Saturday, April 29, 2017

Federal Legislative Report 115-03

The previous version of the American Health Care Act, as reported in FLR 115-02, proposed major funding changes to the federal Medicaid program, including how the federal government funds its share of state Medicaid costs. The bill enacted a per capita cap on federal Medicaid payments to states, thus jeopardizing the Medicaid funding schools receive to provide healthcare services to students, including students with disabilities.

The per capita cap in the previous legislation was set at a lower level than healthcare costs are expected to grow under Medicaid in future years. This would have required states to make decisions about what services are covered due to reduced federal support. States would have likely factored cost decisions over what services to cover for children with disabilities. Additionally, schools would have been forced to compete with medical care providers such as hospitals and physicians for limited funding.

Click here to read the entire Federal Legislative Report 115-03, including information on FY17 appropriations and Illinois' ESSA plan. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-16

Today (Friday) was a significant date in the legislative process, though it isn’t the hard deadline it once was. For both the House of Representatives and the Senate, this is the self-imposed deadline for moving bills out of the first legislative chamber. Bills that have been approved will swap chambers and begin the committee process anew. In days past, if a bill had not been considered favorably by this point it was pretty much a dead issue. Legislative leaders have become more lenient through the years and now dozens of bills will simply have their deadlines extended to retain their viability.

The Senate, originally scheduled to be in session today, cancelled and adjourned Thursday afternoon. The House wrapped up action on bills on “Third Reading” today, which was the final passage stage in the chamber. The Senate will return to the Capitol next Tuesday and the House is scheduled to return on Tuesday, May 9. The final adjournment date for the spring for both chambers is May 31st.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 100-16, including the bills in action this week.

Governing meetings start May 2

Beginning May 2,15 of IASB’s 21 divisions will host a summer governing meeting, where board members can help division officers and IASB field services staff determine programming needs for future division dinner meetings. These gatherings are also a good place to get updates on other Association events and activities.

Each such meeting features a discussion of possible topics, dates, and locations of future division dinner meetings. At these meetings, the field services director facilitates a conversation to identify and prioritize topics of interest. All school board members and superintendents from a division are welcome to attend and participate in these governing board meetings.

Not all divisions will hold governing meetings. In some divisions, the membership takes an equally valid approach by delegating to an executive committee the responsibility to work with the field services director to identify topics of interest to districts in that division.  

Division officers, serving two-year terms, may also be chosen at these division governing meetings, based on voting of member school board representatives. Officers elected include: Chair, Director, Vice Chair, and Resolutions Chair, and other officers as provided by the division in the divison by-laws. The selection process gives each Active Member school board of the Association one vote, cast by a school board member, upon a slate provided by a nominating committee and/or nominations made from the floor. Ballots are provided for contested positions.

More information on these upcoming meetings is available by clicking on the link for a chosen division meeting on the IASB calendar page. Registration is now open for the meetings and can be completed online by accessing the IASB member database. Access is available by visiting the IASB website and clicking on MY ACCOUNT, and logging in with the email address and password that is on record.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Post-election deadlines approaching

May 1st is the deadline to file a required statement of economic interests. The filing requirement applies not only to all school board members, but also superintendents, building principals, heads of departments, employees responsible for negotiating contracts of $1,000 or more, hearing officers, supervisors with authority for more than 20 or more employees, and any employee in a position that requires an administrative or chief business official certificate.

Economic interest statements must be filed with the county clerk in a form provided by law. Anyone required to file who cannot meet the deadline may obtain a 30-day extension by filing with the county clerk a declaration of intent to defer the filing.

May 2nd is the last day for school boards to reorganize by seating new members elected on April 4, 2017, electing officers, and setting a time and place for regular meetings.

More information about these procedures and requirements are available in a free brochure, “Seating New Board Members and Organizing the Board.” It is available to view or download from the IASB website.

