Friday, January 29, 2016

IASB mailing Constitution and updated Position Statements

The 2016 Illinois Association of School Boards Constitution and Position Statements publication has been updated and is being mailed to all Association member districts. The revised document reflects priorities adopted at the 2015 Delegate Assembly at the Joint Annual Conference in November.

Among the new directives are Position Statements 2.54, requiring hospitals to meet constitutional standards as a charity in order to qualify for property tax exemptions, and Position Statement 6.25, which seeks to allow the sale of student constructed or renovated homes by means other than the sealed bid process.

In addition to the newly adopted proposals, the reaffirmation of positions 2.20 and 2.27 are also highlighted. The former calls for the continued support of the School Construction Grant Program and its current provisions, as well as giving priority to districts that have waited longer than 90 days for construction grant funds. Position Statement 2.27 urges the creation of new funding methodology for state authorized charter schools that will not negatively impact the financial status of the host district.

The 2016 Constitution and Position Statements can also be viewed online at the IASB website.

A letter will be sent to member districts in early April to solicit resolutions for consideration in 2016. The deadline for submitting resolutions is June 22.

School voucher program failing Louisiana students

Click to access the study.
A new study from the private, non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) finds Louisiana’s school voucher program actually resulted in lower academic achievement for children in low-income families. The study, issued in December, shows that students attending a private school in the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) increased their likelihood of failing math by 50 percent.

“Voucher effects for reading, science, and social studies are also negative and large,” the researchers wrote. “The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children.”

In fact, LSP participation was found to shift the distribution of scores downward in all four subjects examined, increasing the likelihood of a failing score by between 24 and 50 percent. The findings are particularly significant because voucher programs are often touted as an effective alternative to public education, particularly by those who claim that private schools offer a superior education.

To date, evidence on the effects of school vouchers has been mixed, however, according to the report.

“Together, these ļ¬ndings [research, to date, including this latest study] suggest that voucher programs typically produce small effects on student outcomes, but these effects may vary with the features of the program under study,” the authors concluded.

The LSP program includes 7,110 Louisiana students from 121 participating schools. The average voucher value of the state program is $5,856 in 2015–16.

“These results suggest caution in the design of voucher systems aimed at expanding school choice for disadvantaged students,” researchers wrote. “Nonetheless, the evolution of choice behavior and program effects over time is an important question for future research.”

Enrollment levels for the Louisiana voucher schools have dropped fast.

The study was conducted by NBER, a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1920 and dedicated to conducting economic research and to disseminating research findings among academics, public policy makers, and business professionals. The organization can boast that 25 Nobel Prize winners in economics and 13 past chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers have been researchers at the NBER. One of its key focus areas includes analyzing the effects of public policies. 

The new NBER working paper on the Louisiana voucher program is available here.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Alliance Legislative Report (99-36)

January 27, 2016
As is typical with most State of the State addresses, Governor Bruce Rauner began the address by acknowledging elected officials and first responders, and went on to encourage prayers for an upcoming deployment of Illinois National Guard troops. The kind words and friendly remarks quickly gave way to a discussion on the economic and budget reforms he is pushing and his administration’s accomplishments of the last year. The half-hour speech wrapped up with the Governor outlining ten education policy changes he would like implemented.

VIDEO UPDATE: State of the State review

As a follow up to yesterday’s State of the State preview, a brief video review of IASB’s predictions of what Governor Bruce Rauner did and did not discuss is available for viewing. Highlights of a number of education related topics that were addressed by the governor are also included.

If the video is not displaying properly in your browser, click here.

To view IASB's State of the State preview video posted prior to Governor Rauner's address, click here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

VIDEO: IASB State of the State preview

A brief slideshow takes viewers through a preview of what to expect in Governor Bruce Rauner's 2016 State of the State address. Items likely to be discussed include education funding reform, possible pension changes, a capital construction program, and other new programs and initiatives.

