Illinois Loop
Your guide to education in Illinois
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The Illinois Loop website is no longer updated on a a regular basis. However, since many of the links and articles have content and perspectives that are just as valid today, we are keeping this website online for parents, teachers and others researching school issues and solutions.
Broken links:If you encounter links that no longer lead to the desired article, it's still often possible to retrieve them. Most of the linked items include a sentence or more from the original. Copy a section of that text, and type it into Google surrounded by quotes. More often than not, Google will find the article at a revised location.
-- Kevin C. Killion, writer, editor and webmaster


Illinois Laws and Rules

    "If twelve or fifteen hundred schools are to be placed under one general administration, an attention so divided will amount to a dereliction of them to themselves ... It is surely better, then, to place each school at once under the care of those most interested in its conduct."
    -- Thomas Jefferson, 1817

Regulations are Strangling Schools

  • Study: Rules and Regulations Are Paralyzing U.S. Schools by George Clowes, School Reform News, March 1, 2005. Excerpts:
    "A new study from the bipartisan legal reform coalition Common Good found U.S. schools are greatly over-regulated, in many cases to the point of paralysis. The study details thousands upon thousands of laws and regulations that apply to public schools in New York City. ... The study, titled 'Over Ruled: The Burden of Law on America's Public Schools,' found more than 60 separate sources of laws and regulations governing the operation of a typical public high school in New York City, imposing thousands of specific obligations on school officials. The sources of regulation include the following:
    • 846 pages of New York State education law;
    • 720 pages of regulations from the New York State Commissioner of Education;
    • 690 pages of the No Child Left Behind Act;
    • 309 pages of the New York City teachers' contract and memorandum of understanding;
    • 200+ pages of regulations controlling student discipline; and
    • 43 volumes of appeals decisions--totaling 15,062 decisions--made by the New York State Commissioner of Education."

  • Over Ruled: The Burden of Law on America's Public Schools, a study by Common Good.

  • Can There Be Beneficial School Regulations? by David W. Kirkpatrick, January 2003. "Since regulations, like death and taxes, are certain, can they not at least be rational and beneficial? Some time ago, John Gardner, member-at-large of the Milwaukee School Board, had ... suggestions for four regulations he says are needed. They are: 1. Public, verifiable, comparable data on what happens to graduates of schools after they leave their respective schools ... 2. Public, verifiable, comparable data about enrollment, attendance, academic skills, and promotions/graduations across all ... education sectors ... 3. Clear, consistent statements of what academic skills are considered proficient ... 4. How much money, from all governmental sources, is actually spent, per student, per year, per school ..."

  • Educational Hypocrisy by David W. Kirkpatrick, July 27, 2006. "[In discussing] regulations of which [status quo educationists] complain, let it first be said that they do indeed have a point, the public schools are burdened with too many unrealistic and unreasonable restrictions. These show an almost complete lack of confidence in their ability to do their job if allowed freedom, and an attempt to prevent them from doing any wrong. State and federal legislators and regulators seem to be incapable of recognizing that, to the degree you make it difficult for people to do wrong you make it difficult for them to do right. Having said this, however, what is the source of virtually all of these laws and restrictions? Why from the very public school establishment that objects to them. If you don't believe that, take them at their word and try to repeal some of those restrictions such as, say, the blizzard of various certifications that apply to educators. These did not arise because of public demand or taxpayer concerns. They were promoted by educators themselves, educators who fight tooth and nail in opposition to any attempt to repeal them, although study after study for decades have proven conclusively that, at best, they are ineffective and at worst, more commonly, they are downright harmful. ...
      "Accepting their claims that these restrictions keep the public schools from being as effective as they might otherwise be, to which there is some truth, look at how they propose to resolve the problem. Saying that regulations prohibit public schools from succeeding, an excuse for failure, they propose placing the same burden on nonpublic schools. In other words, rather than give the public schools the flexibility they see in the nonpublic sector, let's make the latter be similarly ineffective. If we can't succeed you shouldn't be able to do so either."

Illinois State Board of Education

  • Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)

  • ILEARN (Illinois Local Education Agency Retrieval Network): this site from the ISBE provides a wealth of financial information about each individual school district.

  • ISBEWatch: a watchdog group keeping an eye on the ISBE, particularly as it pertains to Gov. Blagojevich's 2004 reorganization. Also has an open discussion forum.

  • Editorial cartoonist Eric Allie's view of Gov. Blagojevich's attack on the ISBE: "If you seek progress, tear down this wall." Yes, but what is the real wall? Click to see!