Registration is now open for the Association’s two-day New Board Member workshops, which begin June 2-3 and conclude on July 7-8. The workshops, to be held at nine locations throughout Illinois, will enable newly elected board members to fulfill their state-mandatory board training and learn more about school board governance. One- and two-day options are available. For more information about this professional development opportunity, view or download the workshop brochure

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

VIDEO: IASB Governmental Relations talks school election results

IASB’s Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm recently sat down with Assistant Director of Governmental Relations Zach Messersmith to discuss results from the April 4 local elections. Among the highlights are the historic passage rate for property tax increases and how the state’s failure to provide sufficient, reliable funding may have impacted voter’s decisions. The pair also talked about county sales tax outcomes and why fewer bonding proposals have been on the ballot in recent years.

If the video is not displaying correctly, click here.

Click here to view election charts and a breakdown of school finance and bond referendums over the past decade in Illinois.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Journal offers referendum guidance

May/June 2017
The May/June 2017 issue of The Illinois School Board Journal offers new trends and important guidance to school board members and staff in districts considering a referendum, as well as success stories of referendum campaigns. Three school districts in Illinois shared their stories, establishing that you get what you work for, not what you wish for. The Journal also welcomes new board members with advice on protecting their reputations as they serve their communities, and commentary on board members' roles as stewards of public education.

Readers will also find information on teacher salary schedules, settling in with a new board, and how a district managed a quarantine situation that made headlines and even garnered the attention of "Saturday Night Live."

Check your mailboxes, or click here or below to read the complete digital edition of the May/June Journal.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

‘After bell’ law encourages easy access
to school breakfast

Some districts face
additional breakfast requirements.
Among the bills that came into effect with this calendar year, Public Act 99-0850 generally requires school districts to provide a “breakfast after the bell” program where there are large groups of qualified students. But the requirement applies only if 70 percent or more are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, are classified as low-income, or can be claimed for free or reduced-price meals. 

The new law requires those districts to implement such a program next school year. Districts are exempt, however, if 70 percent or more of free or reduced-price eligible students are already participating in existing breakfast programs or if, due to district-specific circumstances, the expense reimbursement would not cover the costs of implementation.

“We worked with sponsors of the bill to make sure that there were exemptions, some flexibility, and an opt-out. One-size-fits-all policies do not work in a state as diverse as Illinois," said Deanna Sullivan, IASB’s Director of Governmental Relations.

The purpose of the bill is to increase access to a breakfast at school to ensure students can start their school day with a healthy meal. Students have been offered breakfast in Illinois schools since 2009. But the new law specifically refers to breakfast provided to children after the instructional day has begun.

Each district may determine the service model that best suits its students. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) offers examples of “breakfast in the classroom, grab and go breakfast, and second-chance breakfast.”

Of course, a drawback to the mandate is paying for it. According to ISBE, “State reimbursement to offset a portion of the cost of the meal is available if a site serves a reimbursable meal to a student eligible for a free meal and the site is enrolled in the Illinois Free Breakfast and Lunch Programs. Both state and federal reimbursement is available if a site enrolls in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and/or School Breakfast Program (SBP).”

A Chicago newspaper recently reported that one of the larger suburban districts there will seek an exemption for its elementary schools, based on the reimbursement not covering the cost.

Also considered a drawback is the potential loss of instructional time.

Proponents include University of Illinois Extension Educator Jessica Gadomski, a registered dietitian for SNAP-Education. She says “While initially it may take some getting used to, teachers can use the time to take attendance, read classroom announcements or collect homework assignments. It is worth it to have a class with children who are fed, focused and ready to learn.”

For more information on the law and its implementation, visit the Nutrition and Wellness section of
the ISBE website.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-15

The Illinois General Assembly is concluding a two-week break and will return to action next week. The House of Representatives will re-convene on Monday, April 24 and the Senate will resume on Tuesday, April 25. Most action will take place on the respective floors of the chambers as the deadline has passed for a bill to be considered by a committee. Committees will be meeting as needed, however, to consider amendments to bills. The deadline for floor consideration in the chamber of origin is Friday, April 28.