If the video is not displaying properly in your browser, click here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Total of three teacher strikes this year

There have been three Illinois school strikes to date in the 2015-2016 school year, and at least one more could be on the horizon, according to data provided by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Apparently the only currently active intent-to-strike notice is in Lake Villa CCSD 41, where 94 percent of the union’s membership voted to authorize a possible strike earlier this month. Contract talks, underway since May, have included five sessions with a federal mediator.

The longest and most recent school strike this year occurred in East St. Louis SD 189. It involved 400 teachers, clerical workers, psychologists, etc., in a work action that began Oct. 1 and ended Oct. 30. An eight-day work stoppage involving 165 educators ended Oct. 9 in McHenry CHSD 156. That was preceded by a 12-day strike that ended Sep. 26 in Prospect Heights SD 23 and involved 150 teachers and non-certified staff.

Illinois has recorded only 16 school strikes since 2010, with eight of those occurring in 2012.

Funding reform 'the challenge of our time'

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has written an opinion piece on priority that should be placed on school funding reform in 2016. In part, Cullerton states:

"As many people around the state realize, Illinois' nearly 20-year-old formula penalizes communities with higher levels of poverty and rewards those that are more prosperous. It also fails students who have greater educational needs.

"It's unfair, and it cannot stand. It's time to turn around the way Illinois funds education and its children's futures. We need a formula that levels the playing field and drives dollars to the students who need them the most....

"We need a new approach, and we need it now. That means a single, straightforward model with less bureaucracy and no more special deals for some districts; more state resources to students who need extra support because of poverty, special learning needs and language barriers; and consideration of a district's ability to support local schools with local money. ...

"Overhauling the way we support our public schools is the challenge of our time. It should be our No. 1 priority in 2016."

The complete text of Cullerton's commentary, as it appears in the State Journal-Register, can be read here:

Senate President John Cullerton:
School funding reform must be top priority for 2016
Sen. John Cullerton, State Journal-Register, Springfield, January 24

Monday, January 25, 2016

Transgender discrimination complaint resolved

The transgender student whose demand to use the girls’ locker room at a suburban Illinois high school touched off a national discussion on privacy rights and equity was granted access to the locker room on Jan. 15. Under an agreement adopted by the school district in December, a Cook County school board granted the transgender student’s request, thus ending a discrimination complaint.

The student’s complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), had triggered an investigation and an unprecedented decision in November that claimed the district had violated Title IX, the federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex.

The OCR is the agency responsible for enforcing civil rights laws in schools. The federal Title IX law, which took effect in 1972, protects students from discrimination based on gender in education programs or activities that receive federal assistance, including discrimination against transgender students.

The district had risked losing millions of dollars in federal support, and faced a potential lawsuit had it failed to reach a resolution. But the accommodations offered by the district have put such concerns to rest. In its agreement with the OCR, the district also made a concession to meet concerns about any potential invasion of student privacy, according to the principal at the high school.

“The physical education locker room provides accommodating means to ensure privacy for any student when changing clothes,” noted the principal in an email to parents this month.

The student, who was born male but identified as female, has gone through a social transition and now uses a female name and female pronouns. The student had asked to use all the facilities for females at the high school. The district initially denied the use of the girls’ locker room.

After a protracted discussion with the OCR, however, the district agreed to allow the use of the locker room. But the district said it would require the student to change behind a privacy screen installed by the school.

The OCR responded in a letter dated Nov. 2 that such changes were not enough, and such an accommodation would still represent a violation of Title IX.

But ultimately school officials in the suburban district were permitted to replace privacy curtains with stalls equipped with doors, hooks, and benches. The stalls built by district maintenance staff are like the typical changing areas at department stores, a school district spokesman told the Chicago Tribune, in a story dated Jan. 15.

Both the girls’ and boys’ PE locker rooms now have five privacy stalls each for use by any student. Further, the district’s cost for the renovation has been quite low, according to the same source.

Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represented the student’s complaint, said the student was looking forward to being able to use the locker room. Yohnka said the district worked diligently with the student’s family to implement the settlement agreement.

