Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Teach to Lead Summit
invites local leadership ideas

Local educators are now being asked to submit their leadership ideas for the Illinois Powered by Teach to Lead Summit.

Teach to Lead is a cooperative venture of the U.S. Department of Education, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, designed to bring about change in the culture of schools. They believe this can best occur when teachers are allowed to take a central role in developing policies that impact their work.
Teach to Lead will help to host the summit on April 24 in Bloomington.

“Teach to Lead has helped drive a national conversation on teacher leadership and helped teachers turn their leadership ideas into action,” according to summit organizers. “Educators from across the state will work to collaborate, problem solve, and develop plans to put their own expertise into action. Our hope is to attract exceptional educators from across the state to use teacher leadership as a vehicle to change the face of education.”

Teach to Lead, in collaboration with the Illinois Teacher Leadership Network, will host the Illinois Summit on April 24 in Bloomington. This will be the ninth event for the organization, which was created in 2014, and has held similar events across the nation.

Eligibility to attend the Summit requires participants to have an actionable teacher leadership idea, at least one practicing classroom educator on the team, and commit to taking steps to implement the proposal following the event. The criteria for submissions must identify an area of need or target a specific problem, develop and implement approaches to address that problem, promote collaborative work among stakeholders, create systemic supports for teacher leadership, be viable and sustainable in the local context, and, most importantly, allow teachers to lead from the classroom. The submitted ideas can focus on change at any level: the school, district, or state.

Submissions are due by March 1. All proposals will be reviewed by a group of educators that will decide which ideas best fit the intention of the Summit. Qualifying teams of stakeholders, which can include teachers, principals, administrators, and school board members, will receive an emailed invitation to participate at the Illinois Powered by Teach to Lead Summit.

The application form and accompanying survey are available here. Additional information about Teach to Lead can be found at their website, teachtolead.org

Monday, January 30, 2017

Board write-in candidate deadline

One last deadline lies ahead for the April 4, 2017 school board election.  Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 is the last day to file a Declaration of Intent to be a write-in candidate with the appropriate election authority or authorities.

IASB offers further election information and candidate guidance on its public website.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Illinois school leaders to lobby Congress, attend NSBA Advocacy Institute

Illinois school board members and superintendents from will join local educational leaders from across the country at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. from January 29-31, 2017.

The agenda for the Advocacy Institute, to be held Sunday through Tuesday, is designed to assist participant’s development of effective strategies. Programing includes interactive panel sessions, nationally recognized speakers, and networking forums to allow colleagues to share best practices in advocacy.

The final day of the Institute will give attendees an opportunity to lobby their own members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Meetings with the Illinois delegation will be a particularly important opportunity to discuss the direction of public education and protection of local governance under the new administration and congress.

“This year’s Advocacy Institute will be a great chance to be one of the first voices the new congress will hear from on what their priorities should be regarding public education,” said Susan Hilton, IASB director of governmental relations.

Representing Illinois are 21 board members and superintendents from 12 districts, including: Algonquin CUSD 300, West-Harvey Dixmoor SD 147, Lincoln Elementary 156, Matteson Elementary SD 159, Lake Forest CHSD 115, Harvey SD 152, Morton CUSD 709, Lake Villa CCSD 41, Wheeling CCSD 21, Lake Forest SD 67, Diamond Lake SD 76, and Sauk Village CCSD 168.

IASB will send officers and staff, including President Phil Pritzker, Vice President Joanne Osmond, Past President Karen Fisher, Executive Director Roger Eddy, Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm, and Susan Hilton.

More information about the Advocacy Institute and the agenda can be found on the NSBA website. You can also follow many of the activities live on Twitter at #NSBAAI17.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Law addresses substitute teacher shortage

A new Vision 20/20-supported law has been signed to address a major substitute-teacher shortage in Illinois schools. The law is designed to reduce fees for interested applicants by $50, remove the requirement of passing a basic skills test, and allow the state to grant licenses to teachers with comparable out-of-state licenses.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the measure, now P.A. 99-0920, on Jan. 6 at Carbondale Community High School. The governor has touted the law as helping “address Illinois regional teacher shortage and substitute teacher shortage,” saying it also “lifts some of the burdens retired teachers faced if they wanted to return to the classroom to sub for a teacher.”

Rauner noted that the Vision 20/20 initiative had pushed for changes in teacher licensure since the group officially launched in November 2014. One of the four pillars of Vision 20/20 is Highly Effective Educators, with licensure reciprocity and streamlining the licensure process among the key goals, according to the school management advocates. 

The shortage has become severe, with public-school administrators scrambling to find substitute teachers for as many as 600 Illinois classrooms a day, according to a survey released Jan. 17. The survey, conducted in nearly 400 school districts by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, revealed that teachers call in more than 16,500 absences each week. School officials have trouble finding replacements for nearly 20 percent of them.