The state continues to struggle without an operating budget in place for most agencies and programs. Before the legislative respite, the majority in the House passed their budget plan to get through the rest of this fiscal year. Called by many names – the lifeline budget, the stop-gap budget, the partial budget – the plan is intended to fund higher education and some social service agencies through the end of June. It is unclear at this time if the Senate will entertain that budget contained in HB 109.

On the larger budget scale, there have been reports that key players have been trying to salvage the “grand bargain” budget plan in the Senate, though there has been no visible movement regarding these components. Thus far, the chilled relationships among Republican and Democrat, House and Senate, and legislature and governor have not seemed to show any defrosting.

There are dozens of significant pieces of legislation that will be considered next week for passage out of the first chamber. Alliance members are urged to talk with their legislators regarding those bills that would impact their school districts. A “Hot Bills” list can be found here.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 100-15.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Resolutions invited for Delegate Assembly

Resolutions will be voted upon
at the IASB Delegate Assembly.
Local school boards are invited to submit resolutions for consideration by the 2017 Delegate Assembly. Resolution forms and information were mailed to IASB member district superintendents and board presidents in early April.

IASB’s Delegate Assembly is held yearly at the Joint Annual Conference to help determine the direction of the Association by setting policy-driven goals.

Proposals can be submitted as new IASB resolutions, amendments to existing position statements, reaffirmations of existing position statements, or belief statements. The deadline to submit resolutions is June 21.

The IASB Resolutions Committee, consisting of one elected member from each of the 21 Association divisions, will meet on Aug. 4. After resolutions are submitted, IASB staff will review the proposals and consult with a representative of the district that crafted the measure to prepare background material for review by the Resolutions Committee. Districts proposing resolutions must have at least one board member present at the committee meeting to speak to their proposal.

The committee will review the submitted proposals and recommend either the approval or disapproval of the offered resolutions, and determine which ones will be presented to the entire Delegate Assembly. This year’s committee will be chaired by IASB Vice President JoAnne Osmond.

Resolution forms and additional information about the process is available by contacting Mary Ellen Buch at ext. 1132. A fillable 2017 resolution form can also be downloaded from the government relations page on the IASB website

Monday, April 17, 2017

Woods announces retirement,
other staffing changes planned

Cynthia Woods
Cynthia Woods, director of advocacy, has announced her retirement from the Association effective June 30. Woods has dedicated 23 years of service to the IASB as an advocate for public education in general, and school boards in particular.

As a former school board member, Woods has brought valuable experience and insight to her duties in developing IASB’s advocacy and grassroots efforts, acting as liaison to the Illinois State Board of Education, and working with other education organizations and coalitions.

“We thank Cynthia for her loyal dedication to the Association and wish her well in the future; her skill and knowledge will be missed,” said IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm.
Susan Hilton

Woods’ duties will be assumed on July 1 by Susan Hilton, Director of Governmental Relations.

Hilton will also be working on specific state issues and enhancing the Association’s focus on federal legislative issues and relationships with the Illinois congressional delegation.

Also effective July 1, as part of the transition due to Cynthia Woods retirement, Shanell Bowden will become assistant director of governmental relations. Bowden, currently an IASB policy consultant, will serve as a day-to-day lobbyist in the
Shanell Bowden
Capitol and join in all other activities of the governmental relations department’s team.

“Cynthia will be truly missed, but by refocusing Susan’s duties and adding Shanell, IASB will continue to provide the high-quality legislative and advocacy efforts school board members have come to rely on,” Schwarm added.

In other staff news, Catherine Finger has accepted the position of consultant in the Executive Searches office. She will take a part-time position beginning on July 1. She is currently completing an 12-year superintendency at Grayslake SD.127 and has more than 32 years of experience in education, including service as a teacher, coach, dean, principal, and superintendent.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

School finance book updated

The Illinois Association of School Boards has published an updated edition of its top-selling book, Essentials of Illinois School Finance: A Guide to Techniques, Issues, and Resources, authored by James B. Fritts. It’s both an informational guide and a desktop reference for public school leaders.

