SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today commended the Senate Education committee for unanimously sending to the Senate floor the Governor’s proposal to strengthen high school graduation requirements for Illinois schools. The new requirements are a key component of his Higher Standards, Better Schools plan – a comprehensive proposal designed to better prepare students to compete and succeed in today’s economy. The new requirements are included in floor amendment one to Senate Bill 575, sponsored by Sen. Miguel del Valle (D – Chicago).
“I would like to commend the Senate Education committee for taking this step to set higher standards for our public high schools,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We need to build our efforts of the past two years to improve education in our state. We have to help students help themselves succeed, both in the classroom and outside of it, by expecting more.”
To arm students with the skills and knowledge they need after high school, the Governor’s Higher Standards, Better Schools plan requires students to take an additional year of math. Currently, Illinois students are required to take only two years of math. Math skills are critical in today’s high-tech workplace. The Governor’s plan requires students to take a third year of math and requires students to take algebra and geometry to graduate. Right now, it is possible for a student to graduate from an Illinois high school without ever taking algebra.
Additionally, Illinois students can currently graduate from high school with only one year of science. The Governor’s plan requires students to take an additional year of science.
Effective writing and communication skills are also critical to being successful in college and the workplace, but currently, Illinois students are not required to take a single writing-intensive class. The Governor’s plan changes that by requiring two writing-intensive courses, one being an English course. It also adds an additional year of English to ensure students take English in each year of high school.
“We desperately need to ramp up our high school graduation requirements,” said Interim State Superintendent of Education Randy Dunn. “We are sitting at the bottom of the barrel currently, but passing this legislation to the Senate floor is a step in the right direction. Higher graduation requirements mean that our students will perform better not only in high school classrooms, but also as they move on to higher education or the workforce.”
The Governor’s comprehensive plan includes components not included in Senate Bill 575, including proposed funding for initiatives that go beyond increasing the base requirements for graduation from high school.
In addition to increasing the requirements in math, science, and English, the Governor’s plan provides resources targeted toward other courses. The Higher Standards, Better Schools plan includes financial incentives for schools to offer more foreign language, arts, music and agriculture education courses.
The plan also recognizes that preparation for college and the workforce requires more than just improving the base curriculum. For college-bound students, the plan calls for an expansion of AP courses and dual enrollment. AP courses, in a wide range of subjects, give students exposure to college-level material, giving them a jump start on the competition when they begin college. The plan also expands access to dual credit-dual enrollment programs at community colleges. Thousands of high school students are already taking community college courses, but other high schools and community colleges need to encourage even more students to participate.
Just as schools should prepare students for college, they should also recognize that some students enter the workforce after high school graduation. These students need to be trained to get good jobs as soon as they finish high school. As part of his plan, the Governor is calling for improving career and technical education services.
In addition to the $140 million in new funding the Governor proposed in his Fiscal Year 2006 Budget, the Governor is proposing an additional $300 million in new funding for education to help schools implement his Higher Standards, Better Schools plan. The Governor supports authorizing an increase of positions at Illinois’ existing riverboat casinos. This plan would increase education funding without asking the hardworking people of Illinois to shoulder the burden by paying more in sales taxes or income taxes and it does not bring gaming to places where it doesn’t already exist.
Senate Bill 575 now moves on to the full senate.