State Board of Education proposes legislation in three priority areas



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FOR INFORMATION CALL

November 16, 2000†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (217) 782-4648 or (312) 814-3490


Springfield - The Illinois State Board of Education will discuss proposed legislation in three priority areas on November 16 at its monthly board meeting in Chicago. The three areas are:alternative learning opportunities, the reading improvement block grant and health/life safety issues.


1. Alternative Learning Opportunities for At-Risk Youth


Problem: Districts that provide alternative learning programs for students who are not successful in standard classroom settings.

Solution: The proposed legislation would allow districts that have established alternative learning programs to improve services for at-risk youth. These alternative programs are often less than the five clock hours required to be eligible to receive general state aid. To assist districts in providing effective alternative programs for students at risk of failure, the proposed legislation would:

        Authorize districts to create or contract for alternative education programs serving students in grades 4-12 (through age 21), which must complement but not supplant existing programs.

        Provides that all certified teachers would be eligible to work in an alternative education setting, regardless of level or type of certification.

        Allows programs that provide a minimum of three clock hours of instruction to provide up to two clock hours of other activities (such as work-based learning, counseling, conflict resolution) and be eligible for full General State Aid.Each student would have an Individual Education and Career Services Plan.

        Budget request - $4.5 million in the first year- expected to grow to $11.5 million in the fifth year, with service to approximately 26,000 students.




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2. Reading Improvement Block Grant


Problem: The present block grant is falling short is helping at-risk students learn to read.

Solution: Proposed legislation would modify the Reading Improvement Block Grant to enhance reading achievement of Illinois students by:

        Targeting resources for short-term intervention for children at risk of failing to read in first grade;

        Increasing support for reading in grades 2-12; currently (2-6);

        Supporting classroom libraries in grades K-6; and

        Providing staff development for teachers.

        Budget proposal of $100 million (increase of about $16.6 million) would provide each district with at least $10,000.


††††††††††† Additional funding will be disbursed based on student enrollment.



3. Health/Life Safety:


Problem: The inability of most school districts to adequately fund health/life safety projects through the use of the Nickel Levy. Districts in counties with tax caps often must delay needed health/life safety improvements because of the tax limitations.


        Legislative proposal reflects recommendations from statutory Advisory Committee and is intended to ensure that infrastructure problems do not escalate or endanger students and staff.

        Legislative proposal accelerates the schedule for a districtís response to health/life safety violations (from 5 to 3 years) and gives districts access to funding by removing health/life safety expenditures from tax caps and increasing various taxing authorizations.

        State funding is not required.