“They hope that this agreement is the beginning of a process which will result in all students — transgender and cisgender [meaning not transgender] — being respected and honored…”

Other school districts are eyeing the need to make similar, relatively simple accommodations. But for such students, identifying as transgender and changing the facilities they will use may not be a simple switch.

“There is a process they must go through to demonstrate that change,” Bloomington area Regional School Superintendent Mark Jontry told the Bloomington Pantagraph for a story published on Dec. 20.

Students must also show a new or changed birth certificate or a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, meaning dissatisfaction or unease with their gender, Jontry told the newspaper. In addition, the parents and student need to talk over accommodations with the school district’s attorney, coming up with ideas that would be reviewed by the federal OCR.

“We are seeing now more and more requests from students to use the locker room of the gender they identify with,” noted school attorney Stephanie Jones, of Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn LLP. “Students are all over the map as to whether they want to use a gender-neutral facility, such as a nurse’s bathroom or a school administrator’s bathroom,” Jones added. But if a student wants to use the gender-neutral facility and everyone is happy with that accommodation, there is no impediment in the law to that, she said.

Jontry agrees that each case is unique. “Hopefully, the student, parents, and school would come to an agreement on what types of accommodations to make. It all comes down to what accommodations will work best for the student and district, while taking all other students’ well-being into account,” Jontry told the Bloomington Pantagraph for a story published on Dec. 20.

Jontry noted that McLean County Unit District 5 in Normal has adopted an IASB sample administrative procedure, specific to accommodating the needs of transgender or gender-nonconforming students (7:10-AP). The district’s procedure prohibits gender-based discrimination and bullying, and it adds that each request from a transgender student must be managed individually with help from the school district’s attorney.

School attorneys can help districts work with transgender students on a solution that makes them most comfortable. It might mean changing in the locker room that matches the student’s gender and having private areas available for those who aren’t comfortable changing in front of the other students, or using a gender-neutral facility if the student prefers.

The sample administrative procedure Jontry referred to is part of an IASB fee-based service that offers policy and procedure information and updating. It has two components: the Policy Reference Manual, an encyclopedia of sample policies and procedures, legally referenced and footnoted; and periodic update issues, known as PRESS. Information about these services is available here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

NSBA Advocacy Institute postponed

The National Association of School Boards has postponed its 2016 Advocacy Institute, due to a severe winter storm predicted for the nation’s capital this weekend. The new dates are June 12-14, 2016.

The Advocacy Institute offers participants the opportunity to become better advocates for their local school districts by developing advocacy strategies on the state and federal levels. The 2016 sessions were scheduled to cover the implications of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), developing talking points for meetings with members of Congress and their staffs, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title IX applications to transgendered students, and developing a grassroots engagement plan.

Participants were to meet with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss school board issues and priorities. Illinois representatives had scheduled meetings with Senator Mark Kirk, Congressmen Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth), Randy Hultgren (R-Dixon), and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-Matteson). Additional meetings were planned with staffers for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and with staff members for Congressmen Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) and Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), and Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-Hoffman Estates).

The Illinois contingent was to include, from the IASB Board of Directors, President Phil Pritzker, Vice President Joanne Osmond, and Past President Karen Fisher. Representing IASB were Executive Director Roger Eddy, Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Schwarm, and Director of Governmental Relations Susan Hilton.

School board members scheduled to attend were Kathleen Burley of Community Unit School District 300 (Algonquin); Mable Chapman, Margie Hudson-Walker, and Bonnie Rateree of West Harvey-Dixmoor SD 147; Quinton Foreman, Andrea Kidd, Valencia E. Ross, and Frank Tanniehill of Lincoln Elem SD 156 (Calumet City); Scott Linn of Aptakisic-Tripp CCSD 102 (Deerfield); Robert Moorman of Lake Forest CHSD 115; Janet M. Rogers, Harvey SD 152; and Suzanne Sands of Lake Forest SD 67, along with Michael V. Simeck, superintendent of Lake Forest SD 67 and Lake Forest CHSD 115.

