SPRINGFIELD - Paving the way for real education reform this legislative session, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, Senate President Emil Jones, and Senator Miguel del Valle unveiled today a new plan to make the Illinois State Board of Education accountable to the Governor, legislators, school districts and school children. The Governor, President Jones and Sen. del Valle announced they have reached an agreement to replace all members on the Illinois State Board of Education and require members to serve at the will of the governor, allowing them to be replaced if they do not achieve results.
“Today, we are taking a giant step forward to improve our schools. This past January, I announced a comprehensive plan to reform the education system in Illinois. I’m not satisfied with the state of education in the state of Illinois. We are not doing enough to help our local schools. And we are not doing enough to protect the taxpayers’ money and invest it in the classroom, where it belongs. We need to make sure that the people making these decisions are accountable to the taxpayers, to the parents, to local schools and to the children they serve. Accountability is the centerpiece of reform. Without accountability, nothing changes, nothing improves and no one ever has to answer for themselves. Today, I’m here with Senate President Jones and state Senator Miguel del Valle, to propose legislation that will make the State Board of Education accountable to the Governor and to the General Assembly in a way that is has never been before,” said Governor Blagojevich.
“The people of Illinois – moreover the school children – are extremely fortunate that the Governor has assumed full responsibility for the condition of public education in the State of Illinois,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Miguel del Valle, who is the chair of the Senate Education Committee.
The new legislation calls for the State Board of Education to remain the state’s education agency, but the board will undergo a radical transformation. The bill replaces all nine current members of the board as of July 1, 2004 and members will serve at the will of the Governor. This allows the Governor to replace board members if they do not perform or achieve results. The plan also reduces the contract of the state superintendent from three years to a maximum of two years.
In addition, the legislation subjects the State Board to line-item budgeting for the first time. This change allows the Governor and legislature more control over the board’s financial management. Line-item budgeting would also allow for the restructuring of the agency by eliminating unnecessary divisions and creating new divisions to focus on areas such as early childhood education.
“The Governor has proven his commitment on the issue of education reform. He came before the full Senate and testified at the Committee of the Whole. He took our recommendations and worked with us to provide this first real step toward reform,” said Illinois Senate President Emil Jones.
Similar to what the Governor outlined during his State of the State Address in January, the new legislation would create cost-saving measures such as the creation of shared service centers to allow school districts to pool their resources to save on administration costs. The legislation also would create a new purchasing program to allow local schools districts access to statewide contracts where they might find lower prices. In the area of school construction, local districts will have the option of bringing in the Capital Development Board to manage their projects at far lower costs.
“We have now come to an agreement that will allow us to continue to improve quality education for the children of Illinois,” Assistant Senate Majority Leader Patrick Welch (D-Peru), who is the sponsor of the school construction legislation.
To assist local school districts with their health care costs, the proposal authorizes districts to participate in the state’s prescription drug purchasing plan. It’s estimated the state’s drug plan will be 8 percent cheaper than their current drug plans.
The proposed changes are expected to help schools save between $250 and $450 million over four years.
To address the 2,800 pages of rules and regulations imposed on local school districts by the Illinois State Board of Education, most of the recommendations from the School Code Commission will be sent to the General Assembly for approval. The process of re-writing the school code will reduce the number of confusing and burdensome rules that school districts are subjected to. Governor Blagojevich recognized members of his task force studying education accountability, led by Dr. Michael Bakalis, and thanked them for their recommendations on how to streamline the education bureaucracy and make the system more accountable to local districts.
“This plan paves the way for major reform in the state’s regulation of its schools. It has the potential to make life easier for all of the nearly 900 school districts in Illinois and help them help children learn better. This plan gives us the chance to work together to fix what’s broken,” said the Governor.
Governor Blagojevich thanked all the members of the General Assembly who worked with him to bring real education reform to Illinois, including Senator del Valle and Senate President Jones. The Governor also acknowledged the hard fought efforts on behalf of education reform of Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), Rep. Calvin Giles (D-Chicago) and Rep. Mike Smith (D-Canton).
Governor Blagojevich also thanked members of the House Republican Caucus for their education ideas (introduced in HB 7301), including Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-Rock Falls), Rep. Renee Kosel (R-Mokena), Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville) and House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Plainfield).
As the General Assembly debates education legislation, the Governor explained real reform could not have been accomplished without the support of the late state senator from Carlinville, Vince Demuzio.
“I want to make it clear that none of this could have happened without the leadership, the strength and the stature of someone who is in my thoughts and prayers, someone who cared more about education than anyone I know, the original sponsor of our education reform plan – Senator Vince Demuzio. This bill is a testament and a tribute to him,” said Governor Blagojevich.