Sent: Friday, August 08, 2003 2:06 PM
Subject: Weekly Message 08-08-03 from Supt. Robert Schiller

Good afternoon,


This week’s message contains information about the School Choice list that was released yesterday.  To access the press release simply click on this link 


On Tuesday, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation into law that will result in an enhanced statewide testing system.  The press release can be reviewed on this

link  This morning we were notified that the Governor intends to sign separate legislation that will help to implement NCLB.  A story on that bill appears below. 


You will also find information about:


I have also included some news articles that may be of interest to you. 


Hold Harmless Payments to be Delayed

The General State Aid formula is dependent on several variables for which the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) must rely on others to provide.  These include school district Equalized Accessed Valuations and Operating Tax Rates.  All county clerks are required to submit this data to the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) which performs an audit of the information prior to certifying it to ISBE.


For the first time in over thirty-five years, IDOR is unable to deliver the required files for all 102 counties to ISBE by July 1, 2003 because the county clerks for Cook and Lake Counties did not submit the required files on time.  Additionally, several districts have unresolved Average Daily Attendance (ADA) issues.  Without this information, ISBE cannot determine a final GSA and HH allocation for the entire state and can not determine whether the GSA and HH appropriations are adequate or will require the pro-ration of the poverty component of the formula pursuant to SB 744.


To assure continued GSA payments on the statutory payment schedule, ISBE will use estimated data for Cook and Lake Counties and final data for all other counties until final data is received.  All prior year adjustments will be paid in August as a separate payment.  The HH is normally paid in one payment in August.  This payment will be held until final data is received.


ISBE will provide final GSA and HH figures for school districts, including any pro-ration of the poverty component, as soon as IDOR verifies the final data files from the county clerks in Cook and Lake Counties.  Changes in the data files for Cook and Lake county school districts can change the estimated allocations for all districts even though their own data is final.

Potential changes to waiver procedure

Senate Bill 206, which is awaiting action by Governor Blagojevich, would make changes in the way in which eligible entities must apply for waivers and modifications of law and rules.  In particular, the bill would require that public hearings held by local boards of education to consider applications be held on days other than regular board meetings.


The Governor has until August 25 to act on the bill.  If the Governor signs the bill, it will take effect immediately; therefore, it is recommended that school districts and other eligible entities consider delaying the scheduling of the public hearings until the status of SB 206 is clear.  After the enactment of the bill, any application considered at a public hearing that was held on a regular board meeting day will be considered ineligible and returned to the applicant.


Delaying the public hearing should not affect a district’s ability to meet the waiver deadlines, since today is the deadline for the October 2003 report and the next deadline is not until March 12, 2004, for inclusion in the May 2004 report to the General Assembly.  (These deadlines apply only to waivers of the School Code.)  Applications to waive ISBE rules, or to modify the School Code or ISBE rules, can be submitted at any time, so long as the district allows for the 45 days required by the School Code for the State Board to review the request.


Senate Bill 206 would make the following additions to the waiver process described in Section 2-3.25g of the School Code (105 ILCS 2-3.25g):


  1. The public hearing required for all waiver and modification applications submitted to the State Board of Education will need to be held on a day other than the day on which a regular meeting of the local school board is held;
  2. The school district must notify in writing those legislators representing the district holding the public hearing of the district’s intent to seek approval of a waiver or modification, and of the hearing held to take testimony from educators; and
  3. All waiver and modification applications submitted to the State Board shall attach a description of the public hearing that includes the means of notice, the number of people in attendance, the number of people who spoke as proponents or opponents of the waiver or modification, a brief description of their comments, and a note as to whether any written statements were submitted at the public hearing.


The full text of Senate Bill 206 is available at:  


Information on the current waiver/modification process is available on the State Board’s website at 


Once the Governor has taken action on Senate Bill 206, we will be sending information to district superintendents and updating our website and waiver forms.  If you have any questions, please call Winnie Tuthill or Shelley Helton at (217) 782-5270.


Governor to Sign SB878

We were notified this morning the Governor intends to sign SB878 today. The bill makes changes required to implement NCLB and grew out of recommendations of my Task Force on Assessment and Accountability. The bill:

·    Recognizes and rewards school districts in the same manner as is done for schools.

·    Clarifies definition of Academic Early Warning List and Watch status to be consistent with past practice and compliant in terms of NCLB, and addresses schools as well as districts.

·    Creates an Appeals Advisory Committee to review requests regarding status determination.

·    Expands the list of sanctions for all schools and districts and makes it clear that the federal sanctions (such as public school choice and supplemental educational services) apply only to schools receiving funding under Title 1, Part A, of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.


Date and location change for ISBE meeting

The August meeting of the Illinois State Board of Education will be held beginning at 11 a.m. in the Chicago Public Schools 6th floor meeting room, 125 South Clark Street, Chicago. The meeting previously had been scheduled to be held in Springfield, August 20 and 21.


