Here's what the Governor says he's going to do to help fund Illinois schools more equitably. Does it make sense? Will it pass? The summary is below, with a link to the rest. Or download these documents including a powerpoint. More to come.
Governor Blagojevich unveils
bold new plan to reform Illinois schools
plan includes extending the school year, merit pay for teachers,
mandatory after school tutoring, taking over failing school districts,
school construction, parental involvement initiatives, textbook
replacement, full day kindergarten, new school technology, and new
Plan would provide $6 billion in new funding
for schools over next four budgets
CHICAGO - Building on
the work of the previous four budgets and legislative sessions which
saw more than $3.8 billion in new funds invested in Illinois schools,
the creation of universal preschool in Illinois, and raising graduation
standards to require students to take more reading, writing, math and
science, Governor Rod Blagojevich today unveiled his new plan to
continue reforming and improving schools, with initiatives including:
- Implementing full day kindergarten and universal preschool;
- Funding new school construction;
- Creating Small Schools and Identity Schools;
- Helping school districts regularly replace outdated textbooks;
- Extending the school year for underachieving schools;
- Performance pay for teachers;
- Increased state takeovers of failing school districts;
- Funding after-school tutoring for underachieving students;
- Helping schools afford special education teachers;
- Introducing new ways to help parents get involved;
- Increasing school district consolidations;
- More and better mentoring for principals and superintendents;
- Helping schools afford new technology to help parents track their kids performance;
- Improving school libraries;
- Improving Career and Technical Education curriculums; and
- Reducing school district administrative costs.
For the twenty five
years preceding the Blagojevich administration, the State of Illinois
consistently neglected and chronically underfunded its schools
increasing funding on a year to year basis by just .5% (after adjusting
for inflation). Instead, the State spent the taxpayers money on things
like a bloated state payroll, corporate loopholes that cost schools
over $500 million a year in funding, and special purpose funds that
held money aside for special interests.
In 2003, that began to
change under Governor Blagojevich, with state budgets seeing
significant increases for schools. State spending for schools increased
six times faster than the previous administrations, with the new
funding paid for by dramatically reducing the size of the states
payroll, ending the practice of putting special purpose funds ahead of
needs like education and health care, and closing $500 million in
unfair corporate loopholes. Preschool funding increased by 75%, and
legislation passed this year makes Illinois the only state to create a
program that will make preschool available to every three and four year
old child in the state. High school graduation requirements were
raised for the first time in over two decades, the dropout age was
raised to 17 and the dropout rate fell to its lowest level ever (4%).
After taking over the State Board of Education, new reforms and
management eliminated the teacher certification backlog, cut more than
500 pages of unneeded rules and red tape, and expanded meal subsidies
to 40,000 more children.
Gov. Blagojevichs plan builds on that progress, focusing on five areas vital to improving schools and helping kids learn:
(1) A good place to learn;
(2) Strong teachers and administrators;
(3) Quality materials;
(4) Enough time to learn; and
(5) Schools with the financial resources to get the job done.
We have to be willing
to do things differently. We have a lot of schools that do well, but
we have too many schools that dont. This is a plan that carefully
looks at what our kids need to succeed, and boldly proposes the changes
needed to help them get there. It will take time, money, hard work and
a tolerance for change. But if were willing to do that, we can make a
real difference in the lives of millions of children, said Governor
I. A Good Place to Learn
The Governors plan
focuses on three key areas: school construction, creating small
schools and identity schools and encouraging school district
School Construction: The
plan includes $1.5 billion for new school construction, which would be
used to help growing schools expand and help schools with outdated
Small Schools and Identity Schools: Small
Schools represent an emerging reform in which a larger school building
is broken up into several independent schools operating within the
larger building. The idea behind Small Schools is to give students
more personal attention. The State would help schools with the funding
and logistical assistance needed to create Small Schools. The same
goes for Identity Schools, which are schools focused around a certain
theme like arts, music or agriculture, giving students training and
focus in specific areas.
School District Consolidation:
Finally, to address the problem of having far too many school
districts, the State would encourage and provide incentives for the
formation of unit districts with one curriculum. Currently, students
from multiple districts attend the same high school, and come in on all
different levels, requiring 9th grade teachers to spend a
major portion of the year just trying to get their students on the same
page. Unit districts with single curriculums help solve that problem.
