Sent: Friday, March 14, 2003 3:35 PM
To: 'Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents '
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 3-14-03


Good afternoon. This has been an important week for Illinois education with Governor Blagojevich’s State of the State address ( establishing education as a high priority for his administration. The governor also highlighted several programs to address critical needs of the state’s schools. My response to his remarks is at The governor’s strong support is critical at this time when many schools are facing serious budget shortfalls. Several topics in this message address budget topics. Specific topics in this message are



The Rural Bond Bank Survey, referred to in the second topic, is appended following my signature.


State Board Meeting, March 19–20, 2003


The State Board of Education will meet Wednesday, March 19, and Thursday, March 20, in the Springfield office. The agenda and twenty-minute board packet will be posted on the ISBE Web site this afternoon at ( and (, respectively.


As announced in the mailing I sent on Monday, March 10, the new financial profile for all school districts, including the new watch and early warning lists, will be made public at next week’s meeting.


News Conference Emphasizes Need to Pay 23rd & 24th GSA Payments in June


Senate President Emil Jones and members of the downstate caucus held a news conference this week to emphasize the need for the Governor to continue the practice of accelerating the final two General State Aid payments into June, to enable schools to get the money in this fiscal year. The group was responding to rumors that the governor might have to pay the last two payments as scheduled in July because of the state’s budgetary problems. I was asked to be at the news conference, as were a number of other educators, to reinforce the need for the funds and the supplemental needed to fully fund the final payment. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by the Senate President, will be amended to move to 22 GSA payments to be paid August through June each year. It also includes a continuing appropriation that would ensure that schools could count on full foundation funding, even if such an appropriation is not passed by the legislature.


Governor Blagojevich has continually emphasized his high priority on education and exempted grants for elementary and secondary schools from his call for state agencies to cut spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. However, he had not yet committed to speeding up the July payments into June. In reports on the news conference, news stories quote the governor’s spokesman as saying “the governor has made education one of his top priorities and he has made it very clear he intends to get the payments out on time.”


Illinois Rural Bond Bank


The Illinois Rural Bond Bank, with assistance from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, and support from the State Board of Education is developing a pooled tax anticipation warrant program to provide short-term finance solutions for Illinois school districts with reduced issuance costs and low interest rates. This is modeled after a $900 M pool issued recently by the Indiana Bond Bank at an all-inclusive rate of 1.35% for 12 months. Please take a minute to fill out the survey that is appended to this message to help the IRBB tailor their program to fit the needs of Illinois school districts.


For further information about the Illinois Rural Bond Bank, visit their Web site


Qualified Paraprofessionals under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001


Because so many districts are engaged in hiring for next year or making “reduction in force” decisions, we have received a significant number of questions about the requirements for paraprofessionals included in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The following summary is designed to answer at least some of those questions.


Who Must Meet the Paraprofessional Qualification Requirements?

The recently released final NCLB regulations relating to the qualifications of teachers and paraprofessionals clarify that the paraprofessional qualification requirements apply only to paraprofessionals who are


What Does It Mean To Be A Program Supported with Title I funds?

Within a school district, Title I monies are directed to


In targeted assistance schools, the NCLB paraprofessional qualification requirements apply only to paraprofessionals who are providing instructional support and whose salary is funded by Title I funds.


In schools with “schoolwide programs,” the NCLB paraprofessional qualification requirements apply to all paraprofessionals who are providing instructional services within that school, regardless of how the individual’s salary is supported.


What about Cooperative Settings?

Those paraprofessionals who provide instructional support in a cooperative setting such as an area vocational setting or a special education cooperative setting are not required to meet the NCLB qualification requirements unless:

·        the setting is a targeted assistance school as delineated on ISBE’s Consolidated Application for Titles I, II, IV and V Funding, or

·        a schoolwide Title I school as so indicated on that application.


Only in rare circumstances are special schools designated as a Title I school and those of you with responsibility for special schools should already be aware of such a designation.


What Does it Mean to Provide Instructional Support?

Paraprofessionals for the purposes of NCLB are defined as individuals who provide instructional support. Under the regulations, instructional support includes


A paraprofessional is considered to be working under the direct supervision of a teacher when


Individuals who have only non-instructional duties, such as providing technical support for computers, translation services, parental involvement roles, providing personal or custodial care services, or performing clerical duties are not included in the definition of paraprofessionals under NCLB.


What are the NCLB Qualifications Requirements?

Paraprofessionals who come under the Act must be qualified through one of the following options:


All paraprofessionals newly hired after January 8, 2002, must meet the requirements set forth in NCLB if they meet the criteria outlined above. All other paraprofessionals who are working in programs that meet these criteria but who were hired prior to January 2002 must meet the requirements by January 8, 2006.


What Does It Take to Meet a Rigorous Standard of Quality?

