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For Immediate Release
March 23, 2004

Schiller: Governor's School Construction Power Grab is Losing Proposal for Schools and the Legislature

(Springfield) - The Governor's current proposal to transfer the state's school construction program to the Capital Development Board will leave nearly 200 school districts in a lurch as well as deprive them of the ability to manage their own school construction projects, the Illinois State Board of Education announced Tuesday.

"This is a frightening proposition for school districts statewide," State Superintendent Robert Schiller said. "The Governor's proposal will empower the Capital Development Board to control $2.2 billion in bonds for school construction projects and will remove the Legislature's priorities for the program."

Senate Bill 3001 will remove the current priorities set forth by the Legislature when it first approved the School Construction program in 1997. The State Board of Education currently prioritizes school districts whose buildings are aging and whose communities are expanding, as prescribed by the Legislature. Distribution of the grant money comes through the Capital Development Board.

The Governor's most recent proposal will fund 24 schools that have been waiting for funding since fiscal year 2002. It does not address the remaining 194 school districts that have submitted applications over the past two years. Because SB 3001 will wipe out the Legislature's priorities for the program, there is no guarantee that the projects applied for by the 194 school districts will be approved again.

"Removing a fair process set into law by the Legislature with a program that is discretionary can not possibly serve all of our schools equitably," Schiller said.

The Governor's proposal also empowers the Capital Development Board to procure all architectural, engineering and land surveying services for the authorized projects and also authorizes it to charge a one-percent administration fee to the school district for CDB oversight of the projects. Currently, some school districts use their business managers as project managers, while others pay a small percentage of the total cost to a contractor to oversee the construction, Schiller said.

"Taking away a school district's power to choose who will build its schools may not be in the best interest of its community," Schiller said. "This proposed change in the law should definitely raise the brows of school board members and administrators statewide."

Also of great concern to Schiller is the addition of a new category in the bill which includes construction of shared use facilities that provide for school districts' joint use for recreational, clinical, library, pre-school or before or after school programs with other governmental units including State Institutions of higher learning. Schiller fears that instead of building schools with the grant money, communities could push for baseball diamonds and community centers under this provision in the bill.

Schiller corrected the Governor's assertions regarding the funding of the School Maintenance Grant Program. The Governor said that "ISBE has not funded the program since Fiscal Year 2000."

Schiller said, "ISBE does not appropriate - we advocate."

The School Maintenance Grant Program was funded in FY 2000 for $52 million, again in FY 2001 for $73 million, and ISBE requested $58 million in FY 2002 but that was not appropriated. ISBE has repeatedly advocated for the quality program.

"This bill dangles $2.2 billion over the heads of districts in exchange for their support of the Governor's takeover of the State Board of Education," Schiller said.

bullet item View:  School Construction Program Status PDF File

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