II. Strong Teachers and Administrators
The Governors plan
focuses on four key areas: helping schools afford special education
teachers, new mentoring programs for teachers, principals and
superintendents, improving colleges of education, and instituting
performance pay for teachers.
Funding Special Education: First,
to help schools address the problem of not having enough money to pay
for special education teachers, the state would increase funding for
special education teachers from 97% to 100%. This would help schools
meet state and federal mandates for special education and give special
education students the help they need.
Superintendent Mentoring: This
year, Illinois began funding state of the art teacher and principal
mentoring programs, and continued funding the Grow Your Own teacher
program. More funding for those types of programs means better trained
teachers and administrators, which helps result in better student
performance. This plan requires better and stricter mentoring for
school district superintendents, aligning them with requirements for
teachers and principals.
Colleges of Education: The
colleges that teach our teachers are not always training new teachers
in the subjects our schools and students need the most, like science
and math. There are teacher shortages in some areas and surpluses in
others. This plan provides incentives for colleges of education that
produce graduates trained to teach in the areas our schools need.
Performance Pay for Teachers:
Teachers and schools currently are not rewarded for good performance.
They should be, and Illinois could and should be a national leader in
offering performance pay for teachers. We must work with teacher
unions and management to reward teachers and schools whose students
show academic improvement.
III. Quality Materials
The Governors plan
focuses on four key areas: improving textbook quality, improving school
technology, improving school libraries and improving Career and
Technical Education (CTE) curriculum.
In 80% of school districts, textbooks used by students are more than
eight years old. Thats unacceptable. The Governors plan would
require school districts to replace their textbooks on a six-year
cycle, and provide an additional $40 million to replace old textbooks
on a shorter cycle. Funds would be distributed first to the districts
that need the new books the most.
Too many classrooms are technologically out of date, because many
school districts dont have the resources to buy new technology. By
providing funding to helping schools afford cutting edge technology in
classrooms, we can reach kids in a whole new way. We also need to
train teachers to use the new equipment. Examples include video on
demand over the Internet for a wide range of academic subjects,
programs that offer practice help in reading and math and provide
continual feedback and progress reports, and programs that help parents
track assignments and news about their childrens school.
Improving School Libraries: Students
and teachers need school libraries with better materials and
resources. This plan provides resources for schools to upgrade their
libraries and hire new librarians.
Improving Career and Technical Education:
The States curriculum for most Career and Technical Education (CTE)
courses is outdated. Successful CTE programs help students learn
skills that help them get good paying jobs. This year, the state
budget provided the funding to update the curriculum, but we need to
make sure that schools have the resources to actually teach the new
IV. Enough Time to Learn
The Governors plan
focuses on five key areas: full funding for universal preschool, full
day kindergarten, expanding after-school tutoring, extending the school
year, and improving parental involvement and participation.
Over the last four years, the state has increased preschool funding by
75%, putting Illinois among the top states in the nation for preschool.
We know that kids who attend preschool are better at reading and
writing, less likely to need special education, more likely to graduate
high school, and less likely to be arrested. However, even with these
record increases in funding, there are still thousands of children who
need to attend preschool. Continued funding of the Governors
Preschool for All plan would ensure that preschool is available to
every three year old and four year old who needs it.
Full Day Kindergarten:
Even though some kids need more time to learn and develop, some schools
do not offer full day kindergarten. Under the current funding formula,
when a school district moves to full day kindergarten, they do not
receive reimbursement from the state for two years. Providing the
needed funding immediately would help many school districts offer full
Funding After-school Tutoring:
For some kids, the regular school day isnt long enough to teach them
what they need to know. After-school tutoring is an effective way to
help some kids catch up, but we have to make sure that schools have the
resources to provide the tutoring currently required by federal law.
Funding would be targeted specifically at schools with underachieving
students so that those students get the help they need.
Extend the School Year:
Kids at risk of academic failure lose significant ground over the
summer break. By extending the school year, we can makes sure that
kids dont fall behind over the summer. We will help underperforming
school districts extend their teacher contracts by at least a month.
