From:                     STATE SUPERINTENDENT

Sent:                      Tuesday, August 27, 2002 4:54 PM

To:                         'District Superintendents, ROEs, Directors of Special Education'

Subject:                 EFAB Recommendations and SAT Results

Good afternoon.  I have two timely items for you. 

 

First, I was in attendance at the Education Funding Advisory Board meeting at the State Board offices today.  Following significant discussion, the members made recommendations regarding the state’s school funding system.  Below is the statement I issued this afternoon, followed by EFAB’s news release.

 

Second, the College Board released the 2002 SAT and Advanced Placement results.  Although our number of test-takers is small, they have once again distinguished our state as the highest performing in the nation on both the SAT and AP tests.

 

 

Statement by State Superintendent Robert E. Schiller Regarding EFAB Recommendations

 

Local school districts are facing severe financial challenges throughout Illinois as the cost of providing a quality education is rising in all categories – from salaries and benefits to transportation and maintenance of facilities.

 

I believe there is general agreement – even in these generally difficult fiscal times -- that public education in Illinois needs more money and that the state should provide a greater proportional share of school funding than it does currently.

 

The members of the Governor’s Education Funding Advisory Board are to be commended and thanked for the careful job they have done of outlining avenues by which we can reach those goals.

 

The issues raised by EFAB come around for serious discussion every few years in our state, and they are certain to cause much public debate. In large part, that is the purpose of the work EFAB has done. EFAB’s suggested combination of property tax relief and state revenue increases would assure that the state will provide the majority of funding for elementary and secondary education. Its recommendations in the area of school district consolidation surely will bring about much discussion.

 

It is now up to all of us in the education community – and all Illinois taxpayers -- to evaluate carefully EFAB’s revenue-generating suggestions and comment on them. That is what the State Board of Education will do in the coming weeks.  

 

   

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     Education Funding Advisory Board

 

NEWS

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                      Further information: 217/782-4648

August 27, 2002

 

Cut Property Taxes, Increase State Support for Schools, Education Funding Board Says

 

The state’s Education Funding Advisory Board recommends a substantial reduction in local property taxes, a sizable increase in state support for schools and adding incentives to encourage school consolidation.  

 

EFAB members hammered out the recommendations in Springfield Tuesday after more than two years of deliberations and extensive discussions by work groups looking in-depth at problems with the school funding system.  The group will hold three public hearings around the state to get comments and suggestions before submitting the final report to the Governor and General Assembly in January. 

 

“The problems with school funding have been studied since I began my education career in Illinois forty years ago,” said Robert Leininger, EFAB chair and a former State Superintendent of Education.  “Every study has shown we are too dependent on local property taxes and the state is not paying its fair share in supporting our schools.  Illinois ranks near the bottom of all states in terms of the percentage of school funding from the state.” 

 

“We don’t need more studies to tell us the Illinois school funding system needs fixed.  These recommendations are designed to provide the framework to fix the school funding system. We want comments and suggestions, but we strongly believe that it is time that all policymakers stand up for the future of this state by acting to fix the way Illinois funds its schools.”

 

PROPERTY TAX RELIEF OF SEVERAL BILLION DOLLARS

 

EFAB proposes that local property taxes for education be cut by 25 to 50 % and replaced dollar-for-dollar by the state.  Illinois property owners pay about $9 billion in property taxes for education, so property tax relief would be between $2.25 billion to $4.5 billion.  No school would lose money or access to property tax support under the EFAB plan, since the state would replace the decreased property taxes dollar-for-dollar. 

 

INCREASED STATE SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS

 

EFAB recommends that General State Aid be increased to support a Foundation Level within the range of  $5,665 to $6,680 per pupil – an increase from the present level of $4,560.  The proposed level is based on studies of the spending practices of successful and efficient school districts.  A variety of revenue replacement options were suggested by EFAB.  Much could be generated by raising the income tax rate, closing loopholes and graduating exemptions.  The sales tax rate could be reduced while providing additional revenue by broadening the tax base. 

