Sent: Friday, March 26, 2004 4:56 PM
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 3-26-04
            Good afternoon,


I started the week listening to administrators who were beside themselves about a recent letter sent out to them by the Governor’s Office about his Education Plan. Administrators were concerned that in order to get the promise of A (funding reform) they would have to support B (the Governor’s Education Plan).


By mid-week the Governor dismissed the letter. He said that he didn’t know about it and dismissed any promise made of addressing funding. So I assume that the Governor has washed his hands of the funding issue.


Fortunately – no one else has. Looking at the events of the past week, all of us should appreciate the many different voices that are coming together to articulate a common theme: Illinois does not need a change in governance, Illinois needs funding reform now!


This week when we were in Bloomington for a symposium, several people there asked the real question of the day: “When does education funding become the state’s priority in Springfield?” And later in the day in Elmhurst at the Senate Education Committee hearing hosted by Senators Miguel Del Valle and Dan Cronin, administrators stood baffled about the above referenced letter declaring that they don’t want to be told that they have to support B to get A.  It is abundantly evident that everyone just wants A – adequate state funding!


Just yesterday the State Board debated how to prioritize $400 million – an inadequate amount of new money for education next year. At the same time the House was approving a $250 per pupil General State Aid increase. All of you know that the GSA increase would absorb almost all of the $400 million. Again we need A!


The Board also approved the financial profiles for 2004, and considering that $400 million doesn’t meet the needs of school districts statewide, members began to ask each other what programs are districts cutting to stay afloat? What programs will never see the light of day again? How many school librarians, aides and teachers do we need to lay off? How short can a school day actually go? What will it take (districts ‘shuttering their schools’?) to bring serious attention to the funding issue? It is unfair to make pledges that we will not balance the budget on backs of taxpayers, when we are currently bleeding schools dry at the expense of students many of whom no longer know what a well-rounded curriculum is!


I was asked following the board meeting Thursday if there is a correlation between schools that are in Academic Warning or Watch Status and those on Financial Watch. While the analysis hasn’t been done in quite a few years, I do believe that one does affect the other. And if forced to, school districts cutting programs will more than likely see sudent achievement and performance decline.


We remain committed to the solution. I hope to continue to hear all of our voices speaking out about fair funding in unison.


Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education


Also in today’s message:

·         Legislative update

·         Assessment Test Dates

·         ISBE adds Dolton as Supplemental Educational Service Provider

·         NIU Survey Results

·         Updates to the State and Federal Grant Administration Policy Handbook

·         Summer Food Services Program

·         Help Students Avoid Bankruptcy

·         SchoolMatch

·         Newsclips


Legislative Update


The Illinois General Assembly returned this week and began considering many important educational issues.  On March 22, the Senate Education Committee held a special hearing in Elmhurst regarding Senate Bill 3000, the Governor’s proposal to create a new Department of Education, and Senate Bill 3001, the proposal to place all school construction oversight and prioritization with the Capitol Development Board.  I truly appreciate the ongoing support from school administrators from around Illinois who have turned out for these governance hearings to show their support for keeping our educational structure independent from politics.


There will likely be a special downstate hearing convened by the Senate Education Committee regarding Senate Bills 3000 and 3001 in the near future. 


On March 24, I testified before the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee in opposition to SB1074, legislation that would create an autonomous Teacher Board.  SB1074 passed the Senate last year, but has not advanced in the House of Representatives.  As currently drafted, this legislation gives teacher unions control of the autonomous board with six of the eleven members being teachers appointed by the IEA and the IFT.


In my opinion, SB1074 is bad public policy. If enacted, it would give teachers the power to self-regulate in a manner not afforded other professions in Illinois.


A follow-up hearing on SB1074 has been scheduled for April 1.


The following education-related bills passed out of the House last week:


HB4266 (William Davis), which unanimously passed the House, proposes an increase in the foundation level of support from $4,810 to $5,060 per pupil.  Based on preliminary data, raising the foundation level by $250 per pupil will cost approximately $396.5 million.


HB4431 (Ruth Munson) attempts to assist rapidly growing school districts by providing for a grant to be paid if there has been an increase in a school district's student population over any 2 consecutive school years of (i) over 1.5% in a district with over 10,000 pupils in average daily attendance or (ii) over 10% in any other district.


HB3942 (Mary E. Flowers) requires a school board to publish each school's lunch menu and the nutrition content, including calories, of each meal item.  It allows the board to determine the frequency and manner of publication.  It further amends the Critical Health Problems and Comprehensive Health Education Act by requiring a comprehensive health education program to include instruction in secondary schools on clinical depression and suicide prevention.  The bill has been assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.


HB4444 (Randall M. Hultgren) authorizes the levy of life safety taxes and issuance of life safety bonds for alteration or reconstruction of bleachers.


HB4688 (Marlow H. Colvin) establishes the Grow Our Own Teacher Education Initiative to prepare highly skilled, committed teachers who will teach in hard-to-staff schools and hard-to-staff positions and who will remain in these schools for substantial periods of time. It provides that the State Board of Education shall administer the Initiative as a grant competition, subject to appropriation, to fund consortia that will carry out Grow Our Own Teacher preparation programs.  An identical bill, SB1550 (Iris Y. Martinez), also passed the Senate.


The following education-related bills passed out of the Senate last week:


SB2115 (Miguel del Valle) 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 reenrolled students.


