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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 1999

RYAN HAILS ED-FLEX IN ILLINOIS, SUPPORTS PRESIDENT CLINTON FOR SIGNING EXPANSION BILL

SPRINGFIELD - Governor George H. Ryan commended President Bill Clinton for signing the Education Flexibility Partnership Program (Ed-Flex) which allows all 50 states a greater say in the control of federal educational programming.

Twelve states, including Illinois, are currently Ed-Flex demonstration states. The federal Ed-Flex proposal gives all other states the power to seek permission from the U.S. Department of Education to spend federal K-12 and vocational education funds without complying with national or state regulations.

"Participating in Ed-Flex is a natural step in the efforts that Illinois is making to develop a system focused on high standards for all students, while maintaining local flexibility and strong accountability," Ryan said.

"With the authority to make decisions at the state level, we can grant waivers that are tailored to individual school districts' needs, which results in immediate responses to the changing demographics of a district's populations," he said. "No more cookie cutter approaches to education."

Currently, the Ed-Flex Demonstration Program is administered through the Illinois State Board of Education. Fourteen districts participate in the program, including schools in Oak Lawn, Joliet, Belleville, Valmeyer, Palatine, Zion, Urbana, East Peoria, DuQuoin, Vandalia, DuPage County, Marion, Lawrence County, and East St. Louis. Most waiver requests seek implementation of school-wide programs even though low-income percentage rates are below the statutory threshold. Other waivers include permission to provide larger per-pupil allocations to one elementary school over another; and waivers permitting districts to provide Title I services to high school students.

The Act signed by President Clinton protects the authority of current Ed-Flex states, like Illinois, by stating that the law does not apply to them until they apply to renew their Ed-Flex authority. Illinois' waiver authority expires in July 2002.

The requirement includes making states first allocate Title I funds to schools with more than 75% of their children in poverty before distributing those funds to other schools.

The measure removes the Ed-Flex program from the federal Goals 2000 statute, but requires states to have implemented content and performance standards and assessments under the Title I program for disadvantaged children.

Educators are quick to note that the broad scope of the new law makes it clear that some federal requirements may not be waived including those regarding health, safety and civil rights. After one year, Illinois school districts in the Ed-Flex program will deliver their first preliminary reports in October.


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