Education

Lawmakers Ratchet Up Graduation Requirements

By Sean Cavanagh — September 07, 2005 1 min read
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The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.

Illinois

Illinois public schools will begin classes this fall with more state funding, and tougher graduation requirements.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Democrat
Senate:
31 Democrats
27 Republicans
1 Independent

House:
65 Democrats
53 Republicans

Enrollment:
2 million

State general fund spending on schools for fiscal 2006 rose to $6.1 billion, a 5 percent increase over fiscal 2005. Most of that new money came from new revenues and the shuffling of dollars from other sources, said Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office of management and budget.

Lawmakers rejected more ambitious proposals to raise additional money through gambling revenues—including a proposal to allow new slot machines in certain casinos that was offered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But legislators approved a measure to phase in stricter requirements for high school graduation between now and 2012. Beginning this fall, entering 9th graders will be required to take a third year of mathematics before graduating, including Algebra 1 and geometry. Freshman entering in the fall of 2007 will need to take two years of science, up from one. Requirements for a fourth year of English and more writing-intensive courses are also being phased in.

Many school districts already exceed those mandates, state officials say. The tougher requirements still leave Illinois short of the requirements in many states, but they meet state leaders’ goal of raising standards without unduly burdening districts, Ms. Carroll said.

In other action, Gov. Blagojevich, a Democrat, also signed the Safe Games Illinois Act, which prohibits the sale or rental of violent and sexually explicit video games to anyone under age 18. Some critics, however, have questioned whether that measure will survive legal challenges.

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