Improving Parental Involvement:
If parents arent involved in their kids education, its much tougher
for their kids to succeed in school. Programs that train parents to
advocate for their children, help create websites that assist parents
in steering their kids through school, and help parents keep track of
their kids assignments and progress all help parents get involved.
This plan funds classes and programs for parents, and would form a
statewide council on parental leadership.
V. The Financial Resources to Get the Job Done
The Governors plan
focuses on four key areas: increasing the foundation level, reducing
administrative costs, funding this plan in year one and funding this
plan in years two through four.
Raising the Foundation Level: Over
the last four budgets, the foundation level has been increased by $774,
more than any four-year term in the history of Illinois. But even
after record increases over the last four budgets, years of neglect
mean there is still far more to do. Increasing the foundation level is
a necessity in any education reform plan.
Reducing Administrative Costs:
It is also critical that school districts cut their administrative
costs and invest more money in the classroom. This plan would require
school districts to publish their administrative cost increases
directly onto property tax bills so that the taxpayers know what
theyre paying for. In addition, the General Assembly should pass
legislation consolidating procurement, health insurance purchasing and
construction to lower costs and put more money in the classroom.
Year One Funding:
Increase the Foundation Level: $250 million
Increase Special Education Funding: $200 million
School Construction: $50 million (debt service)
Preschool Expansion: $60 million
Programs targeted at underperforming students: $200 million
Textbook replacement: $40 million
Other reforms: $200 million
$6 Billion in New Funding: In
1975, the State of Illinois created the lottery. The idea behind the
game was to create a funding source for schools that would solve the
inequities in school funding. However, over the years, lottery money
was not used exclusively for schools. Instead, it was used for a
variety of purposes, failing to fulfill the mission promised to the
taxpayers over thirty years ago.
Today, we have a
valuable asset that could be used to do far more for education. And we
have schools that need more funding. Under this proposal, the Illinois
Lottery would either enter into a long-term lease with a private entity
or conduct an Initial Public Offering that would generate approximately
$10 billion in proceeds.
That money would go
directly and only to schools, fulfilling the promise originally made to
the people more than thirty years ago. Specifically, the lease would
provide $4 billion towards a new $6 billion funding plan for schools
over the next four years and guarantee a $650 million annuity to the
Common School Fund until Fiscal Year 2025.
The funds would be
generated in one of three ways, either: (1) a competitive bid for a
long term lease of the lottery; (2) an Initial Public Offering in which
stock in the Illinois Lottery would be sold to individual and
institutional investors; or (3) a hybrid of the two. The Lottery would
be regulated by a new, independent, bipartisan board, consisting of
seven members appointed by the General Assembly (four appointees, one
from each caucus), the Governor (one), the State Comptroller (one), and
the State Treasurer (one).
Over the next four
years, $6 billion would be invested in our schools, increasing the
foundation level, mandated categoricals, school construction, universal
preschool, and a host of new programs and ideas targeted specifically
at helping underachieving students and schools improve. $4 billion
would come from the $10 billion generated in Lottery proceeds, with the
remaining $2 billion generated by the following: approximately $500
million would be generated through investment proceeds off the $4
billion (as it sits in an interest bearing account) and from income tax
paid by the new operator of the lottery; and $1.5 billion from a mix of
revenue growth and special fund transfers, mirroring the $400 million
annual increases seen over the last four budgets.
VI. Taking Over Failing Districts
School districts should
be willing and able to implement these reforms and opportunities and
take advantage of the new funding. But failing school districts that
refuse to make changes cannot be allowed to continue to fail without
intervention. School districts that continually fail will face state
takeovers until the problems are turned around.
VII. Long Term Planning
These ideas are not the
only ideas that would help our schools and continued discussion among
elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, and community
leaders is needed. A new council would create an on-going process
designed to shape the course of education in Illinois for decades to
Theres no magic
formula that fixes our schools and helps our kids learn. But if we
give our kids better places to learn, good teachers, better materials
and enough time and attention, odds are theyll improve. Thats what
this plan attempts to do, through a combination of new ideas and doing
a better job with the things we already know. It will take hard work,
cooperation, a tolerance for change, and time. But with enough of
each, we can do it, said Gov. Blagojevich.
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A link to an online version of the powerpoint used by the Governor during his presentation today
is available at the state homepage - www.illinois.gov
Filed under: Campaigns & Clout