Sent: Friday, February 27, 2004 4:32 PM
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 2-27-04
Good afternoon –


Next week education will take center stage as the Senate will convene a committee of the whole. What we hope will emerge is a forthright debate about education, including, the real financial needs of our 888 school districts, as well as the facts about the plan put forth by the Governor’s office.


Upon closer inspection of the Governor’s plan, it still falls short of acquiring $1 billion in savings, and does not advance education in Illinois. The plan avoids the greater needs of our schools, specifically the fact that more than 75 percent of our districts are operating in deficits, and moves us farther away from our ultimate goal of working toward the state funding 50 percent of education.


This week the Legislative Research Unit of the General Assembly reviewed the constitutionality of the Governor’s proposal and concluded that the legislation is inconsistent with the expressed intent of the majority of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention. Meaning that the swapping of one administration for another could result in a constitutional challenge – one that would likely involve dollars that could be best spent on education and also inhibit improvements to our system.


I have attached the LRU review for each of you and ask that you read through it and ponder how much we would see our schools improve, if their administration hangs in the balance of the courts. I suspect that none of us would be any closer to successfully addressing the funding inequity that belies us today.


I continue to meet with legislators and explain to them the process of how education money is appropriated by them, distributed through ISBE and spent at the local level.


In this week’s message we have also included a summary of pending education legislation and audio links to testimony from Ursula Ahern, a board member, Community Consolidated School District 46 in Grayslake, as well as the Governor’s staff testimony to the House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee. It appears that the Committee was left with more questions than answers.


Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education


Also in today’s message:

·         Legislative Update

·         Financial Profiles

·         PSAE, ISAT, and IMAGE Security Measures

·         Futuristic Presentation

·         RFPs Released

·         National School Breakfast Week

·         Nontraditional Breakfast Service Options (book)

·         Remembering Victims of the Holocaust

·         Newsclips


Legislative Update

There continues to be much discussion and legislative activity concerning the governance of education in Illinois, school funding, and issues involving childhood obesity and nutrition in schools.


On March 3, I will be appearing before the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing to discuss the Governor’s education proposal.  For those interested in listening to the debate it can be accessed on the General Assembly web site at


It will also be a busy week with many substantive bills that will be discussed at the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee hearing also scheduled for March 3. Some of the bills up for consideration at this hearing are:


The House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee will also be taking public testimony on the ISBE FY 2005 budget request.  For those who are interested in testifying on the need for more funding for education please feel free to attend.  It is posted for Tuesday March 2, 2004 in room 118 of the Capitol at 2:00pm.


The ongoing governance and funding debates have overshadowed several substantive bills that concern education that have made it out of committee and continue to advance, including:


HB3977 would require school districts to perform a fingerprint-based criminal background check on applicants for employment.  The fingerprinting method expands the results of the background check from just Illinois criminal history, to any criminal conviction contained in the records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  This legislation passed the House on February 26.


HB4360 proposes to make it unlawful for a child sex offender to loiter, or live within, 1,000 feet of a school building.  Current Illinois law has the distance at 500 feet. 


HB4944 and SB2732 are both bills that call for the State Board to establish a three-year technology immersion pilot project that would provide a wireless laptop computer to each student, teacher, and relevant administrator, in the participating pilot schools. 


HB6813 would allow the parents of special education students who prevail in a due process hearing to recover attorney fees and expert witness fees.


SB2115 sets the conditions under which a student may be denied enrollment into school for one semester for failing to meet minimum academic or attendance standards if certain conditions are met.  It also requires a district to identify, track, and report on the educational progress and outcomes of re-enrolled students.


SB2135 would create a K-3 class size reduction grant program for schools that are on the early academic warning list or academic watch list.


SB2360 proposes a student achievement improvement grant program to provide 2-year grants to school districts on the academic watch list and other school districts that have the lowest achieving students.


SB2362 would ensure the recent tax amnesty funds received by many school districts will not be included in calculation of available local resources.


SB2769 is designed to ensure that every student takes the Prairie State Achievement Examination prior to receiving a high school diploma.  


SB2864 would require a person having custody or control of a child who is below the compulsory school age and who is enrolled in kindergarten in a public school to cause the child to attend.


SB2918 proposes a new graduation incentive program.  It increases the compulsory school age to 17 (with exceptions) and creates incentives for school districts to recover dropouts.  The proposal also provides possible reimbursement for dropouts who wish to attend vocational training programs offered through the community college system, or approved vocational training programs.


SB3091 would allow a joint agreement made up of school districts, or a regional superintendent of schools on behalf of programs operated by the regional office, to apply for a waiver or modification of mandates.


