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February 5, 2004

Governor unveils legislation to create new Department of Education
Bi-partisan coalition of sponsors vow to push reform through the legislature

(SPRINGFIELD) –Flanked by lawmakers from both political parties and both legislative chambers, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today unveiled legislation to transfer all administrative responsibilities from the Illinois State Board of Education to a new Department of Education that will be directly accountable to the Governor.
“I am proud to have such a distinguished group of legislators standing with me as we introduce what I believe is the most significant bill of this session,” Governor Blagojevich said  “This bill will reform the educational system here in Illinois and bring accountability to our schools.”
The bill is being sponsored by legislators from both political parties and representing schools from all corners of the state. Chief sponsor in the state Senate is Sen. Vince Demuzio (D-Carlinville), member of the Senate Education Committee, and in the House is Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville).  The other lead sponsors are Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington); Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Westmont); Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago); Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago); Rep. Calvin Giles (D-Chicago), chairman of the House Education Committee; Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-Rock Falls), minority spokesman for the House Education Appropriations Committee and member of the House Education Committee; Rep. Mike Smith (D-Canton), chairman of the House Education Appropriations Committee; and Rep. Renee Kosel (R-Mokena), member of the House Education Appropriations Committee and minority spokeswoman for the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. 
“These legislators are standing here because they know it’s time to take responsibility,” Governor Blagojevich said.  “They are fighting for change, fighting for reform and fighting for the children of this state.”
The Governor introduced his proposal to address growing frustration over the bureaucratic burden placed on local school districts and educators.  During his State of the State address, Blagojevich referred to the more than 2,800 pages of rules and regulations that govern our schools.  He also noted the massive confusion over teacher re-certification and the recent State Board of Education blunder that denied thousands of Illinois teachers the training they are required to undergo in order to maintain certification.
“When our educators are being pulled in so many directions that they can’t focus on teaching our kids, we must take action,” Blagojevich said.
One of the new department’s primary goals will be helping school districts save money on non-instructional costs so more resources can be committed to the classroom.  Although Illinois ranks 16th in the nation when it comes to total spending on education, it ranks a dismal 40th in spending on classroom instruction. 
Blagojevich added that the need to direct more resources to the classroom is clear when one considers student achievement in Illinois: one-third of the state's third graders cannot read at the third grade level and 44 percent of eighth grade students don't meet eighth grade reading standards. 
Blagojevich thanked the legislators who are sponsoring the effort to reform education and he asked for their help in convincing their colleagues to approve his plan.
“This effort has the support of people who come from different places, who have different perspectives, who belong to different political parties,” Governor Blagojevich said, “But, the one thing that brings us all together is a common belief that the only way to improve education in Illinois is to bring accountability to a school system that doesn’t have any right now.  The hour for change is here.”

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