This, the seventh edition, has been updated by Fritts with the most current information available, including state budget data for Fiscal Year 2017 and recent numbers from various agencies of state and federal governments. The book also reflects the budget pressures and uncertainty that confronted state officials, boards of education, and school leaders as the 2016-2017 school year got underway.

The first part of the book deals with the budgeting and management of revenue, including where schools get it, how they maximize it, protect it, manage it and plan for it. The second half of the book addresses expenditures and describes ways to assess a district’s overall financial health, including how schools budget for expenditures, reduce them, and make plans to deal with them.

Together, the two sections provide a solid base for financial management and long-range planning. The final chapter describes the essential role of school board policy in setting standards for fiscal and business affairs.

Essentials of Illinois School Finance is now available at the IASB Online Bookstore, or by calling 217/528-9688, extension 1108.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Packets help new members
get fast start on school boards

IASB has prepared a packet of helpful information for newly elected school board members. These materials are being mailed free of charge to all new board members who are identified by their local school district.

Mailings will be made after board secretaries update their rosters in the IASB member database. This will also enable new board members to create their own accounts and manage their own records in the database.

The New Board Member Packet contains the following information and documents:

  • Memo from IASB Executive Director  
  • A memo to the family of the new board member
  • Membership Guide booklet
  • Article – Protect Your Good Name
  • The Basics of Governance booklet
  • New Board Member Workshops brochure
  • Field Services division map
  • Open Meetings Act bookmark
  • Policy Services “First Call” flyer
  • 2017 Joint Annual Conference flyer
  • Stay in touch access to Association website, social media, and member database flyer
  • IASB publications brochure
  • The Effective School Board Member book
  • March-April issue of The Illinois School Board Journal

Local boards have 28 days after the consolidated election, or until Tuesday, May 2, to reorganize and seat new board members. That is also when the board will elect its officers and fix a time and place for regular board meetings.

Districts that have questions about the New Board Member Packet or IASB member database may call 217 528-9688, ext. 1131.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lawmakers propose new school mandates but still haven't approved a budget

Ben Schwarm
IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm comments on the stalled state budget and the prospect of more unfunded mandates for schools, while urging board members and administrators to contact lawmakers about the issues.

As the Illinois General Assembly begins its two-week break, it is a good time to assess what our lawmakers have been up to the past three months. Unfortunately, it is much more of the same we have seen over the past several years.

First, let’s start with what the legislature has not done. Number one on that list would be approving a state budget! Illinois will soon be at two full years without an adopted, balanced budget. The result is a deficit in the tens of billions of dollars and growing by the day. Hopes of a grand bargain early this year eventually melted away and few see any chance of this discussion being seriously renewed. In fact, some see hopes of salvaging portions of the compromise, such as new reliable revenues and school funding reform, as being tossed by the wayside as well.

So what has been done? We can start with the introduction of over 6,000 bills – many of which would establish new programs and directives that would add to state spending which is already in deficit mode. Or, ideas that pass the cost onto local governments and school districts that are already suffering due to the budget situation and years of under-funding.

The above picture highlights the number of school policies
added last year due to laws approved in 2016. 
Though the School Management Alliance has been successful in stopping a few bills that contained new mandate proposals (must waive summer school costs, must post nutrition counts, must adopt trauma response protocol), about a dozen bills have been approved by committees that would add new requirements for school districts.

Some of the new requirements would be substantial, such as requiring seat belts in buses, with no revenue source provided. This would increase the cost and reduce the capacity of school buses, and likely require adding new personnel as bus monitors – all while the state has not paid transportation reimbursements to districts! Other proposals call for adding new instruction and courses in elementary and middle schools for civics, “work ethics,” and cursive writing, which would require additional staff, space, and time.

Many other proposed mandates are on a smaller scale. These include adding to the hours of suicide awareness training needed during teacher in-service days, requiring 20 minutes of recess per day in elementary schools, and adding new financial reporting requirements to be posted on the internet. However small, they all increase the load on local public schools and usurp local control. Each one of these new requirements alone may not look like it would be a problem, but added together (like the 50 new mandates placed on public schools in the last five years) with no new funding, no days added to the school year, and no minutes added to the school day – they certainly become a huge problem.