More information about the Advocacy Institute and updates on the rescheduled event can be found on the NSBA website:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

State task force releases report on consolidation, unfunded mandates

By Deanna Sullivan, director, IASB Governmental Relations

Click to access the report.
Governor Bruce Rauner has demonstrated a continued resolve regarding his proposed reforms. The work of the Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates established under Executive Order 15-15, headed up by Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, made recommendations that support the governor’s proposed reforms.

While the 406-page report, “Delivering Efficient, Effective, and Streamlined Government to Illinois Taxpayers” addresses all Illinois local governments, there are recommendations that specifically target schools. The task force primarily focused on consolidation and unfunded mandates as charged, but was driven by the notion that the number of local governments and unfunded mandates are the root of Illinois’ overreliance on property taxes.

The full report can be accessed here.

Consolidation Recommendations and IASB Position Statements
While early versions of the consolidation recommendations considered by the task force were problematic for schools, final Recommendation 10 reflects IASB positions allowing local decision-making and incentivizing consolidation in lieu of a forced consolidation model:

“School District Consolidation: Provide the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) flexibility to incentivize outcomes of school district consolidation. … School district consolidation can lead to enhanced academic offerings, K-12 curriculum alignment, and improved administrative efficiencies. Incentivizing these outcomes through ISBE could lead to school district consolidation without the application of a one-size-fits-all consolidation model.”

Additionally, recommendations calling for protecting the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act and encouraging state agencies to financially incentivize regional sharing of various functions, products, facilities, etc. allows for flexibility and encourages efficiencies across local government entities.

Unfunded Mandate Recommendations and IASB Position Statements
The other directive for the task force produced much more for schools under the Unfunded Mandate Recommendations. Six of the recommendations directly address IASB Positions:

  • Recommendation 2: IASB Position Statement 5.05 – Prevailing Wage Act
  • Recommendation 3: IASB Position Statement 5.14 – Third Party Contracting
  • Recommendation 4: IASB Position Statement 1.03 – Physical Education
  • Recommendation 5: IASB Position Statement 2.07 – Contracting Driver’s Education
  • Recommendation 6: IASB Position Statement 5.03 – Collective Bargaining
  • Recommendation 10: IASB Position Statement 6.23 – Mandate Cost and Periodic Review

Recommendation 1, “Modernize newspaper public notice mandates,” allowing local units of government the option to post online public notices and other public information, is something IASB has worked to enact for many years under its unfunded mandates Position 2.03.

Additional recommendations calling for a constitutional amendment on unfunded mandates — allowing the governor to insert “if economically feasible” in amendatory vetoes and then allowing local governments to exempt themselves from compliance with unfunded mandates — would certainly go a long way to support local decision-making. It would also help curb the practice of passing costly mandates on to local school districts.

Unfunded Mandates Survey and Data
The task force asked local governments to provide data regarding unfunded mandates. School districts were surveyed for this data in September and October 2015. Survey results are reflected in the recommendations and a more comprehensive analysis of the results is provided in the task force report’s appendix (page 78). Most significantly, schools reported that changes to these mandated programs could result in nearly $8 billion in savings statewide.

While we all know the recommendations made by this task force are controversial and difficult for lawmakers to tackle, the current administration continues to make these issues the center point of budget negotiations. As noted in a December 14 News Blog item by Ben Schwarm, deputy executive director of IASB, “Key issues supported by the IASB and the Alliance partners are still part of the budget compromise mix, including mandate relief for school districts, the repeal or major re-write of the law that stifles a school district’s use of third party contractors for non-education related district services, and limiting the scope of the Prevailing Wage Law as it pertains to school districts.”

The release of the task force report at the beginning of a new legislative year is a reminder to lawmakers that these issues are important to the work being done in the Capitol for 2016. It remains critical for success in this effort that school board members continue to communicate to legislators the importance of providing mandate relief, encouraging flexibility, and incentivizing opportunities to work cooperatively to cut costs.

