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May 31, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich’s stricter high school graduation requirements earn final legislative approval
Key component of Higher Standards, Better Schools plan awaits Governor’s signature

SPRINGFIELD – After winning approval in the Illinois House tonight, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced he will sign Senate Bill 575 - his proposal to strengthen high school graduation requirements for Illinois schools.  The new requirements, which unanimously passed in the Senate last month, are a crucial part of his Higher Standards, Better Schools plan – a comprehensive proposal designed to better prepare students to compete and succeed in today’s economy.  Sponsored by Sen. Miguel del Valle (D – Chicago) and Rep. Calvin Giles (D – Chicago), the new requirements passed in the House, 104 to 10. 
“I look forward to signing this legislation, and am proud to have worked with the General Assembly on passing these important new graduation standards,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We must expect more from public education, and it is critical that we help Illinois’ schoolchildren live up to these new requirements. They will prepare the next generation for the life that awaits them after high school.”  
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 that two of the math credits be in algebra and geometry.  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. 
“As a proud sponsor of this legislation, I applaud my colleagues for agreeing with the Governor and myself that our school children deserve more.  They deserve more math, more science, more English and better preparation for what lies ahead after high school graduation,” said Rep. Giles.
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. The President of the University of Illinois system, B. Joseph White, has endorsed this effort to better prepare the children of the state to move on to successful careers in college or the workforce.
In addition to the graduation requirements included in Senate Bill 575, the Governor has proposed providing 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.  Additionally, for college-bound students, the Governor is seeking to increase funding for college preparatory courses such as Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses.  To ready students for the workforce, the Governor has called for increased funding for career and technical education.
Senate Bill 575 now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.


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