Board Will Defy Illinois Mandates
The Springfield, Ill., board of education has voted to defy certain requirements of a state school-reform law, as a "symbolic" expression of its opposition to mandates it says the legislature has failed to fund.
In the face of a projected $4-million budget deficit, the board decided Feb. 1 to ignore state requirements concerning curriculum objectives, student testing, and school "report cards" to be issued to parents. The action is expected to save $25,000 for the district, but board members said their motivation was more symbolic than fiscal.
"We agreed that this was something we wanted to do philosophically and symbolically as much as financially," said Jean Sherrick, the member who sponsored the action.
The board contends it already has curriculum objectives in place and says its student-testing program is adequate. It also argues that it shared information about student performance with the public even before the state required the annual school report cards, which have been a controversial feature of the reform law among local education officials statewide.
Harold Seamon, executive director of the Illinois School Boards Association, said he had not detected "any groundswell" of districts planning to follow Springfield's lead. He noted that some local administrators have praised the symbolic gesture even as others criticized it.
"I wouldn't foreclose the possibility of some concerted joint action by school districts," he said. "But it's too early to predict that kind of action now."
State education leaders have mounted a campaign to persuade the General Assembly to increase taxes to provide additional funding for schools. Gov. James R. Thompson has warned that without a tax increase, public schools can expect no extra state support next year.
Springfield board members said they felt justified in scrapping unfunded state programs when they were being forced to make drastic budget cuts, including laying off 75 employees, to curtail their budget deficit.--Don Sevener