IASB and Alliance partners were acknowledged as making invaluable contributions to this report. Special recognition and thanks goes to Steffanie Seegmiller, Arthur-Lovington CUSD 305 board president, who was appointed to the task force on behalf of IASB and devoted countless hours representing the interests of local school boards and the Association. Thanks also to those schools and personnel that took time to provide vital information in the survey process.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

IARSS Survey:
Teacher shortages growing in Illinois

Regional Superintendents find schools struggling
to fill teaching positions, find qualified candidates

Click here to read the full report.

SPRINGFIELD – More and more school districts around Illinois are finding it harder to fill teaching positions and find qualified candidates for the teaching positions they are able to fill, according to a newly released survey from Illinois’ regional superintendents of schools.

The Teacher Shortage Survey, developed by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) and conducted at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, found:
  • 60 percent of Illinois school districts responding report trouble filling teaching positions
  • 75 percent of those districts are seeing fewer qualified candidates than in past years, with the numbers much higher in rural districts and in central and northwest Illinois
  • 16 percent of schools have had to cancel programs or classes because of teacher shortages with particular problems in special education, reading/English/language arts, and math and science
Jeff Vose, the Regional Superintendent of Schools for Regional Office of Education No. 51 covering Sangamon and Menard counties and president of IARSS, said the survey results help give education officials statewide a better sense of the problem they knew was developing but couldn’t quite substantiate.

“With this survey, we now have some solid data and more detailed information. We hope this will jump start the conversation,” Vose said. “We want to work with local school districts, the Illinois State Board of Education, the Governor’s office and legislators to address this growing crisis.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

IASB announces staff changes

Alan Molby
James Helton
IASB has made three recent additions to its staff, adding two part-time consultants in the Executive Searches Department, and a full-time administrative assistant in the Field Services Department.

Former school district superintendents Alan Molby and James Helton have joined IASB as part-time consultants for Executive Searches.

Molby, a former superintendent at Hillside SD 93, and Helton, a former superintendent at Waterloo CUSD 5, will work out of the Lombard office.

Helton comes to IASB after a 34-year career as an educator, serving as the superintendent in Waterloo for eight years before retiring in 2014. He also served as a principal in that same district for three years, and had been a coach, teacher, and assistant principal in four other school districts.

Molby has also had a long, distinguished career in education, starting as a teacher and coach in Iowa in 1977, and then serving as a teacher and an assistant superintendent in Illinois, beginning in 1982. He then was a principal at Hillside from 1996 to 2002 before taking the reins as district superintendent.

As part-time search consultants, both Helton and Molby will be assisting school districts while managing various aspects of IASB executive searches.

Debra Muhlena
In addition, the field services department hired Debra (Debbie) Muhlena as an administrative assistant in Lombard. She is assigned in supporting Field Services Director Perry Hill.  Muhlena had been employed by Willowbrook High School for nine years, performing a variety of duties as student supervisor and financial secretary.

In other staff-related news, several IASB staff members have recently announced their intention to retire during this calendar year:

Executive Searches Director Donna Johnson will step down on June 30. She has been with the IASB since 2001. Before joining that department, Johnson was a field services director for the South Cook, West Cook, and Three Rivers divisions. The other retirements are in IASB Policy Services. Policy Consultant Nancy Bohl will retire on Sep. 30. She has been with the Association since 2005. Policy Director Anna Lovern will retire on Dec. 31, 2016. She has been with the Association since 1996.

Anna Lovern
Donna Johnson
Nancy Bohl

“We thank each of these individuals for their dedication and service to the Association,” said IASB’s Deputy Executive Director, Ben Schwarm.

Angie Powell
IASB also announced a change involving staff member Angie Powell, who will be promoted to policy consultant from an assistant policy consultant position, effective January 1, 2016. Powell joined IASB in July 2008 and has been employed in the Policy Department since September 2012.

“Powell has done a terrific job managing and supporting various aspects of our school board policy and administrative procedures customized manual development and maintenance services, and we’re glad she is ready to step in as a policy consultant,” said Schwarm.

Friday, January 8, 2016

New member districts

IASB added two new member school districts in the past year: Pope County SD 1, located in the Association’s Shawnee Division; and Kansas CUSD 3, located in the Illini Division.