SB2135 (Susan Garrett) Creates a K-3 class size reduction grant program to be implemented and administered by the State Board of Education. It provides that only those schools that are on the early academic warning list or academic watch list and that maintain grades K-3 are grant eligible and must use the grant funds to defray the costs and expenses of operating and maintaining classes in grades kindergarten through 3 with an average class size within a specific grade of no more than 20 pupils.  If a school's facilities are inadequate to allow for this specified class size, then a school may use the grant funds for teacher aides instead.  The bill is subject to appropriations.


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


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


SB2732 (Vince Demuzio) would establish, subject to appropriations, a three-year technology immersion pilot project to provide a wireless laptop computer to each student, teacher, and relevant administrator in a participating school and implement the use of software, on-line courses, and other appropriate learning technologies that have been shown to improve academic achievement and specified progress measures.  It provides that the State Board of Education shall select seven (instead of eight) school districts to participate in the pilot project, one located in the City of Chicago, three located in the area that makes up of the counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, and that portion of Cook County that is located outside of the City of Chicago, and three located in the remainder of the State.  A similar measure, HB 4944, also passed the House.


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


SB2918 (Miguel del Valle) 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.


SB2995 (Dale A. Righter) Provides that for school districts that have consolidated within a prior fiscal year, the grant index shall be calculated for each of those school districts that form the new school district. It also ensures that whichever grant index is the highest shall be used as the grant index for the newly consolidated school district.


SB3091 (Frank C. Watson) 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 (Miguel del Valle) requires the State Board of Education to establish a system to provide for the accurate tracking of transfer students. It provides that the system shall require that a student be counted as a dropout in the calculation of a school's or school district's annual student dropout rate unless the school or school district to which the student transferred sends notification within 150 days to the school or school district from which the student transferred documenting that the student has enrolled in the transferee school or school district.


2005 Test Dates


In response to the need for earlier scoring and reporting of data, especially for the AYP calculations in reading and math, ISBE staff had proposed moving the test dates earlier for the 2004-05 school year.  School districts have expressed concern over shortening the time to prepare for the ACT.  On Thursday, March 25, the Illinois State Board of Education reviewed possible alternatives to moving the PSAE dates forward and adopted the following testing schedule for the spring of 2005:






March 7-18

Districts may apply for modification to accommodate spring breaks.


April 27-28


The makeup tests are scheduled for May 11-12.


March 7-18

Districts may apply for modification to accommodate spring breaks.  There will be no modification to move testing to PSAE dates.


This schedule of slightly earlier ISAT and IMAGE administrations and keeping the PSAE dates in April (with make-ups in mid-May) will allow for preliminary reporting of reading and math scores for AYP calculations by the end of June with reporting of the scores in the other subject areas by July.  ISBE staff was also instructed by the Board to pursue a shortening of the 45-day review time frame in order to facilitate earlier status notification to the districts.


We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused in planning your school calendars for next year. The State Board agreed with the concerns expressed by many of you regarding the prep time for the ACT and supported the PSAE remaining in April. We hope this new schedule meets everyone’s needs.


State Board of Education adds Dolton as Supplemental Educational Service Provider

The State Board of Education this week approved a South Suburban Chicago school district as provider of Supplemental Educational Services (SES), and announced that is looking at other states to recruit more.


The Board approved Dolton West School District 148, Riverdale, Ill., for inclusion in the state’s list of SES providers.  Dolton West School District will offer services through an Extended Day Program. 


The addition of Dolton updates the SES provider list in Illinois to include 26 providers, that is required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.  For a list of the approved providers please go to:


In addition to other pending applications ISBE is also taking a proactive approach to recruiting more providers.  ISBE is contacting eight neighboring states for a list of their SES providers.  We will be inviting these approved providers to submit applications to offer services.


NIU Policy Survey Results

Illinois residents are concerned that the quality of K-12 education is slipping, and they believe the state should be spending more to fix it.  According to the 2004 Public Policy Survey conducted annually by the Center for Governmental Studies at NIU, 75% of citizens in all income groups and all parts of the state favor increases in spending for education.  For additional information or to access results of the survey, please visit:


Updates to the State and Federal Grant Administration Policy Handbook

The Division of Funding and Disbursement Services has recently updated the State and Federal Grant Administration and Fiscal Requirements and Procedures Handbook located at


Included are ISBE policy statements on the proper administration of grant funds as well as information regarding grant budgets, expenditure reports, interest income, record retention, function and object descriptions and required audits.  The most significant update is the new language added to the Required Audits page which includes a reference to the federal Office of Management and Budget Circular A-87 which outlines cost principles and standards for determining costs for federal awards.  As the responsible pass-through agency of various federal awards, ISBE requires that the provisions contained in this circular are fulfilled and confirmed by a local education agency audit.  In addition, ISBE staff will audit against this standard during regular compliance visits.  Further details and information regarding these cost principles can be found at


If you have questions regarding the information in this handbook, please contact Division of Funding and Disbursement Services staff at 217-782-5256.


Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was established to ensure low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.  Free meals, that meet federal nutrition guidelines, are provided to all children at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.  SFSP operates during school vacations, primarily in the summer months—from May through September.


Contact Amy Bianco at 800/545-7892 or visit the Nutrition Programs and Support Services SFSP’s website at

for more information or assistance.


Help Students Avoid Bankruptcy

In response to the large number of young people and students filing for bankruptcy a website has been created by Chattanooga State College.  The National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges encourages you to share this resource with your students.  Please visit:



The nationally recognized SchoolMatch public school database is compiled from auditable information gathered annually state by state from county assessors, county auditors, state taxing authorities, state departments of education, etc. 


School administrators, businesses, and parents from around the country access the information to assist them in relocating, updating their residences, or to examine school system improvement based upon the performance of similar schools.


For additional information visit