Now is a good time for school board members and administrators to tell their legislators that the real work of the state needs to be done. Adopt a true budget. Forget about new mandates on school districts and programs for state and local governments until the fiscal health of Illinois is addressed.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Downstate school districts file lawsuit to require adequate funding

On Wednesday, April 6, 17 downstate school districts filed a lawsuit against the governor and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) claiming the state has not done its part to adequately fund education. At a press conference announcing the filing, the districts and their administrators further stated that Illinois is not meeting its required constitutional duty to provide a “high-quality education.”
David Lett

In an accompanying news release, David Lett, superintendent of Pana CUSD 8, said, “The 17 districts that have joined this case so far did so because we are all at a breaking point. We as school administrators and superintendents have been forced to increase class sizes, lay off qualified teachers, and eviscerate social services for students, all because the state is not living up to its constitutional obligation to adequately fund the Learning Standards it mandates.”

According to the complaint, students and schools are held accountable to meet key benchmarks as outlined by the Illinois Learning Standards. However, the state has never provided enough additional money to meet the increased mandates to achieve the higher standards.

The Illinois Constitution, Article X, Section 1, requires that the state “provide for an efficient system of high quality education.” Those filing the lawsuit argue that because their districts have less property wealth, the state of Illinois should create an evidence-based system to determine the additional financial aid necessary to meet the requirements of the Learning Standards.

Further, the plaintiffs state that as the standards have become more rigorous over time, the state has failed to provide an adequate level of assistance to pay for the resources necessary to achieve the higher academic requirements.

According to the press release, “ISBE has adopted and held all school districts accountable to meet the Learning Standards, disregarding the districts that lack sufficient local finances to cover the costs of special programs, curriculum, and professional development that the Learning Standards inherently require.”

To read the lawsuit in its entirety, click here.

View the video below, courtesy of the Belleville News-Democrat, to hear reaction from Grant CCSD 110 (Fairview Heights) Superintendent Matthew Stines. Grant 110 is party to the lawsuit filed against the state and ISBE.

The 17 districts that have joined the lawsuit are:

  • Bethalto CUSD 8
  • Bond County CUSD 2 (Greenville)
  • Bunker Hill CUSD 8
  • Cahokia CUSD 187
  • Carlinville CUSD 1
  • Gillespie CUSD 7
  • Grant CCSD 110 (Fairview Heights)
  • Illinois Valley Central CUSD 321 (Chillicothe)
  • Mt. Olive CUSD 5 
  • Mulberry Grove CUSD 1 
  • Nokomis CUSD 22 
  • Pana CUSD 8 
  • Southwestern CUSD 9 (Brighton)
  • Staunton CUSD 6 
  • Taylorville CUSD 3 
  • Vandalia CUSD 203 
  • Wood River-Hartford ESD 15

Friday, April 7, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-14

The Illinois House of Representatives passed what is being described as a “lifeline” budget on Thursday. House Bill 109 (Harris, D-Chicago) was passed mainly along party lines with 64 in favor of the measure. HB 109 would provide $800 million in funding to social service providers and higher education. While these two areas have been some of the hardest hit without a state budget, opponents believed that this measure would only delay a vote on an actual budget. The supporters of the bill, stated they were giving a “lifeline” to institutions of higher education that have faced unprecedented cuts and instability, as well as social service agencies that may have shuttered their doors without receiving funding from the state of Illinois. While Governor Bruce Rauner has previously agreed with the stop gap budget approach, he has been on record as opposing any future stop gap measures. The bill was passed after the Senate had already adjourned for the two week legislative spring break. It is unlikely that HB 109 would see the governor’s desk until early May. The 64 affirmative votes in the House would not be enough to override a predicted Rauner veto.

