Friday, October 23, 2015

ISBE eyes community engagement, budget

The Illinois State Board of Education gathered in Springfield for a one-day meeting on Wednesday, October 21, 2015. After voting to approve various technical changes in state regulations contained in the board’s consent agenda, and briefly tackling routine discussion items, the board heard a presentation on the federal Quality School Options Grant Award recently obtained by the state.

The five-year, $42 million grant is intended to promote efforts to get local districts to consider charter schools. ISBE proposes to work with school districts to see how charters might help the schools pursue options for innovation and best practices.

This is seen as an opportunity, the state board was told by a staff member, to consider charters as a catalyst for improvements unique to the needs of the community. ISBE intends to encourage local community engagement as districts consider what might work for their schools.

State Superintendent Tony Smith suggested this will result in a new coalition of partners that will include the Illinois Association of School Boards. IASB has been a leader in establishing some community engagement tools and parameters for school districts to use in school governance.

Jen Saba continued the presentation to the board with a brief review of what the State Charter School Commission’s responsibilities are, and what it does. Out of the nearly 150 charter schools in the state, the commission oversees five. These are the state-authorized charters, not the locally authorized charters.

State Supt. Smith presented the board with the revised version of the board’s mission and vision, as completed at last month’s board retreat. He placed the new, one-page framed document on the wall of the board room, as a replacement for the outdated three-document version, the significance being that the revised version is more succinct. With no further business on the agenda, the meeting was adjourned and the first ISBE budget meeting immediately followed.

Budget hearing for FY2017 budget
Board member Curt Bradshaw, Chairman of the ISBE Finance Committee, began the first ISBE budget hearing for the upcoming fiscal year with a presentation of some historical information on the Illinois budget and school funding. He also talked about some of the factors that weigh on school districts’ General State Aid allocations.

Individuals testifying focused on the smaller budget line-item figures, especially those that have seen the greatest loss over the past few years, and some of those that serve the neediest students. Programs such as regional safe schools, truancy, special education, and early childhood education, were among the items discussed.

As usual, FFA student officers made an extremely professional presentation supporting the need to fund agricultural education.

Additional public budget hearings for FY 2017 will take place on the following dates and locations:

  • Nov. 12 – 4 to 6 p.m. – Granite City – Granite City High School Atrium, 3101 Madison Ave.
  • Nov. 20 – Immediately following the State Board meeting – Chicago – ISBE office at the Thompson Center, Conference Room 16-503, 100 W. Randolph St.
This year’s budget hearing participants are asked to fill out a budget request form posted at this ISBE budget site.

To see past budget information, visit this other ISBE budget page.