Illinois Public School Districts

    For listings and details on government school districts and schools in Illinois, click here.

Education Reform in Illinois

       How Well Is Illinois Educating Its Neediest Children?   
    Student Achievement:D-
    Achievement Trends:No Progress
    Education Reform:D+

  • How Well Are States Educating Our Neediest Children? Thomas B. Fordham Institute, November 2006.
  • Section of study on Illinois: "The National Assessment for Educational Progress shows that Illinois's low-income and minority students score worse than their counterparts in all but 12 states and have made no significant progress over the last decade. This record is among the worst in the nation. ... Whatever the measures and targets, the Prairie State is not doing enough to improve student learning. ... Illinois has middling academic standards, no statewide high school exit exam, and an archaic reliance on education schools as the only producers of teachers for public classrooms. ... Illinois's education problems are real, but the state's patchy, belated approach to fixing them ensures only that the state will continue to lag behind the rest of the nation. Politicians may spew all the hot air they want, but it'll take a lot more than a warm wind to disperse the ominous student achievement cloud hanging over the Land of Lincoln."

Illinois Constitution and Current Statutes

    Here are a few links for information on the state laws, rules and bureaucracy regarding education in Illinois:

  • Illinois Constitution
    • Article X - Education: this short article of the Illinois Constitution authorizes the state's interest in education.

      • Section 1 simply lays out the goals, including provision for "an efficient system of high quality public educational institutions and services." Special note should be given to the phrasing in these sentences: "Education in public schools through the secondary level shall be free. There may be such other free education as the General Assembly provides by law." (Italics added.) This seems to leave open the possibility of state funding for schools not operated by the government.

      • Section 2 empowers a state board of education.

      • Section 3 is Illinois' very own "Blaine Amendment" prohibiting any funding for "sectarian" purposes. Note that the word "sectarian" historically does not mean "religious"; sectarian actually refers to specific sects. (The distinction is significant in terms of 19th century anti-Catholic fervor, from which these things arose. For more information about this, go directly to the Blaine Amendments page of this website.) This phrasing rules out, for example, a school run by a Catholic parish or diocese, but it apparently does not rule out funding for an independent school that includes non-denomination Christian or Jewish coursework in its curriculum.

      • Compare the current text with the revision proposed in the Heartland Institute's "Report on School Finance Reform".

  • Note: "ILCS" refers to the Illinois Compiled Statutes, the consolidated body of Illinois laws. The Illinois School Code is Chapter 105 of the ILCS.

  • Illinois statutes (click here for all Illinois statutes)

Recent Illinois Legislation

Pending Legislation

    Actions in the Illinois Senate and House can drastically affect the learning environment of your children. You can check to see what is happening with education legislation in Springfield with some of these sources:

  • New School Laws - 2004, Illinois Association of School Boards. This compilation of bills passed by the General Assembly describes bills sent to the Governor for final disposal and provides Public Act numbers for those already signed into law.

  • "Hot Bills"
    Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance

  • Illinois Business Roundtable - Education Alert: This is another good site listing pending Illinois legislation on ed issues.

  • ED-RED calls itself the "voice of suburban schools" and has a membership consisting of the superintendents of most of the Chicago suburban school districts. Not too surprisingly, they are in favor of loosening achievement goals, giving more money to school districts, weakening tax caps, and keeping as much authority in the hands of district administrators as possible. Nonetheless, they do have some goals that are consistent with those of education reformers: For example, they oppose handing over control of certification to a board dominated by education unions. The ED-RED website is an excellent source of information about current legislation in Springfield, and about our state legislators and the school districts they cover and the committees they are on.

  • Another good source of information about pending legislation in Springfield is this Digest of New School Laws, 2004 provided by the Illinois Association of School Boards. Of course, most of these boards and the IASB itself are highly oriented towards preserving the status quo, so don't expect unbiased coverage. However, this does provide a heads-up.

  • You can also track specific legislation, using the handy search tool we've provided here. Use "HB" for House bills and "SB" for Senate bills. For example, to read about the status of Senate Bill 1074, enter "SB1074" (without the quotes) and click Search.

        Illinois Loop
      Legislation Tracker  

    Or, go directly to the website of the Illinois General Assembly for full information on all pending bills, resolutions and executive orders.

Who's Who in Springfield

Information a School District SHOULD Provide

Open Meetings Act

    The state of Illinois has an Open Meetings law ... Government in Illinois can't operate behind closed doors.