Jeff Vose
The organization’s president, Jeff Vose, who is regional school superintendent for Sangamon and Menard counties, said a 2012 increase in substitute teacher certification requirements may have discouraged some candidates from applying to be fill-in teachers. It raised the application fee to $100, bringing applicants’ total registration costs to around $200. It also added a background check to allay concerns about “educator misconduct with students,” which accounts for roughly $50 of the $200 total cost.

Vose told The Associated Press on Jan. 17 that when schools are unable to locate a teacher, principals and administrators commonly fill in, which takes them away from administrative duties.

Teacher absences are particularly common in the more populous Chicago suburbs, the review found. But substitute teacher shortages are most prevalent in southern and western Illinois. Another issue is the relatively low pay for substitutes; with a median hourly salary in the state of $13.40, the pay ranges from roughly $9 to $27 an hour, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey results reported in May 2015.

To learn more about the recently signed bill, here is the text of the new law.  

 For more information on Vision 20/20, please visit the Vision 20/20 website.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-02

Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his third State of the State Address on Wednesday before a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly in the House chamber where he highlighted a number of issues and bills that were approved by the legislature and that he signed into law. He also urged lawmakers to continue to work toward an agreement on a balanced state budget.

Meanwhile, the Senate worked diligently this week on its version of a budget compromise, but no votes were taken. T he Senate had introduced a package of bills that contained a proposed budget compromise earlier this month. The plan was to vote on the bills this week, but with such a massive, comprehensive package (13 separate bills) there were too many questions yet to answer. Senate Leaders John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Christine Radogno (R-LaGrange) indicated Thursday that the plan was for the Senate to take up votes on the budget package upon the Senate’s return to the Capitol on Feb. 7.

The House of Representatives moved at a more deliberate pace. Committee appointments had not been made by the beginning of the week so no House committees met. The House will return to the Capitol on Feb. 8 and committees are expected to be up and running by then.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 100-02, including what the governor discussed during his State of the State address and ongoing changes to the Senate budget package.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Update on Senate budget package

As mentioned in the last Alliance Legislative Report, the Illinois State Senate had introduced a package of bills that contained a proposed budget compromise. The plan was to vote on the bills today in committees and Wednesday on the Senate floor. However, with too many questions to be asked about the mammoth legislative package, it looks as though no votes will be taken.

Committees did meet in the Senate to discuss the provisions of the pending compromise, but it was for discussion purposes only and no votes were taken. The Alliance testified before the Senate Executive Committee about the detrimental effects of a property tax freeze and the need for local district flexibility and mandate relief. Other organizations lined up to talk about every side of every issue.

Many provisions of the package changed today after feedback from interest groups and further negotiations between the caucuses. The sugary drinks tax appears to have given way to a proposed tax on services (based on the Wisconsin model), a higher individual income tax rate, and an “opportunity tax” that will assess a tax on corporations depending upon the size of their payrolls. Gaming expansion may include video gaming at auto racing tracks.

The House of Representatives is moving at a more deliberate pace. As of Monday, House committees had not even been created for members to be appointed to. Today’s floor action has centered around the adoption of the House rules which routinely has the minority party crying foul about unjust treatment by the majority party.

VIDEO: IASB Governmental Relations previews the 100th General Assembly, possibility of a budget compromise

IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm sat down with Assistant Director Zach Messersmith to discuss the final days of the 99th General Assembly and preview the newly sworn in 100th General Assembly. The conversation examines a budget compromise package proposed by the Democrat and Republican Senate leaders and the prospects of a spending plan being passed before the end of the fiscal year.

If this video is not displaying correctly, click here.

Request for Legal Panel Proposals due Friday March 3, 2017

Members of the Illinois Council of School Attorneys are now invited to submit legal panel proposals for “Share the Success” panel presentations at the 2017 Joint Annual Conference.

Discussing issues of statewide significance while presenting solid, practical, “how to” information with audience involvement or other interaction that incorporates local school district officials, these panels are always a strong drawing card at Conference.

ICSA Attorneys and/or law firms can contact IASB’s Office of General Counsel for a copy of the Request for Legal Proposals submission form.  Those with questions or those seeking a form should contact Bridget Trojan at btrojan@iasb.com call 630/629-3776, ext. 1236. All proposals are due by Friday, March 3.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Board candidacy deadlines

Two noteworthy deadlines are approaching for the April 4, 2017 school board election, namely:

•    Thursday, Jan. 26 , 2017: Last day a candidate can withdraw by filing a Withdrawal of Candidacy with the county clerk or county board of election commissioners.
•    Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017: Last day to file a Declaration of Intent to be a write-in candidate with the appropriate election authority or authorities.

IASB offers further election information and candidate guidance on its public website.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-01

Alliance Legislative Report
In the last hours of the 99th General Assembly, leaders in the Illinois State Senate unveiled a proposed budget compromise package that would attempt to place the State on sound financial footing. Amendments were filed to bills that would raise new revenue for the State and borrow money in order for the State to pay old bills; include concessions for Democrats that would increase the minimum wage and address Chicago teacher pensions; and include items on the Republican Governor’s wish list such as pension reform, a property tax freeze, and Workers’ Compensation Act reform.

