CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today accepted the endorsement of the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) for the Helping Kids Learn plan, which will invest an unprecedented $10 billion in schools over the next four years – nearly three times bigger than any increase in state history.
The IFT represents 90,000 elementary and secondary teachers, school-related personnel and support staff such as teaching assistants, clerks, secretaries and bus drivers. The IFT also includes higher education faculty and staff, and public employees. The IFT represents employees in state government under each of the constitutional officers.
The Illinois Education Association (IEA) also endorsed the Governor’s education plan last Saturday. They boast a membership of 128,000 and are the largest education employees' organization in the state. IEA represents teachers, educational support professionals, higher education faculty and staff, retired education employees and students planning to become teachers.
“Our schools have been chronically underfunded for decades. Our Helping Kids Learn plan is not just an investment in schools, it’s an investment in our future, in our children,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “The historic funding levels that we are proposing will improve the quality of our education system, while raising the bar for accountability and building needed infrastructure.”
Helping Kids Learn continues the Governor’s commitment to schools by boosting funding by an unprecedented $1.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2008. Under the plan, general state aid to schools will increase by $800 million. Original estimates from ISBE the Governor Blagojevich’s budget would have raised the Foundation Level by $686 to $6,020. However, with new information based on local school estimates, that Foundation Level will increase by $724 to $6,058. With more funds per pupil, schools can make investments to improve textbook quality, modernize their technology, or invest in teachers.
“Governor Blagojevich’s Helping Kids Learn proposal is the blueprint that we need to give our kids a better future, by giving all of the state’s children better access to a quality education,” said James Dougherty, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “By increasing the Foundation Level by more than $700 per student, we’re starting to level the playing field between the education haves and the educational have-nots.”
The Governor’s plan means $33.7 million for students in the Springfield public schools. In addition, new estimates by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) indicate the foundation level, or guaranteed minimum amount of state and local funding to schools, in the Governor’s proposed budget increase to $6,058.
The increase in General State Aid under Helping Kids Learn will mean $7.2 million in additional funding for Springfield public schools.
Under the plan, the state will give schools additional funds to help afford special education teachers with $200 million in new spending that will increase the state’s reimbursement rate for special education teachers – the first increase districts have seen since 1985. With $153 million, the Governor’s plan will fully fund ‘mandated categorical’ programs like special education and transportation. The plan will also accelerate implementation of Preschool for All with $69 million in state support and dedicate additional resources for school districts that provide full-day kindergarten.
The Helping Kids Learn plan provides $100 million to support underperforming school districts that invest in after school tutoring, curriculum and textbook enhancements, longer school days or other proven strategies that raise student achievement. For Illinois’s deteriorating schools, the plan will invest $1.5 billion in a capital construction plan for projects to improve and upgrade classrooms and schools so children can learn and teachers can teach in a more conducive environment.