SPRINGFIELD – Legislation initiated by Governor Rod R. Blagojevich to reduce administrative burdens on schools and teachers known as the “Less Red Tape” bill won approval today in the Senate Education Committee. By a vote of 8 to 1, Senate Bill 2829 moves on to the full Senate for consideration. Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester), the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, is the lead sponsor of the “Less Red Tape” legislation that eliminates duplicative and unnecessary bureaucratic processes.
When Governor Blagojevich appointed new members to the State Board of Education in September of 2004, he called on the Board to reduce red tape and bureaucracy creating unnecessary burdens on school administrators and teachers, diverting focus from the classroom. The State Board immediately launched the “Less Red Tape” initiative, soliciting extensive feedback from educators and parents about how the rules could be changed to make life easier for school districts. As part of this effort, the State Board has eliminated approximately 500 pages of rules and numerous unnecessary regulatory burdens. The “Less Red Tape” legislation builds on these efforts to ease the bureaucratic burdens on teachers, administrators, schools and districts.
“We have to get rid of requirements that do nothing to help kids learn and only cause administrative headaches for school districts and teachers,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “This legislation will give the State Board of Education the ability to eliminate even more of these unnecessary bureaucratic burdens to clear the way for local districts to focus on serving students.”
"SB 2829 is a continuance of what we have been working towards over the past several years, which is helping the Illinois State Board of Education run more efficiently,” said Sen. Lightford. “This legislation will remove some unneeded regulations and cut down on unnecessary paperwork for ISBE."
“The Less Red Tape Legislation is something that is necessary and will be very helpful to students, teachers, administrators and school districts. These new laws are another important step in the process of improving the quality of education in schools and districts in Illinois,” said Jesse Ruiz, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education.
Senate Bill 2829 includes:
- School/District improvement plans: School districts across Illinois are struggling to comply with the federal mandates set out in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). SB 2829 eliminates several state-imposed planning burdens and allows ISBE to better support districts’ efforts to implement NCLB. It also eliminates duplicative requirements associated with the school and district improvement planning processes. Specifically, SB 2829:
- Removes the requirement for a district restructuring plan. This is not derived from NCLB, and therefore adds an unnecessary planning process for local districts that does not align with the NCLB framework.
- Eliminates school and district improvement panels. The process for appointing these panels by the State Superintendent has created unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork for both school districts and ISBE. Districts are still required to collaborate with parents, staff, and outside experts during the development of plans. With more local flexibility at the local level, districts can get outside input with less bureaucracy and more focus on improving the quality of education in schools and districts.
- Removes the requirement that the State Superintendent approve school and district improvement plans. The State Board’s current scoring and approval of the plans doesn’t provide meaningful feedback to districts, and comes too late in the improvement plan process to assist the district with the development of improvement strategies. Also, the State Board believes local districts are in the best position to decide what improvement strategies are best for them. This revision will free up State Board staff resources to provide more technical assistance in the development of improvement plans (the main obligation of a state with respect to improvement plans under NCLB). The State Board will continue to monitor plans to ensure they contain all the necessary legal requirements.
- Eliminates other redundant and unnecessary planning requirements. With NCLB’s focus on improvement plans to address adequate yearly progress, many of the other planning requirements in the School Code have become redundant and unnecessary exercises that don’t contribute to the development of effective improvement strategies.
- Reporting, Fiscal and Administrative Requirements. The state should not mandate reporting from school districts and teachers unless the benefits of receiving the information outweigh the burdens on districts to provide it. Some statutory reporting requirements fail this test.
A number of other statutory requirements can be revised to reduce the administrative and financial burdens on school districts associated with publishing financial information in newspapers, administering building code requirements, obtaining criminal background checks, and obtaining waivers and modifications of School Code mandates, including:
- Latch Key Reporting. Obtaining information for the latch key report (Sec. 2-3.11b) is a burden for local districts and teachers, and ISBE is not aware of any significant use of this information. SB 2829 eliminates this requirement from the School Code.
Administration of the Health/Life/Safety Code. SB 2829 eliminates the requirements for obtaining “extensions of time” under Section 2-3.12 for completing projects identified in a district’s 10-year health/life/safety survey. “Extensions of time” are burdensome and unnecessary paperwork for school districts and regional superintendents. Regional superintendents have other tools to make sure necessary repairs are accomplished that don’t involve a mere shuffling of paper.
Publication of Statement of Affairs. School districts pay thousands of dollars to publish a statement of affairs in a local newspaper as required by Section 10-17 of the School Code. SB 2829 reduces the length of the required notice to save districts money, but ensures that critical information is still made available to the public in their newspaper.
- Criminal Background Checks. SB 2829 allows part-time employees and substitutes to use a background check at any regional superintendent’s office for employment at any Illinois school district, regardless of whether the school district is within the regional superintendent’s educational service region. Currently, part-time employees and substitutes have to obtain multiple duplicative background checks if they work in several regions.
- Waivers and Modifications of the School Code. SB 2829 eliminates the requirement that a public hearing for waivers and modifications occur on a date other than the regularly scheduled board meeting. Instead, districts must only allow a time for public testimony separate from the regular period for public comment. Waives of physical education must still have a hearing on a separate day.
- District Transportation Claim Date. These new dates will give the districts additional time and mirror the current transmission dates for mandated categorical programs. The approval by the Regional Superintendent has proven to be an unnecessary bureaucratic step. With the advent of filing claims electronically, ISBE’s claim system automatically provides for many edits that appeared in paper claims of the past.