FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                    Further Information: 217/782-4648

December 11, 2000




At its December 14 meeting, the Illinois State Board of Education will determine whether three Illinois school districts can sell Qualified Zone Academy Bonds to pay for repair or rehabilitation of school buildings, provision of equipment for the school, development of course materials for the zone academy, or training teachers and other school personnel of the academy. 


The districts seeking permission are Chicago Public Schools District 299 in Cook County, Paris-Union School District 95 in Edgar County, and Shawnee Community Unit School District 84 in Union County.


The Qualified Zone Academy Bond program is a relatively new source of limited financial assistance to rehabilitate or repair public school facilities or provide equipment created under Section 226 of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.   Purchasers of such bonds receive federal tax credits instead of interest, which substantially reduces the cost of borrowing by the issuing school district.


The local school board must designate the school as a “zone academy.”  To qualify, the school must be located in a federally designated empowerment zone or enterprise community.  If a school is located outside of such a zone, it must have at least 35% of its students eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches. 


This is Illinois’ third year of participating in this federal program.  The allocation available to the state for this year is $13,398,000.  However, due to a carryover from 1999, the total available is actually $14,351,000.  Districts must apply to participate in this program.  The State Board allocates the states’ share among qualified applicants.