Paraprofessionals qualifying under the “rigorous standard of quality” option must have a secondary school diploma or its equivalent, but the receipt of a high school diploma is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements for meeting this standard.


The State Board has endorsed three routes for meeting this criterion in the relatively near future:

  1. The “ParaPro” assessment developed by the Education Testing Service (ETS);
  2. Three ACT “WorkKeys” tests corresponding to the NCLB-required areas (reading, writing and math) plus an assessment of the candidate’s “ability to assist in instruction” (pending State Board verification of its appropriateness); and
  3. Local assessments that meet the State Board of Education guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Education are available on the State Board Web site.


Next week, the State Board will take action on recommended passing scores for the ParaPro Assessment and the WorkKeys tests. My recommendations will be on the State Board Web site sometime today and the Board’s decisions will be communicated to you in next Friday’s message and on the Web site. We will also provide, as quickly as possible, information about these tests, how and where they can be accessed, costs, and other relevant information.


For the longer term, we are working with the Illinois Community College Board to design and implement an AAS degree and certificate for paraprofessional educators. Information on that option will be provided as it becomes available.


This is an important issue that has implications for your districts and your employees. We are moving as quickly as we can to provide a variety of options that will allow current and prospective paraprofessionals to meet the NCLB qualification requirements. You can help by making the information in this message available to everyone with an interest in paraprofessional qualification and by sending your additional questions to us by e-mail, at



Illinois Poverty Counts


A chart on the ISBE Web site ( provides data from poverty counts by three entities: (1) the federal decennial census, currently required to be used for the GSA Poverty Grant; (2) the federal Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) count, which is the basis for Title I funding; and (3) the Department of Human Services (DHS) count, which is the recommendation of the Education Funding Advisory Board. Comparison of these data is important because of their use in calculating state aid.


HB430, which is supported by the State Board, would amend the school code to provide that in calculating supplemental general state aid that “Low-Income Concentration Level” is defined as the low-income eligible pupil count from the most recently available federal census or the low-income eligible pupil count determined by the Department of Human Services based on those students who are eligible for food stamps or Medicaid, whichever pupil count is greater, divided by the Average Daily Attendance of the school district. If passed, the law would become effective July 1, 2003. Full information on the bill may be found at


Copies of the FY2004 Budget and Annual Report Available


As I announced in a previous message, the 2002 Annual Report and FY2004 budget are available on the ISBE Web site at; however, as those two documents are useful tools for understanding the scope and direction of Illinois education and planning for the future, you may want them in an easier-to-use format. Superintendents who would like a CD or printed copy of the two documents should request them by e-mailing Kathy Stratton at




TECH 2003 – Students for the Information Age will take place on Wednesday, March 19, 2003 at the Illinois State Capitol. Students, teachers and administrators from more than 130 schools throughout Illinois will demonstrate to legislators and business leaders the importance of technology in their classrooms and in their lives. In addition, the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) and the TECH 2003 Committee will honor the 2003 Illinois ICE Educator of the Year.


Previously known as TECH 2000, TECH 2003 is a not-for-profit initiative, which for 12 years has been supported by a broad range of education and business organizations. Its goal is to raise awareness of the critical role of technology in preparing students to succeed in today’s world, the need for increased funding for classroom technology, and the role technology plays in preparing students for an information-based world. More information about TECH 2003 is on the Web page at



Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

 of Education






The Illinois Rural Bond Bank is developing a pooled tax anticipation warrant program for Illinois school districts to reduce their cost of borrowing. To better understand your District’s potential short-term financing needs, we would appreciate your participation in this brief survey. Please complete and fax to Eric Watson, Executive Director, Illinois Rural Bond Bank, at 217.524.0477 by March 17, 2003. You may call 800.897.6306 with any questions.



___ My District issued tax anticipation warrants in calendar year 2002.


·         If yes, please indicate the following:


What is the amount your District issued in 2002? _________________________

In which month did your District issue tax anticipation warrants? ____________


___ My District expects to issue tax anticipation warrants in 2003 (against second installment of 2002 taxes).


·         If yes, please indicate the following:


What amount does the District estimate it will issue?_______________________

Please indicate the month of the District’s largest deficit ____________________

In which month does it expect to issue warrants? _________________________


___ My District expects to issue tax anticipation warrants between November of 2003 and April of 2004.


·         If yes, please indicate the following:


What amount does the District estimate it will issue? _______________________

Please indicate the month of the District’s largest deficit ____________________

In which month does your District anticipate it will sell warrants? ____________


School District Name and Number: ______________________________________


County: ____________ Contact Person: _______________________________


Mailing address: _____________________________________________________


Telephone Number: _________________ E-mail address: ____________________



Thank you for your participation. Information will be forthcoming about this new and exciting program for Illinois school districts.