The House of Representatives expedited passage of a bill containing its version of property tax relief. HB 156 (Mussman, D-Schaumburg) was amended on Tuesday, passed out of the House Revenue and Finance Committee and passed out of the House of Representatives, Thursday to be considered by the Senate upon its return after the spring legislative break. The bill would:
  • Expand the Homestead Exemption for Veterans with disabilities to any veteran who is 75 or older, changes the levels of exemption per percent of disability and adds extending the exemption to surviving spouse in the case of death of the disabled veteran.
  • Increase the Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption from $5,000 to $6,000
  • Create a new Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption for those receiving Supplemental Security Income beginning in taxable year 2017 for property improved with a permanent structure and disallows a person receiving this exemption from receiving the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze or the new Long-time Occupant Homestead Exemption.
  • Increase the General Homestead Exemption from $6,000 (all other counties) and $7,000 (Cook) to $8,000 for all counties
  • Create a new Statewide Long-time Occupant Homestead Exemption providing an additional exemption based on the length of time a homeowner has resided at a residence. The exemption would be $2,000 for 8 years of residency up to $4,800 for 21 years or longer.
  • Increase s the Senior Citizens Real Estate Tax Deferral limit from $5,000 to $6,000

The legislative spring break is a great time for school board members and administrators to reach out to local legislators to advocate on behalf of local schools. During the next two weeks, legislators will be in district seeking input from constituents on a variety of issues. Make sure your voice is heard on the pressing issues for your school district during this important advocacy time. Provide your legislators with data demonstrating the impact of property tax relief measures, newly proposed mandates, and other important pending legislation.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 100-14.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Voters pass 11 tax hikes, 11 bond issues, two sales tax plans

Unofficial school referendum results from the April 4 election show voters approved 11 of 15 tax increase questions, 11 of 20 bond propositions, and two of eight county sales tax plans. The passage rate was 73 percent for district tax increases this time around, more than twice the historical average of 36 percent recorded since 1989.

Local school districts were successful with four tax increase proposals for educational purposes. Tax hikes per se were approved in Deer Creek Mackinaw CUSD 701 (a 30 cent increase per $100 of equalized assessed valuation in their education fund); Edwardsville CUSD 7 (a 55 cent increase per $100 of equalized assessed valuation in their education fund); Pinckneyville CCSD 204 (a 25 cent increase per $100 of equalized assessed valuation in their education fund); and Princeton Elementary SD 115 (a 70 cent increase per $100 of equalized assessed valuation in their education fund). Seven tax increases were also approved through Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) ceiling increases.

Voters apparently failed to pass tax referenda in Aviston Elementary SD 21, a proposal that fell two votes short on election day, although it could still be adopted if pending absentee vote counts favor it; and another tax hike failed by just 49 votes Metamora CCSD 1.

As mentioned, other local tax increase propositions were on the ballot to increase the funds raised under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL). Such proposals were approved by voters in:

  • Antioch CCSD 34 (a PTELL debt service extension base increase to be used for paying off limited bonds by establishing the base at $1.4 million)
  • Benjamin SD 25 (a PTELL debt service extension base increase from $582,671 to $997,500; it represents a rate increase of the lesser of 5 percent or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index during the prior levy year)
  • Berwyn South SD 100 (a PTELL limiting rate increase of 0.6 percent above the limiting rate for levy year 2015)
  • Dakota CUSD 301 (a PTELL limiting rate increase of 0.70% above the limiting rate for levy year 2015 and equal to 5.58 percent of the EAV of the taxable property for levy year 2017; the amount of taxes extendable would increase to $5.15 million from the total of $4.5 million extended in 2015)
  • Evanston/Skokie CCSD 65 (a PTELL limiting rate increase of 0.595% above the limiting rate for school purposes for levy year 2015; this would raise the limiting rate to 4.166 percent of the EAV of the   taxable property in the district for levy year 2016)
  • Oak Park SD 97 (a PTELL limiting rate increase of 1 percent to bring the total to 4.982 percent for the 2016 levy year; the approximate amount of additional tax extendable against property containing a single family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $266.85)
  • Taylorville CUSD 3 (a PTELL limiting rate increase of .85 percent above the limiting rate for school purposes for levy year 2016; for the 2017 levy year the approximate amount of the additional tax extendable against property containing a single family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $283)

PTELL tax hike proposals were defeated in just two districts: Norridge SD 80; and Sandwich CUSD 430.