    -- Illinois Press Association

  • Illinois Opening Meetings Act: information from the Citizen Advocacy Center.

  • In 2006, the Illinois general assembly amended the Open Meetings Act to broaden the definition of a "meeting". It now includes gatherings, whether in person or by telephone call, video or audio conference, electronic means (such as e-mail, chat, and instant messaging), or other means of contemporaneous interactive communication for the purpose of discussing public business.

  • Q&A from the Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, Fall 2005:

      Q: If a public body forms a task force ... does that task force have to comply with the Open Meetings Act?

      A: Yes, the task force is a subsidiary public body and must comply with the Open Meetings Act. The issue is ... whether or not the task force was created by a public body, and is responsible to a primarily public body. If the answers are yes, it is a public body. Hopf v. Topcorp, Inc. 628 N.E.2nd 311(ILL.App. 1 Dist. 1993)

  • Full text of the statute

  • Illinois Open Meetings Act, a better-formatted version of the text of the statute, from the Springfield Law Offices of Donald M. Craven.

  • Illinois Open Meetings Act: information from the office of the Attorney General of Illinois. Of particular note:

  • Some crucial points from the Attorney General's Guide to the Open Meetings Act (2004):

    • What meetings are covered?
      • "Meeting" is defined as "any gathering of a majority of a quorum of the members of a public body held for the purpose of discussing public business."
      • "... includes in-person, telephonic and electronic assemblages."
      • "The Act applies only to public bodies. It does not apply to private, not-for-profit corporations ..."
      • "Public body" is defined to include "all legislative, executive, administrative or advisory bodies of the state, counties, townships, cities, villages, incorporated towns, school districts and all other municipal corporations, boards, bureaus, committees or commissions of this State, and any subsidiary bodies of any of the foregoing including but not limited to committees and subcommittees which are supported in whole or in part by tax revenue ..."
      • "Questions frequently arise about whether the Act covers meetings of various subgroups, such as committees, subcommittees and advisory bodies. The answer is yes."
      • The Act's "language should not be interpreted to create an exception for other groups, such as advisory committees or subcommittees which do not spend or use tax revenue; they, too, are covered." [The A.G.'s Guide provides substantial additional discussion on these points.]
    • Exceptions for closed meetings:
      • "The exceptions to the Open Meetings Act are limited in number and very specific. Because they are contrary to the general requirement that meetings be open, the exceptions are to be strictly construed, extending only to subjects clearly within their scope."
      • "The exceptions can be grouped under the following six headings, but it is important to emphasize that not all matters or meetings that might fall under the scope of the general headings are exempt -- only those within the scope of a specific exception."
        • "Employment/Appointment Matters"
        • "Legal Matters"
        • "Business Matters" [primarily concerned with purchase or lease of real property, or investments]
        • "Security/Criminal Matters"
        • "Student disciplinary cases" or "The placement of individual students in special education programs and other matters relating to individual students."
        • Miscellaneous specific exceptions
      • For much more detail about exceptions for closed meetings, see the Attorney General's Guide
    • "Taping and Filming: ... any person may record a public meeting 'by tape, film or other means.'"
    • Minutes:
      • "All public bodies shall keep written minutes of all their open meetings"
      • "Minutes shall include ... a summary of discussion on all matters proposed, deliberated, or decided, and a record of any votes taken." [We would take that to mean that any discussion must be summarized, rather than just a simple note that a discussion took place.]
      • "The minutes of meetings open to the public shall be available for public inspection within 7 days of the approval of such minutes by the public body."
    • Public notice:
      • "Public notice must be given for all meetings..."
      • " posting a copy of the notice at the principal office [or] at the building in which the meeting is to be held."
      • A "schedule of regular meetings [must be posted] at the beginning of each calendar or fiscal year and shall state the regular dates, times, and places of such meetings."
      • "An agenda for each regular meeting is required to be posted 48 hours in advance of such meeting"
      • "Public notice of any special meeting except a meeting held in the event of a bona fide emergency, or of any rescheduled regular meeting, or of any reconvened meeting, shall be given at least 48 hours before such meeting, which notice shall also include the agenda..."
      • "The Act requires that notice be given ... by sending a notice to each news medium that has filed an annual request for notice. Such news media providing a local address or telephone number for notice are entitled to notice of special, emergency, rescheduled or reconvened meetings ..."
    • "Public meetings must be held at times and places convenient and open to the public."
    • "If a public body holds a meeting without fulfilling the public notice and public convenience requirements, it has violated the Act."
    • Courts have ruled that a meeting is not held in a place "convenient" to the public if held in a room too small for the numbers of citizens who wished to attend.
    • Enforcement:
      • "... any person, including the State's Attorney of the county in which such noncompliance may occur, may bring a civil action in the circuit court for the judicial circuit in which the alleged noncompliance has occurred or is about to occur ... prior to or within 60 days of the meeting"
      • "Violation of the Act is a criminal offense, a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1500 and imprisonment for up to 30 days."

