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January 7, 2003

Budget proposal seeks substantial increase for state's financially strapped schools

The State Board of Education today approved a budget proposal for FY 2004 and a 4-year general framework for education spending that would provide school districts with the resources needed to increase student achievement. The proposal -- which asks to increase education spending by $518.1 million over last year -- gives priority support to close three significant "gaps" the State board finds the state’s schools facing: funding; achievement; and highly qualified educators.

“Addressing the problems confronting schools will take a major infusion of money,” said State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller. “We know the state cannot afford to achieve that level of funding in one year, so we are laying out a four-year funding plan that will move the state toward adequate support of public education."

Schiller acknowledged that the $518.1million increase might be difficult to achieve if state revenues do not improve.

“The new Governor and the General Assembly will have the latest revenue estimates when they consider this request in the context of the overall demands on state resources,” Schiller said. “However, we feel strongly the State Board of Education must advocate for the needs of school districts and then work with the Governor and General Assembly to meet those needs to the greatest extent possible.

“We look forward to beginning that process for FY04 and to looking farther down the road to assure better state support for our financially troubled schools,” he said.

“Most of our districts are faced with staggering financial problems and we must provide greater state support or they will continue to run deficits and be forced to cut vital programs necessary to help students achieve state standards as required by federal law” said Board Chairman Ronald J. Gidwitz.

Coincidentally, today in Washington, D.C., the state’s record of low support for schools was highlighted by the national "Quality Counts" report, which gave Illinois an "F" in "equitable support for schools."

“We are grateful that the General Assembly and the Governor have been able to fund schools during recent periods of economic expansion and for giving the State Board authority to establish emergency rescue plans for individual districts with the most immediate problems. But Illinois cannot continue to rescue one district at a time. We must commit ourselves to making a substantial investment to support all schools—thereby avoiding these individual catastrophes,” Gidwitz said.

The State Board recommended the following increases in funding to address each of the three gaps facing Illinois schools:

The funding gap: Given the number of districts in deficit and struggling to make ends meet, the primary emphasis is on the funding gap, including primarily General State Aid ($252.5 M in FY04) and Mandated Categorical programs ($210.9 M). The goal is to fund the Education Funding Advisory Board recommendations by the 4th year (FY07), including poverty (change measure and increase) and hold harmless (eliminate). The FY04 recommendation is to fully fund the Mandated Categoricals (funded at about 92 per cent in FY03) and then to grow funding by 8 per cent average growth rate over the last three years) for the next three years.

The achievement gap:

Early Childhood Education: an increase of $27.7 million for FY04 to eliminate the waiting list of 8,000 children and an additional $90 million for Early Childhood programs over the next four years.

Technology – increases of $5 million for each of the next four years;

System of Support: Alternative Programs would need $5 million more in FY04, then $10 million the next two years and $15 million in FY07. Summer Bridges is proposed to increase $10 million each of the next four years as the main initiative to bring the all schools on the Academic Watch List up to standards.

Bilingual Education program support would be moved up to the FY02 level (an increase of $2.2 million) in FY04 then phased in to full funding over the next three years.

The gap in the recruitment and retention of quality educators: Three program areas are targeted to “close” the educator gap, including mentoring and induction ($2.5 M), recruitment and retention ($2.5 M new), and National Board of Professional Teaching Standards ($1.8 M). These programs have also been identified by the current and incoming Governors as necessary initiatives to meet the federal NCLB requirements for highly qualified teachers. The out-year recommendations (FY05 to FY07) increase each of these in gradually increasing amounts.

These numbers represent only the direct program recommendations of the State Board and do not include the increase of approximately $110 million necessary for the state’s contribution to the Teachers Retirement System.

Budget materials, including line-item charts are available at the following website:

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777