Notice of Completed Rulemaking

Please be advised that a rulemaking item recently adopted by the State Board of Education is now in effect.  This set of rules has been posted on the agency’s web site at; choose “Rules Currently in Effect” and scroll to the relevant Part number.  (If you print only the affected Sections, remember to include the table of contents for the Part, which changes every time the Part is amended.)


Certification (Part 25)

The main group of changes in this set of amendments pertains to procedural matters connected with accreditation reviews leading to the approval of programs that prepare educators.  Chief among them are incorporation of the 2002 version of the NCATE standards, a change in the role of the State Board staff member who serves with each review panel, and a change from “Fifth-Year Review” to “Accreditation Review” to accommodate the potential for a different review cycle in future.  The remaining changes involve necessary updating.



Affected Sections:      25.67, 25.115, 25.125, 25.127, 25.140, 25.145, 25.155, 25.160, 25.313, 25.442, 25.710, 25.728, and 25.Appendix D

Effective Date:           July 21, 2003


Reminder:  Additional amendments to Part 25 are also pending.  These amendments:


Comments may be submitted to through August 25, 2003.




Dissolving school district was Chenoa's best option

Bloomington Pantagraph

It's understandable why some Chenoa residents are upset with their school board's decision to dissolve their school district.

It will now be up to the Regional Board of School Trustees for DeWitt, Livingston and McLean counties to determine which unit Chenoa will be placed with. It will likely become a part of the adjoining Prairie Central district.

Chenoa residents had a chance to become part of that district last spring, but rejected it in a referendum.

Unfortunately, Chenoa voters didn't give their school board a lot of choices. Chenoa's finances are such that it can't continue beyond this year without a major tax increase.

The board undoubtedly could have studied more options. But it has already explored merging with several other school districts. Its Citizens Advisory Council also brought vast amounts of information to the board on merger possibilities.

Although there will always be people unsatisfied with the prospect of dissolving a school district because of the strong emotional ties between a community and its schools, the Chenoa school board did the right thing in setting a deadline in which to make a decision and then deciding.

There is a point at which more studies and more information become points of delay instead of serving a useful purpose when the result is obvious and the only question is going to be how to get there.

It is unfortunate that Chenoa wound up voting to dissolve with a 4-3 split vote, but that is probably an indication of how losing control of a local school district affects the emotions of residents. It's a loss of identity for a town. And many see that as the first major sign of a community's deterioration, especially in smaller communities where generation after generation of families have such strong ties and memories tied to the local high school.

To some residents of Chenoa, dissolution of their district and joining Prairie Central will be like climbing into bed with the enemy in sports.

But when pride gets in the way of being able to finance an education that prepares high school students for that next step into college, it is the students who are being cheated if the move isn't made.

If consolidation, merger or whatever you want to call it means Chenoa students will be exposed to curriculum that can't be afforded at Chenoa High School, then dissolving the district is the best step.

It is also a step that we'll be seeing more of in coming years as an estimated 80 percent of the state's school districts reported financial problems this year.

We can't look to the state and continue grumbling, "If only the state. ..." We are the state. The elected representatives in Springfield are the managers. Yes, they could allocate more to education, but it would mean cutting other programs. They could increase taxes, but most of the same people complaining about the high cost of local taxes would be paying those increased state taxes.

Schools are being forced to find more efficient, cost-effective ways of doing business because their costs continue to climb and taxes are not like a bottomless cup of coffee. State taxes could be increased for education, but representatives who have been willing to consider that prospect have wanted to tie such an increase to a cap on local property taxes. In other words, as a trade-off for a slight increase in revenue, they would cap a tax that is the primary source of funding for public schools. They fear a double taxation hit if not for a cap.

As education costs rise, schools in major financial trouble today would only be delaying the inevitable with an increase in state revenue.

Bigger is not necessarily better, but with schools it appears to be the most logical answer for now.

The governor has already ordered an eventual reduction from 45 to 22 regional offices of education. He knows educational institutions must merge and save money to remain viable. Schools are no different and have to be realistic enough to spot financial trouble signs and determine the best solution before disaster hits.

Chenoa's school system seems to be at that point today. Dissolving to allow the district to become a part of neighboring Prairie Central seems to be a wise choice under the circumstances.

Chenoa is lucky that Prairie Central wants it after the "snub vote" last spring. But Prairie Central people also know the trauma and emotion of losing local high schools. That district is a result of school districts merging as far back as 18 years ago.

Education law tries thin state budgets

Thursday, July 31, 2003 Posted: 10:00 AM EDT (1400 GMT)


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. states struggling with shrinking revenues and ballooning health care spending fear the hidden costs of a year-old federal education law will soon further test budgets already stretched razor thin.