SB3109 would permit the State Board to establish, by administrative rule, a system to ensure the accurate tracking of transfer students.  The system will, at a minimum, require that a student be counted as a dropout in the calculation of a school district’s annual student dropout rate unless the school district to which the student transferred sends notification to the school district from which the student transferred.


School District Financial Profiles

The new School District Financial Profile Designations will be presented to the Illinois State Board of Education at the March Board meeting.  The Designations are based on the Annual Financial Reports (AFRs) from fiscal year 2003 and the revised calculations.  Please review your Financial Profile Report through the ISBE Web Application Security System (IWAS) – District Financial Report System.  You may also enter comments to be publicly included with your 2004 final report.


Only district superintendents have access to this report but may grant permission to other district personnel to review it through the IWAS System.  In the Financial Profile Section there is a link:  AFR Profile Score Report.  When you click on the link it will bring up the Financial Profile Report.  The report is two pages long.  The first page is the revised 2003 score (based on the FY02 AFR data) and the second page is the PRELIMINARY 2004 score (based on the FY03 AFR data).  Based on your feedback, we have made significant enhancements to the calculation of each indicator, as described in an earlier email this week.  For comparison purposes, we have revised the 2003 Profile Score and Designation released last March so that both the previous year and current Profile will be calculated using the exact same formulas. 


Although comments on the 2004 score are optional, this is an opportunity for districts to explain financial circumstances.  The data verification and comments should be completed through your respective IWAS account by March 5, 2004.


If you have any questions, please contact Ken Wargo or Lou Ferratier of the School Business and Support Services Division at 217/785-8779.  If you have any technical questions about IWAS, you can contact our Call Center at 217/558-3600.


PSAE, ISAT, and IMAGE Security Measures

Very shortly, district superintendents and principals will receive Test Security and Confidentiality Agreements that must be signed for the 2004 state assessments.  The ISAT/IMAGE agreements, which will arrive beginning the week of March 8, must be signed and returned no later than March 29.  PSAE agreements will arrive the week of April 5 for return by April 26.  Security procedures for the assessments are outlined in the ISAT and IMAGE coordination manuals and in the test-administration manuals for ISAT, IMAGE, and Day 2 of the PSAE.  These manuals are posted on the ISBE Web site at  The document titled Professional Testing Practices for Educators and the PowerPoint used at PSAE training workshops are also posted there.


Futuristic Presentation

School administrators and local school board members are invited to attend a special futuristics presentation with science teachers in their districts on July 13.  The Illinois Science Teachers Association has invited Dr. Dennis Bushnell, Head Scientist at the NASA-Langley Research Center in Virginia to emphasize “A Sense of Urgency.”  Dr. Bushnell’s presentation will focus on the global economy, environment and education, with attention to the future of technologies that are in sight now and must be faced as we are “Getting Ready for our Future” (the theme of the July 12-14 meeting in Bloomington).  Special registration rates and further information is available at  In addition, K-12 teachers are invited to participate in the July 12 pre-conference which will focus on Reading in Science, with a sub-title of “You Want Me to Teach Reading, Too??!!”  Please share this invitation freely among your colleagues.


RFPs Released

Two separate RFPs have been issued under the Stewart B. McKinney Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program—one for regional grants and one for a statewide awareness grant.  Both RFPs will provide resources to successful applicants to assure that homeless children and youth are enrolled immediately in school and receive services for which they are eligible under federal and state laws.  The statewide awareness program provides homeless-related materials to all school districts and Regional Offices of Education.  It is expected that grants will be funded for a three-year period, with grants for years 2 and 3 contingent upon a sufficient appropriation and satisfactory performance of grantees in the preceding grant period.


Both RFP documents may be downloaded at


If there are any questions on either RFP please contact Rich Dehart at


National School Breakfast Week 2004

Navigate Your Day with School Breakfast, March 8–12, 2004


Celebrate National School Breakfast Week in March.  Visit the American School Food Service Association (ASFSA) site at for logos, recipes, menus, sample proclamations, and more!


Think Nontraditional Breakfast Service Options

More and more Illinois schools are discovering that breakfast need not be served in the cafeteria anymore.  The Breakfast in a Bag serving option is one example of a nontraditional service.  Dora Rivas, keynote speaker at the School Breakfast - “Can We Afford to Miss It?” - conference enlightened participants to think outside the box when it comes to breakfast service.  She has graciously shared her school district’s 44-page Breakfast in a Bag handbook.  You may request this resource by contacting Joan Love at 800/545-7892 or 217/782-2491.


Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust

During the week of April 18-25, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will lead the nation in the annual Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust.


This year’s observance will honor the memory of the Jews of Hungary, deported sixty years ago in the final stages of World War II, as well as those courageous individuals, organizations and countries who attempted to rescue them.


Please visit for additional information.