Even though time ran out in those waning hours of the “lame duck” session, the move by Senate President John Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno has kick-started the budget conversation. At that time they pledged to reintroduce the budget bill package in the new General Assembly, and now that has been done. Bills are scheduled for committee hearings next week.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 100-01, including a list of the Senate committee hearings scheduled for the week of January 23.

Alliance Leadership Summit
set for Feb. 21-22

School leaders will have the opportunity again to share their local education priorities directly with state legislators at the biennial Alliance Leadership Summit, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 21-22, at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield. 

In addition to meeting with General Assembly, participants will get a crash course in government advocacy, learn about the issues being discussed at the state level, and hear from public education advocates about what the future holds for public education in Illinois and at the national level.

The first Leadership Summit held in 2015 drew more than 600 school board members, superintendents, principals, and school business officials. This year’s event, hosted by the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), Illinois Association of School Business Officials (Illinois ASBO), Illinois Principals Association (IPA), and Illinois School Boards Association (IASB), will offer a chance for district leadership teams to learn, plan, and engage lawmakers about the critical issues facing our public school system.

“With a new General Assembly, long-standing and new challenges to public education, and the prospects for shaping the future of public education in Illinois looming, this is the perfect time to rally local school leaders in the state Capitol,” said Roger Eddy, IASB executive director.

The agenda will focus on changes to the school funding formula, the state budget for the 2017-2018 school year, including the “Grand Bargain” proposal by the Illinois Senate. Eddy said participants should be prepared to take part in developing a school leadership strategy and carry that unified message to the state legislative leaders and governor.

On Tuesday, attendees will hear from State Superintendent Tony Smith and Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis. Other keynote speakers include former teacher, administrator, and author Jim Burgett, and Ralph Martire, school board member and executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

Education leaders will also hear from Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance staff about effective messaging and strategy when meeting with legislators. Other panels include school funding reform commission, political analysis from Capitol journalists, and a TED Talk-style panel led by Illinois ASBO Executive Director Michael Jacoby.

On Wednesday, participants will travel to the statehouse to meet with legislators and other key staff. An opportunity to tour the Senate chambers will also be provided.

Registration for the two-day event is $165 and includes two lunches, breakfast Wednesday morning, and legislative reception Wednesday night. Housing is available at five area hotels at block rates ranging from $86 to $101. A complete Leadership Summit schedule is posted on the IASA website. More details will be added as they are received.

State budget instability continues in wake of ‘lame-duck’ session

Andrew Johnson
By Heath Hendren

As the calendar rolled into 2017, Illinois’ backlog of bills continued to pile up. Unpaid bills multiplied to total nearly $11 billion and the state no longer had a temporary budget in place to pay for many services and programs.

While a full-year budget for Illinois schools was approved in June of 2016, districts throughout the state were still awaiting payments for those related expenses commonly called mandated “categoricals.”

Much education spending discussion for the current fiscal year centered on an increase in General State Aid to fully fund the per pupil foundation formula and provide an additional $250 million for high-poverty districts. Included in the FY 2017 spending plan was more than $1.7 billion for categorical payments. These funds are distributed in four quarterly payments per year, and are intended to reimburse districts for expenses such as free lunch and breakfast programs, special education personnel and services, and transportation expenses.

The amount of categorical funding varies from district to district, depending on a number of factors, including transportation needs, and the number of students enrolled in specific programs. The common thread among public school districts is that they have not received their allocated categorical payments for the current year. In fact, districts have only recently received the final quarterly payment from FY 2016.

Jasper CUSD 1 Superintendent Andrew Johnson said his district received $154,723 for the last installment of FY 16 at the start of January, with no indication about when the 2017 funding will arrive.

“We are showing a $221,000 projected deficit in our transportation budget for FY 17,” said Johnson, who added that CUSD 1 schools were owed about $252,000 for the first two FY 17 payments. “We have had to borrow from our working cash the last two years, and I am sure we will have to again this year.”

CUSD 1 is the largest geographic district in the state, making transportation funds vitally important for school operations. The district owns and maintains a 54-bus fleet that travels more than 600,000 miles per year.
Michael Lubelfeld

With the state more than six months behind in distributing categorical funds to schools, districts are forced to dip into reserves to cover normal costs.

“We borrowed $250,000 from the Operations and Maintenance Fund last year that will have to be paid back within three years or permanently transferred if we do not have enough money in the transportation fund to repay it,” said Johnson. “We are running over 20 buses with 150,000 miles on each one. Our repair bills cost about $8,500 per month. We currently cannot find the money to purchase new buses to replace our depleted fleet. According to our calculations, if we were provided 100 percent of the money promised to us rather than continual proration, our district would be in good shape with our budget.”

