Sent: Friday, December 05, 2003 5:22 PM
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 12-5-03
Good afternoon,


The month of December is a turning point for all of us. In your districts, you have made it halfway through the school year. In Springfield, December is similar to a leap year for us because we must mentally jump ahead and finalize the recommended state education budget for Fiscal Year 2005.


We know there is a critical need to improve how education is funded and the level of funds available for education in Illinois. We also know that the money to support that goal is limited by the reality that the state’s economic outlook is poor this current fiscal year.  This fact has caused us to evaluate what our priorities are for funding education next year in the event there are limited new funds available.


I have asked the superintendents who serve on the IASA State Superintendent’s Advisory Group, superintendents at a variety of regional meetings, and our State Board members over the past weeks if there was only so much money available next year, what they would focus on first?  Resoundingly, I have heard: “Fund the mandated categoricals”. Further, many of those responding to my question specifically elaborated on how an excessive amount of their resources is being absorbed by the rising costs related to special education, which in turn can short change other important programs.


In the short-term the ISBE is focusing our top priority on recommending new funds in FY05 be used for the full funding of the mandated categoricals for FY 05 at the statutorily formulated levels. In the long-term we know, and are working toward, changes in the formula that fund the mandated categoricals for special education, so that the dollars received best reimburse districts for the expenses incurred.


I appreciate your continued support and input on this matter.


Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education


Aso in this week’s message:


·        Downstate Schools Earn “Spotlight”

·        Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence Recipients

·        Regional Middle Grades Reading Conference

·        Panasonic Academic Challenge Accepting Applications

·        Summer Institute Scholarships Available

·        School Breakfast Conference

·        Newsclips


Downstate Schools Earn “Spotlight”

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) gave “Spotlight School” recognition to eight Metro East and southern Illinois public schools that have achieved high academic performance in an environment in which a majority of students come from low-income families.


State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller presented plaques to each of the “Spotlight Schools” during a special reception at Westhaven School in Belleville.



Please go to for the complete media advisory.


Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence Recipients

The Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence recently named five schools or districts as recipients of the 2003 Lincoln Bronze Award for Commitment to Excellence:  Community Consolidated School District 59 in Elk Grove Township; Consolidated School District 158 in Huntley; Friendship Junior High School in Des Plaines; Holmes Junior High School in Mt. Prospect; and Pekin Public Schools District 108.  These schools were all recognized for their efforts to adopt and apply continuous improvement principles.


The Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence is a not-for-profit organization that assists Illinois organizations to strive for performance excellence by planning and implementing sound management processes.  For more information about the organization please visit


Regional Middle Grade Reading Conferences

I am pleased to announce a series of three regional conferences to address ways to improve middle-grade (4 to 8) reading comprehension. 


Our program for each one-day conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Sessions include topics on what happens in the process of reading acquisition, appropriate ways to help middle-grade students improve reading comprehension, how to use valid assessments to shape your middle-grade reading program, and how to build a reading culture at your school. During lunch, we’ll hear from a panel of educators whose schools have reversed a trend of low or declining reading scores to learn how they did it.  Since one of the goals is to create a practical action agenda to guide our continuing efforts in this area, each conference will conclude a discussion of future steps.  Conferences are scheduled as follows:


February 23 – National-Louis University, Chicago

February 27 – University of Illinois, Springfield

March 4 – John A. Logan College, Carterville


Please save the date for your regional ISBE Conference on Middle-Grade Reading and plan now to attend. I strongly urge district superintendents to identify, principals, school reading specialists, and or curriculum specialists to attend. I look forward to seeing you there.  Further information regarding registration will be forthcoming.


Panasonic Academic Challenge Accepting Applications

The Florida Department of Education and Panasonic invite you to compete in the 17th Annual National Panasonic Academic Challenge.  The Challenge showcases the excellence of our nation’s education and rewards individual scholastic achievement. 


Panasonic will award $31,500 in scholarships to the members and coaches of the 2004 winning teams.  Applications and additional information may be accessed at


Summer Institute Scholarships Available

The Public Policy High School Initiatives at the University of Illinois at Springfield is offering full scholarships for up to 150 Illinois sophomores and juniors to attend the

one-week workshops on leadership and the four-week Institute on Lincoln and his leadership.  Current high school juniors have the opportunity to earn up to 6 hours of college credit, while the one-week program participants gain new leadership skills in a supervised residential setting on the University of Illinois at Springfield campus.


Students will be selected based on their written essay and successful completion of the application.  The deadline for applying is March 14, 2004.


Applications and more detailed information is available at


School Breakfast Conference

A one-day conference focusing on school breakfast will be held on December 12 at the Holiday Inn Select in Naperville. Doris Derelian will be the keynote speaker and panelists of food service operators, administrators, and educators will describe their challenges and solutions to offering breakfast at school. The conference is free but  pre-registration is required.  Register at  Click on Visit Our New Site, and then on the left sidebar, School Programs, followed by, Resources and Services, and then Calendar.