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For Immediate Release
June 29, 2006

More than $2 million in grants available through Grow Your Own Teacher program

SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to increase teacher retention in hard-to-staff schools, more than $2,250,000 is now available for ‘Grow Your Own Teacher’ implementation.

The Grow Your Own Teachers Initiative works to encourage and support paraprofessionals, parents, and other active community members in becoming certified as teachers, and encourages graduates of the program to accept positions in schools that have difficulty attracting or retaining qualified teachers.

It provides loan forgiveness if the candidate teaches for five years in a hard-to-staff school or hard-to-staff teaching position. A “hard-to-staff school” is an Illinois public school that ranks in the upper third among public schools of its type (e.g., elementary, middle, secondary) in terms of the rate of attrition among teachers.

Grant awards are expected to top out at approximately $200,000. Eligible applicants are consortia whose membership includes at least one four-year, accredited institution of higher education with an approved teacher education program, at least one school district or group of schools and at least one community organization. Membership in a consortium by additional four-year institutions, schools and community organizations, as well as by two-year institutions of higher education or school employees’ unions, is optional.

An eligible “community organization” is a nonprofit organization that has a demonstrated capacity to train, develop and organize parents and community leaders into a constituency that will hold the school and the school district accountable for achieving high academic standards.

The expanded program was refined with the recent passage of SB2235 and is part of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s bold new education plan aimed at reversing 25 years of chronic underfunding in the state’s public schools.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Fiscal Year 2007 budget includes a major increase in education funding - $415 million more for PreK-12 education. The budget also funds new initiatives proposed by the Governor including universal preschool and a grant program for families struggling to afford the high costs of college.

Over four years, Governor Blagojevich dedicated $3.8 billion of new funding for Illinois schools. This represents more new money invested in education than any other state in the Midwest, more than 43 other states in the nation, and more than any administration in one term in Illinois history.

The grant period begins July 1, 2006, and will extend from the execution date of the grant through June 30, 2007.

Applications should be submitted now for activities planned within this fiscal year. Funding in the subsequent years is contingent upon a sufficient appropriation from the General Assembly and satisfactory progress in the preceding grant period.

Applications will be accepted anytime until March 1, 2007 or until all funds have been awarded.

Mail the original and four copies to the attention of Linda Jamali, Illinois State Board of Education, 100 North First Street, S-306, Springfield, Illinois 62777-0001.

The application is available online at: http://www.isbe.net/certification/pdf/rfp_gyo.pdf.

For more information visit the Web site of Grow Your Own Illinois, a project of the Illinois State Board of Education and the Chicago Learning Campaign, at www.growyourownteachers.org.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777