Other school districts that don’t rely on the state for a large percentage of their funding are faring better, but they, too, are feeling the concerns arising from the Springfield stalemate.

Deerfield SD 109 Superintendent Michael Lubelfeld said the delay in state payments has less impact on districts like his that receive most of their revenue from local sources. “We receive approximately three percent of our funding from state sources,” Lubelfeld said. “Most of our revenue is generated locally, and those dollars we can count on. But I do have a tremendous concern for other districts in our county and throughout the state that have a heavy reliance on state funds.”

Lubelfeld did caution that if the state falls behind in distributing education dollars to the Deerfield district it could impact future capital projects. “Our state aid goes into our capital construction fund. This allows us to have flexibility with projects and construction,” he said.

The Deerfield superintendent backs the Vision 20/20 initiative and the “Evidence-Based Funding Model” that is supported by the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance as the best solution for resolving the state’s education funding problems.

Some legislators have recently proposed linking changes to the way education dollars are distributed to an overall budget agreement. An initial framework of the budget proposal emerged as the 99th General Assembly convened for two final days of session on Jan. 9 and 10, before new lawmakers were sworn in. The lame-duck session brought a glimmer of optimism that a comprehensive spending agreement could be progressing in the coming weeks as Illinois Senate Democrats and Republicans unveiled a package of bills that some believe may offer a blueprint for compromise.

The framework of the potential deal encompasses an array of topics, including new revenue, borrowing to pay old bills, pension reform, gambling expansion, term limits for legislative leaders, a temporary property tax freeze, a minimum wage increase, and changes to the school funding formula.

“Though no action was taken in the January lame duck session, having actual amendments filed for all to see was a significant step in this process,” said Ben Schwarm, IASB deputy executive director. “A package of new bills encompassing this spending agreement was filed by both Senate leaders after the beginning of the new General Assembly, clearly aiming for legislative action early in the session,” he added.

The 100th General Assembly was sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 11. Legislators will return to the statehouse for regular session on Jan. 24, followed by Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address on Jan. 25.

Updates on state legislative issues can be found in Alliance Legislative Reports, issued each week that the General Assembly is in session.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Update: Deadline for submission of
foster care student transportation
procedures delayed until June

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has changed the deadline for districts to submit foster care student transportation procedures to June 30, 2017 (previously Jan. 16). To assist with developing and implementing the new procedures, ISBE released an FAQ on the subject. Additional resources, including sample procedures and an interactive webinar, are currently under development and expected to be available in the coming weeks.

For background and more information on this issue refer to the December 22 News Blog story Districts face transportation obligations for foster care students.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

School strike averted in Quincy

The Quincy SD 172 Board of Education negotiates
with teacher and support union representatives Jan. 10.
Plans by Quincy SD 172 teachers and support personnel to go on strike on Tuesday, Jan. 17 were nixed, pending ratification of a tentative settlement reached over the weekend. No details have been released of the agreement, which was reportedly reached during four hours of talks on Saturday.

There has not been a teacher strike during the 2016-17 school year, although a total of 14 districts have been through the process of public posting of offers with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. Work stoppages were narrowly averted by contract agreements reached in Chicago Public Schools 299 on Oct. 11, 2016, and in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 on Dec. 2, 2016.

The last school strike in Illinois occurred April 1, 2016 in Chicago, involving the 27,000-member Chicago Teachers Union and the 400,000-student Chicago District 299. The one-day strike over teacher funds was also meant to call attention to the need for increased state funding.

The most recent posting involves the Byron Community School District 226 and the Byron Education Association. That notice was filed Jan. 10. The two sides are still meeting regularly in the Byron contract talks, with the next negotiating session set for next month. The complete list of such public postings can be viewed here.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sixteen Illinois schools join Blue Ribbon ranks

Sixteen public schools in Illinois were recognized recently by the U.S. Department of Education with awards through the National Blue Ribbon Schools program.

The program bestows awards on elementary, middle schools, and high schools for academic excellence and improvement in closing the gap between privileged and underprivileged students. Schools can qualify as Blue Ribbon Schools by being rated as “high performing” or “achievement gap closing.”

All 16 schools qualified by scoring in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state in reading and math. All groups within the school — including lower-income students — also had to collectively score in the top 40 percent.

Five private schools, which faced similar requirements, were also awarded the Blue Ribbon this year, bringing the total of Illinois school winners to 21. That compares to 16 in 2015.