Critics predict the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act could also help power a new wave of costly lawsuits against the states challenging the allocation of state education funds, and in turn by the states against the federal government.

"We all want to improve the quality of education and narrow the achievement gap between students in poverty and other students," Kansas state Senator John Vratil, an attorney who specializes in education issues, told Reuters.

"But the federal government has no appreciation whatsoever of the direct and indirect costs of No Child Left Behind."

Democrats say President Bush's administration and Congress' Republican leadership has undermined the act by providing just $24 billion of $29 billion authorized in 2003 to help states meet the law's new requirements.

Chief among the law's requirements are annual student testing, training and hiring qualified teachers, and school accountability, which come as states are grappling with their worst fiscal crisis since World War II.

Republicans reject charges they have dumped the tab in state lawmakers' laps, saying there was no specific amount of money promised or authorized and that education funding has risen by $9 billion over the past two years.

They also say fears about the cost of implementing the act's reforms have been overestimated.

Congress' General Accounting Office estimated earlier this year that states would have to pay between $1.9 billion and $5.3 billion to implement just the testing provisions of the act between 2002 and 2008.

A Vermont study of 10 states found seven would have to increase funding for kindergarten through 12th grade schooling, already states' largest single budget item, by 25 percent to implement No Child Left Behind.

"The consequences for a state are real far reaching," said David Shreve, education lobbyist for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). He noted that primary education already accounted for 35 percent to 70 percent of state budgets.

"If you have to increase that by 25 percent you're talking about a lot of money," he added.

While several states have seriously considered forgoing federal education funds for needy children to be spared the new law's requirements, officials in Vermont and Utah said they had for now decided not to risk the federal aid.

Legal battles looming?

But such is the states' concern that NCSL this month sent a memo to state legislators and their staffs on the possibility of challenging the law in federal court based on the law's own ban on imposing "unfunded mandates" on states.

The country's biggest teacher's union, the National Education Association, also announced this month it was putting together a lawsuit over the alleged unfunded mandates and had begun talks with several states who might join the suit.

NCSL's Shreve and others said they worried the law has also opened the door to a potential tidal wave of costly new lawsuits challenging the level and equality of state public school funding.

Such suits have affected all but five states since the early 1970s, NCSL analyst Steve Smith said, but the new law's emphasis on measuring schools' success in teaching students to specific standards could intensify that trend significantly.

"It really sets the stage for people to file federal lawsuits," Vratil said. "I don't want to exaggerate, but it has the potential to cost states billions of dollars."

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



August 1, 2003

...a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders


In addition to approved state accountability plans, the Department is posting state-by-state decision letters ( which document aspects of each plan that still require final action.  Provided the action occurs, whether it entails legislative/regulatory change or just the submission of documents, the Department will "fully approve that plan."  One frequent comment?  The approval of  accountability plans is not the approval of standards and assessment systems.  Twenty-five states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are either on a timeline waiver or have entered into a compliance agreement to meet No Child Left Behind standards and assessment requirements.

West Virginia and Montana are the 37th and 38th states to pass a rigorous review plan for Reading First funds.  The Mountain State will receive $6.1 million for the first year of this multi-year grant.  Over six years (subject to appropriations and implementation), the state will receive $43.8 million.  The Treasure State will receive $2.9 million in the first year and $20.2 million over six years.  In both states, a competition for subgrants is planned yet this summer.  FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO

On July 28, the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice announced more than $41 million in grants to 23 school districts.  These Safe Schools/ Healthy Students grants aim to make schools safer, foster healthy child development, and prevent aggressive and violent behavior and drug and alcohol use among the nation's youth.  Districts submitted comprehensive plans developed with law enforcement officials, local mental health authorities, and, frequently, juvenile justice officials and community-based organizations.  (In fiscal year 2002, more than 350 applications were received.  Less than 15 percent were funded.  This year's grantees were selected from the rank-order list of unfunded applicants.)  FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO  


Seeking to fill a couple of critical vacancies in the Department's leadership structure, the White House has announced its intent to designate the current Undersecretary of Education, Gene Hickok, to be Acting Deputy Secretary of Education, and Ron Tomalis, who currently serves as Hickok's Chief of Staff, to be Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE).  Since March, Hickok has served as both Undersecretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for OESE.  He remains a policy advisor to Secretary Paige on all major programs and management issues, including the No Child Left Behind Act (  Tomalis joins OESE at a busy time: the close-out of fiscal year 2003.  Previously, he was executive deputy secretary, second in charge, of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and served in the Justice Department (  Also, Phoebe Cottingham has been appointed Commissioner of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.  Part of the new Institute of Education Sciences, the center conducts studies of programs, distributes information on the effectiveness of programs through the What Works Clearinghouse, and is responsible for 10 regional educational laboratories that conduct applied research and provide technical assistance to states and school districts (