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For Immediate Release
September 22, 2004

State Board Sets Agency Priorities
First regular meeting highlights Early Childhood Education

Springfield, Ill. - Interim State Superintendent of Education Randy Dunn and the new State Board of Education today laid out the direction for the agency at the first full regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday. Just days after taking on the role as Interim Superintendent and a little more than a week after the Board was appointed they set out to implement Gov. Rod Blagojevich's goals for the agency.

Chairman Jesse Ruiz led the board's discussion. He re-emphasized Governor Blagojevich's priorities and asked Dunn for a report to the board each meeting. The Governor outlined the four goals for the board last week.

"We are proceeding as a unified team," said Dunn. "Now it is time to focus on our priorities. The State Board needs to eliminate the certification backlog. We need to create a better working relationship with schools, in part by eliminating rules. We need to look for ways to save schools money and innovative ways to improve education."

Dunn stated that even after just two days, work has already begun on priorities through an initial assessment of each area. He provided status for each goal.

On teacher certification Dunn pledged that the agency would eliminate the backlog and discussed his meetings with the certification staff. He has also met with staff to begin looking at rules and regulations that can be reduced. Dunn says this would be a first step toward creating a culture of collaboration with school districts.

With regard to seeking ways to save schools money, Dunn reported that he is directing staff to begin planning to launch a purchasing and prescription drug buying pool.

Dunn indicated that one innovative way to improve education is already underway through the Early Childhood Block Grant program that the Governor supported in the FY05 budget. The Board received an update on the program from Kay Henderson, ISBE's Early Childhood Education chief who indicated that the agency is primed to increase and surpass past services to the young at-risk student population. For the past two years the governor has included an increase of $30 million each year for the Early Childhood Block Grants.

According to Henderson, Illinois remains at the forefront of pre-kindergarten programs. She said the National Institute for Early Childhood Research (NIEER) gave Illinois high marks.

"Those increases and the governor's commitment mean that more than 16,000 young children are now enrolled in high quality early childhood programs," said Henderson. "Illinois ranks among the top three states in program quality."

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