Dear colleagues,

It has been another active week at the Illinois State Board of Education.

Of the greatest significance was our testimony before two separate legislative committees at the Capitol.  On Tuesday I presented ISBE’s recommended FY2005 education budget. I also broke out for House members the impact of how each of your districts would fare under this budget proposal.  (See district-by-district breakout at                               

As I walked members of the House Appropriation Committee through the budget recommendation, I reminded them that is was with your insight that we advocated for the $609 million increase in state funding. To maintain the status quo would be ignoring the fact that 74% of you are in deficit spending.

On Wednesday I testified before the Senate Education Committee and presented the Condition of Education report to them, including the recommendations to improve education by continued funding for early childhood reading, and focusing resources on the middle grades to better prepare students in reading and math before they enter high school, as well as upgrading high school graduation requirements.

The recent plans that we are seeing from the Governors office, dismantle the system, and remove the advocacy role of the state board. We advocate to keep the lights on at districts, but I don’t expect the Governor’s proposals to do the same.

Lacking strong support for his Department of Education, the Governor is pulling all stops to push an education package that includes creation of a Department of Education that we believe would rob you of your local decision-making powers. 

Rep. Jay Hoffman is one of the sponsors of HB5001 that would create a new Department of Education.  In effect this would be an end-run around the Constitutional Amendment that created ISBE as an independent agency, and – without input from taxpayers and citizens of Illinois - simply change faces and the name of the agency.  Make no mistake about it, this is about power and control – about taking an apolitical agency and bringing it under the Governor’s office where one person (versus nine) will decide what and how much to advocate for on behalf of the state’s 2.5 million children.  When all is said and done, changing the name and the faces will not change your needs and will only postpone making the hard decisions about funding.

HB5041 would require students to perform community service and would require students to perform 40 hours of community service in order to receive a diploma.

I also would like to offer a clarification about the rules that have been the subject of criticism. In his recent State of the State address, Governor Blagojevich cited the burdens placed on school districts by the rules of this agency. 

I intend to lead an effort to streamline our rules in any way that will achieve this goal, within the parameters of law and appropriate public policy.

As you know, numerous portions of the School Code require ISBE to promulgate rules on a host of topics.  It has been nearly eight years since we last surveyed district superintendents with an offer to delete unnecessary requirements and streamline processes.  We are more than willing to repeat this initiative now.

Please consider this an open invitation to identify any of ISBE’s rules that you believe creates an avoidable constraint on your district’s work.  Simply send a message to letting us know of rules you believe should be changed or eliminated.  Please identify these as specifically as you can.  In the case of desired revisions, please show your preferred alternative.  It would also be most helpful if you could explain how the items you mention are unnecessarily stringent or hamper your ability to serve students.

Please also be aware that this opportunity is always available to you.  ISBE has a process in place for responding to requests such as these; just send a message to at any time, or refer to our rules for Public Information, Rulemaking and Organization (2 Ill. Adm. Code 5000.115).

The following information is provided for your convenience.

We look forward to hearing many constructive suggestions from you and will provide a response to each one in this space.

Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education

Also in today’s message:

Charter School RFP Released

The FY04 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 lease 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 217/782-2948.


New Approach to Help Individuals with Learning  Disabilities Webcast

An exercise-based approach developed to help individuals with learning disabilities will be the topic of a webcast on Monday, February 9 at 11:00 a.m. CST

Dr. Edward Hallowell will host a panel discussion of this new drug-free exercise-based approach to helping those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD. 

You may view the discussion by going to and clicking on the webcast link.  Questions may be submitted during registration.

An audio recording and a written transcript of the webcast will be available at 48 hours after the panel discussion.

Book features Illinois school

Adlai E. Stevenson High School District 125 in Lincolnshire is featured in a new book shining a spotlight on schools that outperform others with similar financial resources. "From the Inside Out: Learning From the Positive Deviance in Your Organization," is the result of a year-long study by the National Staff Development Council.  Among the characteristics for its selection, the NSDC cited:

For more, go to the National Staff Development Council's page on

"amplifying positive deviance" at:

Rock Island Public Schools Receives Excellence In Foodservice Management Status

Congratulations to Carol Longley, School Foodservice Director and Rock Island Public Schools, on achieving the American School Food Service Association’s (ASFSA) District of Excellence in Child Nutrition status.  The district received a score of 80 percent or higher in the four “key” areas in the Keys to Excellence program located at  The areas include nutrition and nutrition education, communications and marketing, administration, and operations.

Illinois Association of School Boards Hosts 9th Annual Job Fair

Teachers, administrators and education majors are invited to attend the IASB Job Fair on Saturday, March 6, 2004, at St. Xavier University’s Shannon Center, 3700 W. 103rd Street, Chicago.  The fair will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 2:00 p.m.  

Participants are asked to bring a minimum of twenty-five copies of their resume for distribution.  On-site interviews with school recruiting teams from Illinois schools will be available.

Advance online registration is required, and there is a $5 non-refundable registration fee.  The deadline for advanced registration is Tuesday, March 2.  Participants who do not register in advance will be charged $10 at the door the day of the fair.  Visit to register online.

Free Financial Aid Services for College-Bound Students

February is Financial Aid/Admission Awareness Month (FAAM) and numerous events will be offered throughout the state for students and their families. All activities sponsored by FAAM are free and open to the general public.  FAAM provides information, resources, and services that help thousands of Illinois residents with their college plans, focusing on the college admission and financial aid processes.

Students-from high school seniors to adult learners are encouraged to attend one of the one hundred workshops will be offered at various sites during February.  Financial aid professionals will be available to provide individual assistance in understanding and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid during these workshops.  

Please visit for a list of workshop sites and additional information.