our office in Springfield (100 N. First Street, Springfield, Illinois 62777).


The Task Force also discussed issues and options associated with defining Adequate Yearly Progress for Illinois, and it created a subcommittee to develop recommendations regarding the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA).  These conversations will be continued at the next meeting of the group on December 10 in Naperville.


No Child Left Behind – Paraprofessionals


On November 15, the USDE released Draft Guidance for Title I Paraprofessionals.  This Non-Regulatory Guidance is the most recent information available on the new paraprofessional requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).


The USDE document is written in a question and answer format with specific information on the assessment option, on targeted assistance vs. funding for school-wide requirements, on RIF issues, on special education paraprofessionals, on the Americorps, and on other topics for which ISBE and local school districts have been seeking guidance in recent months.


To access the USDE’s Title I Paraprofessional Non-Regulatory Guidance, go to


No Child Left Behind – Speakers Bureau


The State Board recently launched a Speakers Bureau to provide information statewide on how the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act affects schools and districts.  The bureau is comprised of educators who have been trained in the workings of the law’s new requirements.  ISBE hopes that this new resource will help organizations and groups that are looking for on-site presentations on the new law.


To find out more about the Speakers Bureau, go to the NCLB website at  Potential speakers are listed by county and can be contacted by e-mail through the website.


Federal Student Aid Information


The U.S. Department of Education has modified its federal student aid site,“FAFSA on the Web.” making it even easier for needy students to use the free online application.  In addition, a web-based resource has been developed that provides information specifically for students about the entire financial aid process, from considering which college to attend, to applying for aid, to repaying loans.  We encourage you to review these sites, make your students aware of them, and take advantage of the opportunity to receive bulk quantities of related brochures, posters, etc.  The sites are:

            On-line application – FASA on the Web –

            Student information –

            Bulk information –  (you will need your ML number)

Free information about federal student aid can also be obtained by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.


Information on Funding, Achievement and Teacher Gaps in Illinois


In an effort to continuously pass along the latest information to the field, ISBE produced a new CD, Education’s Challenges: ISBE Programs and Resources, for the Triple I Conference.  This new resource contains information on the three gaps: funding, achievement and teachers.  In addition, each gap area includes information and frequently asked questions on No Child Left Behind.


For a copy of Education’s Challenges: ISBE Programs and Resources, call ISBE at 217/782-4321. 



After-School Task Force


This week, Linda Baker, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, and I released the report of the Illinois After-school Task Force.  This group was formed as a result of a legislative resolution in May 2001, and it has spent the subsequent eighteen months determining the status of exiting after-school programs in the state, defining the goals and characteristics of programs needed for the future, and developing recommendations for next steps.  Those recommendations include continuation of the After-school Initiative and development of a comprehensive system of out-of-school-time services across the state.  The report is available on the internet at and a press release is available at


No Message Next Week


Because of the holiday weekend, we will not have a “Friday Message” next Friday.  I hope you all enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving.



Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education