Here’s the list of the public schools that earned the designation, their enrollment, and the school district in which they reside:

  • Alan B. Shepard Middle School, 513 students, Deerfield SD 109
  • Countryside Elementary School, 418 students, Barrington CUSD 220
  • Damiansville Elementary School, 103 students, Damiansville SD 62
  • Daniel Wright Junior High, 821 students, Lincolnshire-Prairie View SD 103
  • Earl Pritchett School, 568 students, Aptakisic-Tripp CCSD 102 (Buffalo Grove)
  • Eisenhower Academy, 261 students, Joliet PSD 86
  • Grove Avenue Elementary School, 513 students, Barrington CUSD 220
  • Half Day School, 370 students, Lincolnshire-Prairie View SD 103
  • Kennedy Junior High School, 951 students, Naperville CUSD 203
  • Monroe Elementary School, 405 students, Hinsdale CCSD 181 (Clarendon Hills)
  • Oak Grove School, 803 students, Oak Grove SD 68 (Green Oaks)
  • Skinner North Elementary School, 472 students, Chicago District 299
  • Tri-Valley Elementary School, 287 students, Tri-Valley CUSD 3 (Downs)
  • Tripp Elementary School, 628 students, Aptakisic-Tripp CCSD 102 (Buffalo Grove)
  • Walden Elementary School, 453 students, Deerfield SD 109
  • Woodlawn Middle School, 656 students, Kildeer Countryside CCSD 96 (Buffalo Grove)

Federal education officials honored these schools among the 279 public and 50 private school award winners nationwide at a ceremony held Nov. 7-8 in Washington. Each school received an award plaque and a flag as symbols of their accomplishments. In its 34-year history, nearly 8,500 schools in the United States have received the Blue Ribbon Schools award.

More information about the program and the award winners can be found on the program’s official website.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Illinois school leaders to attend
NSBA Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C.

School board members and administrators from 13 Illinois districts will join with educational leaders from across the country at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. from February 4-6.

The event aims to assist participants with developing effective advocacy strategies to engage policy makers and champion the interests of local public schools. Programing includes interactive panel presentations, breakout sessions, nationally recognized speakers, and networking forums to share tips and best practices.

Wrapping up the final day of the Advocacy Institute, attendees will have an opportunity to lobby their own members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Meetings with the Illinois congressional delegation will allow school officials to discuss the direction of public education, the protection of local control, and budgeting decisions that impact the state education system.

“There are a lot of important discussions taking place at the national level that have the potential to impact education here in Illinois,” said IASB Governmental Relations Director Susan Hilton. “This event provides an opportunity for our local school leaders to share how the decisions made in Washington affect what is happening in our local schools.”
Thirty-one board members and superintendents will be representing Illinois from the following districts: Aptakisic-Tripp SD 102, Cairo SD 1, CCSD 168 in Sauk Village, Dolton East SD 149, Dolton-Riverdale SD 148, ESD 158 in Matteson, Lake Forest SD 67, Lincoln ESD 156, West Harvey-Dixmoor SD 147, and Woodland CCSD 50.

IASB will send officers and staff, including President Joanne Osmond, Vice President Thomas Neeley, Past President Phil Pritzker, Executive Director Roger Eddy, Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm, and Governmental Relations Director Susan Hilton.

Additional information about the Advocacy Institute, registration, and the event agenda can be found on the NSBA website.

Alliance Legislative Report 99-59

The 99th Illinois General Assembly returned to the Capitol on Monday for a two-day “lame duck” session, with many hoping that a “grand compromise” could be put together for a full-year state budget. The current General Assembly will adjourn today (Tuesday) and the new 100th Illinois General Assembly will be sworn in at noon on Wednesday.

The “lame duck” label comes from the fact that dozens of legislators that either didn’t run for re-election, or didn’t win their election in November, are still serving out their terms until their successors are sworn in Wednesday. Thus, there may be freer reins for them to take “tough votes” since they will not be facing voters again.

Click here to read the complete Alliance Legislative Report 99-59, including provisions of the proposed budget package.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Conference videos

Six videos recorded and produced by the IllinoisChannel during the 2016 Joint Annual Conference are now available online, providing background information on significant issues facing Illinois schools.

Videos on the struggle to fund education, Medicaid, and pensions without a budget and an interview about school safety in the 21st Century were posted in early December.

Other Conference videos posted more recently include: School Safety and Social Media in the 21st Century; Issues in Education: School Safety, Teacher Shortages, and Funding; Political Challenges to Reforming the School Funding Formula; and an interview with Superintendent Greg Goins on Education and Technology.

The Illinois Channel is a 501 c (3) nonprofit corporation, modeled after C-SPAN, which produces video programming on state government, politics, and public policy. It develops original programming for broadcast by cable access channels across the state on its website, and the YouTube channel.

For more information, visit the Illinois Channel website at www.illinoischannel.org.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Full-day kindergarten the norm

Full-day kindergarten is becoming the norm.
Full-day kindergarten classes are close to the norm in Illinois school districts, with 79 percent of 859 districts in the state offering extended-day programs in 2015. The number tripled from 1977 to 2013. But another 171 districts continued to offer half-day kindergarten.

In the 2013-14 school year, 113,990 students in 1,659 schools attended full-day kindergarten, compared to 30,870 students in 217 schools attending half-day programs, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. [See map at right highlighting counties with more than five students enrolled in half-day kindergarten in 2014.]