That brings the number of IASB member districts to 843, or 99.2 percent of the 850 public school districts in the state.

Illinois districts declined by five last year from the 855 districts that existed a year earlier. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Maguire named to IASB Board of Directors

The Illinois Association of School Boards recently welcomed June Maguire to its Board of Directors, representing the Lake Division.

Born and raised in Waukegan, Maguire serves on the Waukegan CUSD 60 Board of Education. She was first appointed to the school board in 1981, after serving on a district advisory council.

She has been re-elected multiple times and served as both president and vice president. Additionally, she has worked in Lake Division leadership since 1990, including service as division chair for the past four years. Currently retired, Maguire worked for attorneys for 52 years as a legal assistant, and has a particular interest in school law and finance. She says she “looks forward to meeting school board members throughout the state and working with them on issues that affect our students.”

Maguire replaces long-time director Joanne Osmond, who was elected by Association delegates in November as IASB vice president.

The Board of Directors is represented by 26 directors, one for each of the 21 geographic divisions, as well as representatives from the Chicago SD 299 and IASB Service Associates, and three officers; president, vice president, and past president. The board meets quarterly and is responsible for the governing policies of the Association.

New Journal features JAC15,
board presidents’ survey

The January/February 2016 issue of The Illinois School Boards Journal includes a look back at the 2015 Joint Annual Conference. A piece by the educational leadership team of Jenny Tripses, John Hunt, JoHyun Kim and Sandra Watkins shares results of a survey of school board presidents and demonstrates the key characteristics boards look for in a successful superintendent.

Additionally in the Journal, IASB has collaborated with The Ounce of Prevention Fund to help school boards understand early learning and navigate birth-to-PreK education. Also, read about teachers at North Palos School District 117 undertaking the National Board Certification process.

Click here or below to read a complete digital version of The Illinois School Boards Journal.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Stay on top of the headlines
with Leading News
As a service to our membership, IASB offers news headlines on this, the Illinois School Board News Blog.

Leading News is a daily collection of public education-related headlines from across the state and nation. Association members understand the importance of staying informed, not only on the major education issues of the day, but also concerning which topics the media is prioritizing. Leading News is one way school board members can meet the directive of the Code of Conduct for Members of School Boards that states:

"I will be sufficiently informed about and prepared to act on the specific issues before the board, and remain reasonably knowledgeable about local, state, national, and global education issues."

You can reach this resource by clicking on the Leading News icon above or in the right column of the News Blog. An archive of Leading News is available there as well.

Friday, January 1, 2016

IASB Annual Report for FY 2015 posted

The vision of the Illinois Association of School Boards is excellence in local school governance in support of quality public education. Fulfilling this vision requires a great deal of collaboration as we focus on our mission, goals, and tasks. This past fiscal year saw many transitions, but we never lost sight of who we are and where we want to go.

Inspired by and accountable to 843 member boards of education throughout the state, the IASB Board of Directors represents the essence of leadership that creates that vision. President Karen Fisher, Vice President Phil Pritzker, Immediate Past President Carolyne Brooks, Treasurer Dale Hansen, and the division directors from every corner of the state devote their time, effort, expertise, and acumen to the Association. This past year, the board adopted several changes to the Association vision and mission and embedded both in their own governance policies. The result was a detailed mission statement that outlined exactly what our members can expect from us. Our direction is clear, our mission is specific, and we are focused on delivering those services efficiently and effectively.
-- Introduction, IASB FY 2015 Annual Report

The full 2015 Annual Report if the Illinois Association of School Boards was presented at the 2015 Joint Annual Conference and is now available at on the Members Only portion of the IASB website. It is accessible to board members, superintendents, and board secretaries with a seven-digit Member ID number. This Member ID appears on the mailing label of all materials sent to IASB members, and begins with the number 2. To access:
  1. Click here to reach the Members Only section of the IASB website.
  2. Log in to Members Only with your seven-digit Member ID number.
  3. Select the red “IASB Governance” tab.
  4. Recent Annual Reports are located on this page.