  • Mailing list on school meetings:
    The Illinois School Code provides this mandate on meeting notices and agendas:

         Sec. 10-21. Additional duties of board. Boards of education in addition to the duties enumerated above shall have the additional duties enumerated in Sections 10-21.1 through 10-21.11.

         Sec. 10-21.6. Mailing list. To establish and maintain a mailing list of the names and addresses of persons who each year request inclusion thereon, and to mail to those persons copies of board agenda, school budgets, audits, and within 10 days of each board meeting, a copy of the approved meeting minutes. Annual subscription fees approximating the costs of reproducing and mailing the materials may be charged to the subscribers at the beginning of the subscription period.

  • The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) also has its own guide to the OMA:
    School Board Meetings: Requirements of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (2006) by Terrence M. Barnicle and James P. Bartley, Illinois Association of School Boards. Some highlights learned from this document:
    • Websites:
      • Posting of Agendas: If the public body (such as the school district) has a Web site that is maintained by the full time staff of the public body, then ...
        • It is required to post on its Web site the agenda of any regular meeting. This posting shall remain on the Web site until the regular meeting is concluded.
        • Notice of any special meeting shall also be posted on the Web site, and the notice must include the agenda for the special meeting.
      • Posting of Minutes: The minutes of any regular meeting open to the public must be posted on the Web site within seven days of the approval of the minutes and shall remain posted for at least 60 days.
    • Minutes: Minutes must include "a summary of the discussion on all matters proposed, deliberated or decided, and a record of any votes ... the Open Meetings Act appears to require that the minutes reflect what discussion occurred and not merely list the topics that were discussed." (See the linked document for details and examples.)
    • Closed meetings:
      • Voting to hold a closed session meeting requires a citation to the specific statutory exception.
      • Recordings: "All public bodies, including committees and commissions, must also keep a verbatim record of their closed meetings in the form of an audio or video recording."
    • Location: The requirement that meetings be held in a convenient location may require change in ordinary venue when the public body is aware that the normal venue will be too small for the number of citizens that wish to attend.
    • Committee and Subcommittees: "The creation of committees does not circumvent the Act, but each committee is subject to and governed by the provisions of the Act. A committee or subcommittee of a public body is required to give notice of its meetings, keep minutes and comply with all other requirements of the Act. However, the Act does not apply to meetings or conferences of department heads, staff or employees. A citizens committee appointed to advise a school board is covered by the Act; a committee appointed to advise a superintendent or principal is not covered."

  • Meeting agendas: A public body cannot vote or take action on topics that have not been announced in advance on a meeting agenda. This applies to school boards, and also to committees or task forces created by the boards.

  • Law Offices of Donald M. Craven: This law firm serves as general counsel to the Illinois Press Association, the Illinois Broadcasters Association and the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. This has given them quite a background on Illinois OMA and FOIA law. Useful documents on their website concerning OMA include:

  • Do your experiences on a school committee sound like this: "I never realized what it was at the time. At most I had a vague sensation that something was not quite right, but I could not figure out what it was."

    If so, you may have been "Delphi'ed"! Read more about that here:

    Illinois Loop: School Committees and the Delphi Method

Freedom of Information Act

Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act

    "One of the major themes in public administration is the tendency for producers to gain control over the agencies that are supposed to regulate them on behalf of consumers. ... A large body of literature is devoted to 'regulatory capture' and its undesirable consequences."
    -- Myron Lieberman, Public Education: An Autopsy

    Shady doings in your district? Then you'll want to read up on the Illinois Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act, enacted in 1991 to expose the fraudulent actions of state employees and politicians.

  • A Citizen's Guide to the Illinois Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act, prepared by the Citizen Advocacy Center

  • Answers to FAQs Regarding the State Officials and Employee Ethics Act, Ethics Act Committee of the Illinois Council of School Attorneys, 2004.

Special Education Law

  • Special Education Advocacy Center: The Special Education Advocacy Center (SEAC) is a 501(c)(3) organization working to create an integrated effort by parents to improve educational opportunity and outcomes for students with disabilities.

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