Growing evidence of the importance of early childhood education, and appeals made by parents, has prompted more districts to consider full-day programs. The trend is clearly for school districts to go from half-day to full-day kindergarten, with nearly 5,000 additional students served by full-day program in the most recent year.

School management organizations are among those convinced of the value and need for such programs. Investing in full-day kindergarten is one of the recommendations of the “Vision 20/20” grassroots campaign of state school management groups, which includes IASB. The campaign’s comprehensive legislative initiative on a “long-range blueprint for improving public education” in Illinois, launched in late 2014, states that “high-quality early childhood education has a significant impact on the longitudinal success of Illinois children.”

Illinois is following the national trend toward offering full-day kindergarten.

Relying on research and public input, the Vision 20/20 campaign, which also includes the Illinois Association of School Administrators, Illinois Principals Association, Illinois Association of School Business Officials, Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, and the Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity, recommended that the state offer incentives for expanding early learning opportunities and full day kindergarten education:

“In order to capitalize on the benefits of early childhood education, the state should continue to increase funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant and create better incentives for districts to invest in early learning. Districts have successfully offered infant, toddler, and preschool programs and partnered effectively with other early childhood providers in their communities. The state should continue efforts to support districts in that work. Additional incentives to support full-day kindergarten, parent education, and support services should also be explored.”

The trend to expand full-time kindergarten is gaining statewide support. Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school system, began offering universal full-day kindergarten in 2013 “because early education is so important to every child’s success,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel wrote in The Washington Post.

A southwest suburban district, Mokena SD 159, reinstituted full-day kindergarten this past school year after a four-year hiatus. Space requirements were never a concern for the 1,526-student school system, but thanks to an improved property-tax revenue picture, the district has enough money to defray the cost, according to Superintendent Omar Castillo. He notes that District 159 will spend about $103,000 this school year to restore full-day kindergarten.

With the implementation of new, more stringent state educational standards, returning to full-day kindergarten was a “no brainer,” Castillo added. That’s because the new standards raised learning expectations for students, Castillo said, which ultimately is intended to result in kindergarteners who can read independently and form their own ideas about texts.

Also making the switch this academic year was School District U-46, Elgin, a suburban district of about 40,000 students that spent more than $9 million on the endeavor by building 26 new classrooms via additions at three grade schools, and by hiring 46 additional teachers. The district saw it could extend kindergarten to full day status under the current tax levy. While U46 may incur some additional costs, those should be minimized via reductions in other areas. “For example, transportation costs would be reduced because the district would no longer have to operate midday buses to take kindergartners home from the half-day program,” according to the district website.

Administrators say it is still too early to say what the academic results will be, but according to Tony Sanders, CEO of the district, “There is a recognition nationwide of the importance in investing in early childhood education -- not just kindergarten, but preschool as well.”

Yet another suburban grade school district, Arlington Heights SD 25, is considering the costs and feasibility of providing full-day kindergarten – after a district-wide survey found it was at the head of parents’ wish list.

Districts considering or making the move cite research showing that students perform better academically in the first grade after attending extended-day schooling the year before. In a landmark study that compared full-day with half-day kindergarten, researchers Jill Walston and Jerry West (2004) found students in full-day classes learned 3 percent more in reading and 2.4 percent more in math than students in half-day classes.
(The Walston and West study is available online.)

There is also some indication that full-day kindergarten may produce long-term gains, especially for low-income and minority students. In one Indiana district, for example, students in full-day kindergarten obtained significantly higher basic skills test scores in the third, fifth, and seventh grades than students who attended half-day or did not attend kindergarten at all. That finding appeared in a 2004 study conducted by the Education Commission of the States, called “Full-Day Kindergarten Programs Improve Chances of Academic Success.”

Some critics say research on long-term benefits remains inconclusive, pointing to a review of relevant studies that reached this very conclusion, a review released by the Child Trends organization in a 2013 report. According to the report, kindergartners in full-day programs were more likely to maintain good attendance, self-confidence, and the ability to work and play with others, but less likely to have a positive attitude toward school.

Those who resist the switch to full-day kindergarten suggest that many children aged five are not yet ready to attend school or learn effectively for the entire day. “Kindergarten readiness depends on social and emotional maturity; if children can self-regulate behaviors, follow the structure and schedule of a school environment and get along with others, then academic learning can more easily follow,” according to Julie K. Nelson, the author of "Parenting With Spiritual Power," a speaker, and professor at Utah Valley University.

Ample research shows that the youngest five-year-old children tend to lag behind their classmates. Researchers have found that older kindergartners are more likely to persist at tasks, more eager to learn, and better able to pay attention.

Another study generally refutes that claim, finding that five-year-olds clearly are ready for a longer school day, and in fact do much better in a setting that allows them to learn and explore activities in depth. With more time in the classroom, children can proceed at a more leisurely pace, according to the study, “Making the Most of Kindergarten: Present Trends and Future Issues in the Provision of Full-day Programs,” published by the National Institute for Early Education Research in March 2005 and the final report is available online.