 

In addition, the recommendations call for the elimination of hold harmless and reinstatement of the continuing appropriation to assure districts of funding stability.  A Department of Human Services poverty count would be used for calculating poverty grants for districts, rather than the ten-year census count. 

 

The combination of property tax relief and state revenue increases assures that the state will provide the majority of funding for elementary and secondary education.

 

SCHOOL DISTRICT REORGANIZATION

 

Unit districts are the preferred school district organizational structure with high schools enrolling a minimum of 250 students, according to EFAB. Rather than requiring schools to consolidate, EFAB recommends a reasonable approach by expanding the incentives for reaching these targets.  Presently, the state has 893 school districts, 407 of which are units while 103 are high school districts and 383 are elementary districts.  Having all unit districts would simplify the funding mechanism, increase equity among districts and provide efficiencies in the delivery of services. 

 

To accomplish this reorganization, EFAB proposes that the current incentives be continued and additional incentives be added and that feasibility studies be required in all districts.  If consolidation resulted in the need for a new building, EFAB proposes that the state fund 100 % of the cost of the building.  In addition, a state implementation grant should accompany the reorganization and the new district should get a five-year exemption from the state designation system. 

 

While many categorical programs remain unchanged, the recommendations provide for a new transportation formula and a study to combine special education funding sources.  Combining some existing programs into block grants would increase the flexibility for local school districts while reducing the paperwork necessary to receive state funds.

 

Other recommendations include a simplification and reorganization of school district accounting and reporting procedures through a reduction in the number of levies and accounting funds

                                                           

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Illinois State Board of Education

 

NEWS

 

Illinois students again outperform nation on SAT, AP exams

 

Embargoed Until 10:30 a.m. (Eastern)                                       For Information: 217/782-4648

Tuesday, August 27

 

Illinois high school students who take the SAT college-entrance examination continue to far outperform their peers throughout the nation, State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller reported today.

 

Advanced Placement examination results for 2001-2002 also showed Illinois students outpacing the nation, Schiller said.

 

Mathematics scores for Illinois’ 2002 public and nonpublic high school graduates who took the SAT I averaged 80 points above the national average in 2002 and verbal scores were 74 points higher.  In addition, student gains over the last five years and the last ten years were higher for Illinois students than any other state.  The greatest improvements for the 2002 graduating class were recorded by Asians, blacks and American Indians.

 

The average SAT I verbal score for all public and nonpublic graduates tested was 578, up 2 points from 2001 and 16 from the 1997 average of 562; for mathematics the score increased 7 points to 596 from 589 in 2001 and 18 points from 578 in 1997. 

 

About 68 % of students who took the SAT I were from public schools.  Their verbal scores averaged 578, the same as the Illinois group overall.  In mathematics, public school students averaged 605, exceeding overall state average by 9 points. 

 

"While SAT and AP exams are taken by only a small percentage of Illinois students, the results clearly show that this group of students is meeting high achievement targets," Schiller said.  "These students, their parents and their schools are setting the pace for our state and nation.”

 

About 11 percent of Illinois' high school students take the SAT, compared to the ACT that is now given to almost all public high school students as a part of the Prairie State Achievement Examination.  Each of the SAT I tests is scored on an 800-point scale.

 

AP results lead nation

On Advanced Placement tests, scores of 4 or 5, the two highest scores, were achieved by 44 % of Illinois students compared to 36 % for students throughout the country.  The most popular AP examination subjects for Illinois students in 2001-2002 were United States History; English Literature and Composition; and Calculus.  

 

The State Board provides incentives for schools to increase participation on AP exams.  In 2001, the State Board provided fee support for over 2000 students and in 2002 for over 3500 students.  Data released today show strong increases in AP test participation for the last several years.

 

Almost 37,000 Illinois students took AP exams in the 2001-2002 school year, compared to under 33,000 in the previous year.  There were 484 Illinois schools with students taking AP examinations in 2001-2002. 

 

The College Board also administers the Advanced Placement tests taken by high school students, often for dual credit with higher education institutions. 

 

 

 

Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

 of Education

statesup@isbe.net