Sent: Friday, January 24, 2003 2:52 PM
To: 'Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents '
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 1-24-03

Good Afternoon. 

This week has been highlighted by continuing concerns about the state’s budget crisis and its potential effects for our schools, meetings with federal officials in Washington, and a meeting of the Assessment and Accountability Task Force.

Topics for this message include the following:

General State Aid Payments

In response to the state’s financial problems, speculation has considerably increased concerning the future of the 23rd and 24th GSA payments.

There are two issues – the amount of the payments and the timing of their distribution.  The current GSA appropriation is $22 M short and we have asked for a supplemental appropriation to meet the full state obligation.  If that request is not approved by the legislature and Governor, the final or 24th payment will be pro-rated to 83%.

By statute, the 23rd and 24th payments are to be made in July, but the Governor can advance them.  The previous two Governors advanced one or both payments and we have briefed the current Governor’s budget director of the need to continue that process.  We will continue to advocate for this when the Governor’s education staff is named.

Your support for these positions would be helpful.  Meanwhile, we will keep you informed about developments as they occur.

NCLB Discussions with Federal Officials

State Board Chairman Gidwitz and I met on Tuesday, January 21, with USDOE Under Secretary  Dr. Gene Hickok and our respective staff to discuss the development of an Illinois accountability system that will be consistent with NCLB requirements and meet our own state and local needs.  This lengthy discussion gave us a chance to focus on issues of particular concern to our state and to clarify important components of the NCLB requirements.  Our basic request to the USDOE staff was to take Illinois history, laws and context into account, and be as flexible as possible in allowing us to meet the intent of the law.  The federal officials seemed to be quite open to hearing our upcoming accountability proposals in light of the Illinois background we provided.  Later in the day, Chairman Gidwitz and I met with senior White House officials to discuss some of the same issues.

I was pleased to report to the Assessment and Accountability Task Force on Wednesday, January 22, that the federal officials seemed to appreciate the differences among the states and the need for flexibility in shaping our response to NCLB.  We are now moving forward within the context of these discussions. 

Assessment and Accountability Task Force

Wednesday’s lively and productive discussion among Task Force members resulted in a number of important decisions, most of which will be transmitted to the State Board for action in the next few weeks.

The Task Force also acted on a number of recommendations from the IMAGE subcommittee; I will describe these decisions and the recent work of the IAA subcommittee in next week’s message. 

Several issues remain on the table for further discussion, including the current and proposed legislative limits on hours allowed for state assessment.  The next Task Force meeting, scheduled for March 10, will emphasize the development of a comprehensive accountability system.

Charter School RFP

The FY 03 Public Charter School Program Request for Proposal (RFP) has been released.  School districts may access funding through this RFP for the eventual establishment of a charter school.  Local not-for-profit organizations are also eligible applicants for this grant.

Funds from the Public Charter School Program Grant may be used for several purposes.  Pre-proposal planning grants are expected to range between $10,000 and $15,000 and can be used to develop a proposal for submission to the school board for the establishment of a charter school.  In addition, planning and implementation grants are available to certified charter schools and dissemination grants are available to schools with at least three years of successful operation. 

Please see the State Board of Education website at for a copy of the proposal or for more information on Illinois charter schools.  An RFP may also be obtained by contacting Richard Loman at or 217/782-0083.

Illinois State University - Alternative Route to Secondary Certification

The information we recently shared with you about the new Alternative Certification Programs at ISU inadvertently gave the impression that the coursework portion of programs was limited to a summer session.  In fact, this program will begin with the spring semester of 2003 and will require three or four courses (9-12 semester hours) taken during the spring and summer semesters prior to the year-long internship that will begin in the fall.  Again, I want to encourage you to get in touch with the university if you would be interested in placing an internship teacher in your district and/or if you know of potential candidates. 

The new programs are being offered in high need areas such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math, Business, Spanish and Industrial Technology.  Candidates for the program must hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree and have five years of experience directly related to the content they wish to teach, pass the Enhanced Basic Skills test and the relevant content area tests, pass a criminal background check and have an assured internship site.

Information Meetings:  Alternative Learning Opportunities Program

In early January, we sent all school districts an application for State Board approval of Alternative Learning Opportunities Programs (ALOPs) that serve students in grades 4-12, who are experiencing academic difficulties.   Application information is available on our website (  Districts may apply for approval of programs that have not yet started or of existing alternative programs that they wish to convert to ALOPs.  Districts whose programs are approved as ALOPs will be eligible for implementation and supplemental grants and, under certain conditions, to receive General State Aid for a program calendar that varies from law in the number of school days or the length of the school day.

The application for approval is due no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 14, 2003.

To assist you in preparing your application, we have scheduled two informational meetings.  I would appreciate your sharing this notice with the staff members who are completing the ALOP Application for Program Approval.

North                                                                                       South

Wednesday, February 5, 2003                                Thursday, February 6, 2003

12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m.                                           12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m.

160 North LaSalle Street                                         Illinois State Board of Education

5th Floor, N-502                                                         Conference Rooms A-D, 2nd Floor

Chicago, Illinois                                                         100 North First Street

(this building is across the street west                    Springfield, Illinois

of the Thompson Center)

School districts not yet ready to establish ALOPs but that want to explore the potential such programs may have for their districts, may apply for planning grants.  Information about these grants will be issued separately.

For more information about the information meetings or ALOPs, contact Evelyn Deimel at 217/782-0083.

Information Meetings:  Making Rural Illinois Safer

Two one-day injury prevention training sessions are being planned to assist school districts and other entities better understand the actions they can take to “make rural Illinois safer.”

Sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Injuring and Violence Prevention, the Illinois Injury Prevention Coalition and the Illinois Public Health Association, the meetings will focus on rural school injury prevention, gangs, hate crime, methamphetamine lab awareness, rural suicide prevention, the Think First injury prevention curricula, agricultural safety and other relevant topics.

The training sessions will be held be held as follows.

March 27, 2003                                                                     April 23, 2003

9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.                                                          9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Carbondale Civic Center                                                     Western Illinois University

Carbondale                                                                            Macomb

Registration forms will be available beginning in February at or by contacting the Illinois Department of Public Health at 217/522-5687.  Registration will be $35.

Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education