The most common reason for not making the switch, however, is the cost of providing full-day kindergarten.  On the state level, for example, Arizona spent $21 million in 2005 to switch to full-day kindergarten statewide, bringing the total cost of providing full-day kindergarten in that state to $48 million, out of a state budget of $8 billion. On the district level, meanwhile, Palatine Township Elementary District 15 sought voter approval on November 8, 2016 to borrow $130 million to build two new schools, freeing up space in the district's 15 elementary schools to accommodate roughly 1,400 students in full-day kindergarten classrooms. Voters rejected the plan, however, by a count of 13,741 yes to 33,055 no.

While the cost argument can’t be completely refuted, a study by the Economic Policy Institute found investment in quality early childhood programs generate returns of 3-to-1 or more in value, meaning that every $1 spent brings $3 in educational benefits.

Meanwhile, academic gains provide an essential “bridge” between pre-K experiences and first grade. (View the research report on the 3-to-1 return online; and examine the research about the “bridge to first grade” benefits online as well.)

Support also comes from classroom teachers, who testify that full-day kindergarten programs allow them more time to get to know the children in their classroom and identify and address individual learning challenges early. This finding comes from a 2004 Indiana study called “The Effects of Full Day Versus Half Day Kindergarten.”

Despite the preponderance of evidence, 37 states, including Illinois, only require schools to offer half-day kindergarten, while 13 states and the District of Columbia mandate the full day. Meanwhile, seventeen states do not require school districts to offer kindergarten at all, and 35 states, including Illinois, do not require kindergarten attendance. (These and other state comparisons are contained in a 2016 statistical report from the Education Commission of the States.)

Even local districts that don’t offer full-day kindergarten continue to support it. A task force at Geneva School District 304 reviewed the district’s needs in 2008 and developed several options for a full-day kindergarten program. “The research seems to indicate, overwhelmingly, that the advantages of having an all-day kindergarten program outweigh the disadvantages,” the final study said. “However, each state and each individual school district must, ultimately, make that decision for its own schools and students.” 

Projected district costs (2009 estimates in Education Fund or Operations and Maintenance Funds) included:

•    12 kindergarten teachers @ $55,000, or $660,000 total
•    12 kindergarten assistants @ $15,000, or $180,000 total
•    New classrooms @ $276,000 per classroom
•    Furnishing and equipping @ $12,000 per classroom

Because of the extra costs, the task force recommended an interim plan, aimed at helping at-risk students. It called for five additional staff members and offering morning and afternoon kindergarten classes, with at-risk students having the option of attending both the morning and afternoon classes. Board members held back from implementing the switch in 2008, citing space and cost constraints. But in February 2014, the board agreed to aggressively pursue offering the option of full-day kindergarten. The district instituted the recommendation last year. Parents who prefer their children attend for a half-day now have the option to pick them up halfway through the day.

The economic factors are also complicated by the source of funding. Palos Heights District 128, for example, supports all-day kindergarten but can’t afford it, according to Superintendent Kathleen Casey. Even though District 128 is classified as a “property-rich” district, it also operates under a property tax cap, which enforces limiting district revenue, she explained to the Daily Southtown in a March 6, 2015 article. The district, with 668 students, estimates the cost of a full-day kindergarten program at $300,000 per year.

“Until educational funding becomes a priority for our state, there is little possibility we will be able to provide a tuition-free program," Casey stated.

Other considerations involved in the switch to full-day kindergarten involve non-revenue issues, such as: what hours of the day are acceptable? Should the program schedule be the same throughout the school year or phased in? What is the level of community support? And what are the additional training needs?

Illinois has recently established new standards for schools, including Kindergarten, and, according to State Superintendent Tony Smith, “Research has shown that children who attended all-day kindergarten score higher on standardized tests, have fewer grade retentions, and fewer Chapter I placements.”

Smith notes that Illinois standards alignment summaries for Kindergarten readiness are available for download on the state’s Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) website.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Referenda deadlines near

Boards of education have until Tuesday, Jan. 17, to place tax and bond referenda or other public policy question on the April 4 ballot (10 ILCS 5/28-2). Thursday, Jan. 26, is the last day for the school board secretary to certify public policy questions to the election authority for the April 4 election (10 ILCS 5/28-5).
These are among numerous dates and deadlines for school districts that can be found on IASB’s 2016-2017 Annual School Calendar.

For information on past public policy questions, including specific school finance questions, visit the Illinois State Board of Elections referenda search website.

Passage rates of school finance questions, by election, since 1989, can be found at IASB’s finance election data website.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

PRESS materials affected by ISBE website update

With the recent update to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website, many materials in the IASB Policy Reference Education Subscription Service (PRESS) that previously linked to the former website are no longer functional. PRESS editors are working with the IASB Policy Services Department to devise a plan to correct the broken links.