Although tax increases fared the best by far, the 55 percent passage rate for building bond issues this time around was just above the mean average approval rate seen for bond issues in April elections in odd-numbered years since November 1989, which stood at 50 percent. But the 55 percent rate this time was slightly below the 58 percent approval rate seen for all building bond elections overall.

Building bond issues were approved in 11 school districts:

  • Brookfield LaGrange Park SD 95 (a $20 million bond issue to help defray the cost of improvements to an elementary and a middle school)
  • Center Cass SD 66 (a $12.9 million proposed construction bonding plan to upgrade two junior high schools, and a grade school)
  • Cerro Gordo CUSD 100 (an $8 million proposition for construction of an addition to the junior high school, and to make repairs to the existing building)
  • Diamond Lake SD 76 (an $11.4 million bond issue to improve the district’s school buildings)
  • Franklin CUSD 1 (a $2.5 million bond issue to create an addition to the Franklin Junior/Senior High School, and repair other existing buildings of the district)
  • Glen Ellyn SD 41 (a $24.2 million bond issue to make improvements at five school buildings, and construct an addition to a junior high school)
  • Hononegah CHSD 207 (a $17.8 million bond proposal to build and equip a new fieldhouse addition to the high school that’s designed to replace a dome that collapsed during a winter storm in 2015)
  • Mount Vernon SD 80 (a $5.5 million bond issue for various building repairs and upgrades, and to construct and equip a middle school gym)
  • Northbrook/Glenview SD 30 (a $36.3 million bond issue to replace a grade school, and to make improvements to two other schools)
  • Oak Park SD 97 (a $57.5 million bond issue for repair of various school buildings)
  • West Chicago CHSD 94 (a $37.5 million bond issue to make repairs to the high school building, and build and equip an addition there)

Bond issues were defeated in nine school districts:

  • Bureau Valley CUSD 340 (a $17 million bond issue to construct a new building in Sheffield, and to make improvements and additions to two high schools)
  • Erie CUSD 1 (a $13.8 million construction bond project to transform a high school into an elementary school, and make a middle school into a combined high school and middle school)
  • Galena USD 120 (a $21.8 million bond proposition to repair one school and construct another)
  • Hawthorn CCSD 73 (a $42 million bond issue for additions and repairs to district schools, including construction of new STEM facilities)
  • Hinsdale THSD 86 (a $76 million bond proposition to repair and replace large portions of two high schools)
  • Metamora THSD 122 (an $11 million bond issue for constructing an addition to the high school, along with making safety improvements, adding a new library and computer labs, and making improvements to the fine arts and vocational-tech instructional spaces)
  • Newark CHSD 1 (a $16 million bond proposition for improvement to the high school building, including construction of a new gym and fine arts center)
  • Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200 (a $132.5 million bond issue to construct a new building to replace an early learning center, and to make repairs and additions to school buildings throughout the district)
  • Winnebago CUSD 323 (a $12 million bond issue to construct and equip a building for transportation and administrative purposes, and make repairs to other buildings)

Of eight countywide sales tax increase proposals earmarked for school facility purposes, voters approved just two, in Cumberland, and Montgomery Counties. Some of those proposals were decided by relatively narrow margins, with a 259-vote defeat (21,846-22,105) in Madison County and a 193-vote victory margin (1,924-1,804) in Montgomery County.  To date 49 counties have adopted a sales tax to benefit school facilities, or nearly half of the state’s 102 counties.

In other voting, a proposed school consolidation failed to combine Alwood CUSD 225 and Cambridge CUSD 227. But another kind of school district reorganization passed in Bismarck-Henning CUSD 1, where the board was seeking voter authorization to enter into an agreement to jointly operate a cooperative high school with Rossville-Alvin CUSD 7.

Meanwhile, voters approved at least two of five propositions to require at-large election of school board members.  Such proposals were adopted in Community High School District 117 (Lake Villa), and Northwestern CUSD 2 (Palmyra).

Monday, April 3, 2017

School board elections, financial referenda on tap April 4

As voters prepare to choose their next school board members, some districts will also be watching the fate of eight county sales tax propositions in tomorrow’s general elections.

The following counties are voting on County Sales Facility Tax referendums:

Voters have passed six or more county sales tax proposals in
five of the past eight elections, often with high success rates.

  • Cumberland, 
  • Effingham, 
  • Hancock, 
  • Madison, 
  • Marion, 
  • Montgomery, 
  • Moultrie, and 
  • St. Clair 

Forty-seven of the state’s 102 counties currently levy a sales tax to benefit local school facilities since a 2007 state law was adopted to allow the referenda options. CSFTs are gaining momentum, with voters enacting 35 of the measures within the past four years.

In fact, voters have approved six or more county sales tax proposals in five of the past eight elections, with success rates of 50 percent or greater seen in three of the four most recent elections.

On Tuesday, another 35 local school district finance questions will be decided, including 20 bond issues and 15 local tax increase questions. Proposed bond issue amounts range from $2.5 million to $132.5 million; meanwhile, suggested tax increases range from 25 to 70 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation.

School board elections will be held in nearly all of the state’s 850 school districts. The four-year terms are decided in staggered elections every two years. The net turnover rate of school board members has ranged between 21 and 24 percent over the past 20 years.

IASB will report on the outcome of the April 4 local school referendums and county CSFT’s as soon as results are available.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Treasurer partners with IASB
to return unclaimed school cash

Some school districts have over $5,000 in unclaimed cash.
Some Illinois school districts have hundreds or even thousands of dollars waiting for them at the state treasurer’s office, which now is partnering with IASB to notify school districts and return unclaimed funds.

Unclaimed money belonging to districts might be a vendor payment filled out to the wrong name, such as to the school board of a named town, or it could be a refund from a rental deposit, or a lost bank account, or one of many other types of cash that has simply been misdirected or forgotten. It is the job of State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs to hold on to all these unclaimed funds and try to reunite them with their owners.

“We safeguard about $2 billion,” Frerichs said. “That includes more than 14 million properties. And it’s my job to get that money into the hands of Illinois residents.”

The treasurer’s office becomes the custodian of unclaimed property after private entities such as banks try for at least five years to locate the owner. Much of the money has been left behind or forgotten in a bank account. Some school districts could even have rightful ownership of cash in other states if they’ve done business there and somehow lost connections.

“Recently, we’ve notified several school districts that had more than $5,000 in unclaimed funds,” Frerichs said. “And we are encouraging all schools to check the I-CASH website to see if there are funds in the name of your district or individual schools.

“Please let your board and staff know that they too might have funds to claim. One in four Illinoisans discover property to claim through the Treasurer’s I-Cash program; with an average payout of $2900, they could be in for a big surprise,” he said.

For additional information on promoting I-CASH through your schools to staff and parents, or if you have questions about claiming property for your school, contact Dave Clarkin, Deputy Chief-of-Staff,

ISBE Briefs

School facility flooding issues
If your school district has experienced problems with facilities due to recent flooding in the northern portion of Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) may be able to provide help. Technical assistance is available on a case-by-case basis for districts that have encountered problems. School representatives are urged to contact Dan Johnson, school business services, at 217/785-8779 or email him at

Back-to-school webinar planned
State Superintendent Tony Smith has invited school administrators to participate in a back-to-school webinar on Aug. 9 at 1 p.m. Smith will discuss updates to the Every Student Succeeds Act, school funding issues, and state assessments. He also will allot time for a question-and-answer segment. Click here to register for the webinar.

GATA grants have four-step process
School districts will need to complete four steps to be qualified to apply for Fiscal Year 2018 GATA grants. The first step is entirely new for this year’s applications. It includes an authentication process in which an email address is requested in creating an account via the state’s authentication portal. Districts seeking grant funds will also need to be marked as pre-qualified. The GATA website includes a number of resources to assist with the application process. A detailed breakdown of the four are available in the July 25 State Superintendent’s Weekly Message.