Because the PRESS Policy Reference Manual is over 1,000 pages, these updates will take time. Priority will be given to policies that contain links to the former ISBE website, such as 7:285, Food Allergy Management Program. Focus will then shift to board exhibits, administrative procedures, and footnotes.

Latest Journal recollects #JAC16

The Illinois School Board Journal
The January/February issue of The Illinois School Board Journal looks back at the 2016 Joint Annual Conference, including dozens of photographs of presenters, events, and leadership in action. Readers will also find suggestions for reducing student suspensions in accordance with new Illinois law. Discover a perspective on community engagement presented by The Harwood Institute, and information on Illinois ASBO's new designation program for school district facilities professionals. Click below to read the complete digital version of the Journal.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Exhibition of Educational Environments
awards presented at Conference

Two school projects were named as the 2016 Award of Distinction winners in the annual Invitational Exhibition of Educational Environments, sponsored by IASB Service Associates. DLA Architects, Ltd. was honored for a remodel of the West Chicago High School science department. BLDD Architects was recognized for designing the new Meridian Middle/High School.

This was the 28th year for IASB’s juried school design competition.

The awards were presented on Friday, Nov. 18, during the First General Session of the 2016 Joint Annual Conference. Winning projects were selected by a blind-jury pool of architects and superintendents in September. In addition to the two Award of Distinction winners, the jury chose two projects for Awards of Merit and five Honorable Mention recipients.

All 23 entries in this year’s exhibit were on display throughout the Conference. This year’s winning entries are listed by firm, school, and district:

BLDD Architects, Inc.
Meridian CUSD 15
Award of Distinction
BLDD Architects, Inc.
Meridian Middle/High School
Meridian CUSD 15, Macon

DLA Architects, Ltd.
West Chicago High School,
Science Department Remodeling
Community HSD 94, West Chicago

Award of Merit
PCM+ Design Architects
DLA Architects, Ltd.
East Peoria ESD 86
Central Junior High School Phase II
East Peoria ESD 86

DLA Architects, Ltd.
Steger Intermediate Center
Steger SD 194

Honorable Mention
ARCON Associates, Inc.
Bannockburn School
Bannockburn SD 106

STR Partners LLC
Brookwood Middle School
Brookwood SD 167

Wight & Company
Joliet Central High School Student Center & Galleria Addition
Joliet Township HSD 204

FGM Architects, Inc.
Mt. Vernon High School
Mt. Vernon Township HSD 201

ARCON Associates, Inc.
Schrum Memorial Middle School
Hoover-Schrum Memorial SD 157

Criteria considered by the judges included: program/challenge met; how the facility meets 21st century education environmental needs; design; unique energy efficiency or green features; and safety (including passive security design and traffic patterns). To be eligible, construction projects had to be completed in time for occupancy with the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

All of this year’s entries will be added to IASB’s School Design Database. The searchable online database is available for use by IASB member districts and their architectural firms. The file is updated each year after the competition and contains more than 500 Illinois public school design projects.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Share the Success in 2017

As the calendar turns, it is a good time begin thinking about the 2017 Conference. In fact, school districts and related education organizations are being invited now to submit their proposals (RFPs) for "Share the Success" panel presentations.

Success stories from local school districts and related organizations have long been a strong drawing card at the annual IASB/IASA/IASBO Conference. School board members and administrators from every division come to learn and benefit from the practical experiences "Share the Success" panel presentations provide.

Each year, a select number of districts and organizations are chosen to make presentations. These 60-minute panel sessions -- presented by board members, administrators, and other school or community members who were involved in the particular programs to be showcased -- are based on actual school system experiences. Presenters give insight and practical information on how to solve common problems. They share discoveries and innovations from programs succeeding in their school districts. They also provide tips on how school leaders can achieve such successes in their own districts.

Proposals for the 2017 Joint Annual Conference are due in the Springfield office by Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

A committee of Association members will evaluate all proposals received by that date. Invitations will then be issued to the districts and organizations recommended by the evaluators. Acceptance of an invitation to present a "Share the Success" panel represents a joint commitment to create a valuable educational experience for conference attendees. Districts and related organizations are urged to not submit a proposal unless they are fully prepared to make that commitment -- and presentation -- at the 85th Joint Annual Conference, scheduled for Nov. 17-19, 2017 in Chicago.

Districts and organizations that are not selected may be offered an alternative opportunity to present at Conference. The Carousel of Panels will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18. This venue is designed to allow districts and organizations a chance to make three 30-minute presentations on their topic, allowing attendees an opportunity to obtain a wide variety of information in minimal time.

Panel proposals for the 2017 Joint Annual Conference may be submitted online. Instructions for completing and submitting the form are included and must be followed in order for the panel proposal to be considered.

If you have any questions, please contact Peggy Goone at pgoone@iasb.com or call 217/528-9688, ext. 1103.


Download PDF Version (to be submitted by mail or FAX)