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September 14, 2004

Gov. Blagojevich signs major education reform; appoints new members to Illinois State Board of Education
New leadership and reform to lead to greater accountability at Illinois State Board of Education

Governor appoints Jesse Ruiz first Latino Chairman of State Board
SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to hold the Illinois State Board of Education accountable, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 3000 – restructuring the Illinois State Board of Education. Upon signing the critical legislation, Gov. Blagojevich appointed seven new members to state board.  The new membership and new sweeping reform shifts the focus of the Illinois State Board of Education from just regulating school districts to improving education of students in Illinois and being accountable to governors, legislators, school districts, parents and children.
“In August, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 3000, giving my office the opportunity to appoint seven new members to the Illinois State Board of Education. Senate Bill 3000 also gives future Governors the power to appoint the majority of the members of the board as soon as they take office.  Under the current system, new Governors have not been able to appoint the members of the State Board of Education, meaning there’s no relationship, no accountability, no opportunity to move a new administration’s education agenda forward.  Now there is.  And that means the State Board of Education is going to be expected to accomplish more and do better than it ever has,” said Gov. Blagojevich. 
The new members create an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) that is both ethnically and geographically diverse, each member bringing unique personal and professional experiences to the table.  The new members of ISBE are:
  • Jesse Ruiz (D-Chicago).  Ruiz will serve as Chairman of the new State Board of Education.  He is a partner at Gardner, Carton & Douglas, where he specializes in corporate law.  Ruiz also served as chief legal counsel to the Illinois senators and Representatives who came together for the first time in Illinois history to form the Illinois
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Legislative Latino Caucus and to incorporate the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation.  Additionally, Ruiz has served as a Commissioner, by appointment, on the Chicago Board of Education, on the Chicago Public Schools Desegregation Monitoring Commissioner and a Commissioner, by appointment, on the Illinois Supreme Court, on the Character and Fitness Committee for the First Judicial District of Illinois.  Ruiz is a past president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and past chairman of the Hispanic Lawyers Scholarship Fund of Illinois.  He also has been recognized as a rising star by Chicago Lawyer and Crain’s Chicago Business.
  • Dr. Andrea Brown (R-Goreville).  With more than 45 years of Illinois education experience, Brown most recently served as Regional Superintendent for Alexander-Johnson-Massac-Pulaski-Union Counties from 1994 to 2003. She also has experience at the district level working in the Cairo Unit School District, first as a special education and elementary teacher and later as superintendent.  She began her teaching career in 1957 in Olmsted.
  • Dr. David Fields (I-Danville).  Fields served as the superintendent of Danville District #118 for a decade, from 1991 to 2001.  As superintendent, he demonstrated his fiscal responsibility when developed a plan to reduce costs with minimal impact on students when faced with a $3.5 million deficit. Additionally, Fields is an extremely active and productive member of his community.  He’s a member of more than 20 community organizations.  He has won numerous civic awards, including an African American Achiever Award from the NAACP, First Citizen Award from the American Business Club and Volunteer of the Year from the Vermillion County Volunteers Association.  Fields began his teaching career in 1960, as a social studies teacher at Danville High School and North Ridge Junior High.
  • Ed Geppert (D-Belleville).  Through June of this year, Geppert served as the Chief of Staff for the Illinois Federation of Teachers – an organization that he dedicated almost three decades of service to.  During his career with the IFT, Geppert served as a field service director for the Southern Illinois Regional office and the Southwest Regional Office, assistant to the President for Organization and Secretary-Treasurer.  He began his teaching career in 1969 as a science teacher at Cahokia High School. 
  • Dr. Vinni Hall (D-Chicago).  Hall brings more than thirty years of education experience, in both instruction and administration, to the state board.  Most recently, she served as a consultant to Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois Center for Education and Rehabilitation.  Previously, Hall was an Associate Professor at Chicago State University and Director of the Inclusive Schools Project for Chicago Public Schools.  She began her teaching career at CPS in 1967 - where she taught Headstart, grades 2-12, adult education, special needs students, Library Science, Music and Drama.
  • Brenda Holmes (I-Springfield). Holmes most recently served as the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Education.  The Charleston native began her career in education as a government and history teacher at Pawnee High School in Central Illinois.  Holmes left
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the classroom to pursue the policy side of education and participated in the Sangamon State University (now University of Illinois-Springfield) Legislative Staff Intern Program, serving as the Senate Republican legislative education staff analyst. In 1987, Holmes joined the Illinois State Board of Education, serving in a number of capacities; chief of which was the legislative liaison and key contact for legislators, legislative staff, Governor’s office, constitutional officers and educational organizations and civic groups.  Holmes joined the Blagojevich administration in 2003.  
  • Dr. Chris Ward (D-Lockport). Ward recently retired as the Lockport Township High School District #205 superintendent.  During his more than 10-year tenure, he led a team of staff and community volunteers to pass two referendums to increase the education fund and renovate and expand education facilities and used creative leadership and strategic planning skills to guide the district to a balanced budget while increasing student achievement in an environment in which the student population was increasing at an average of 100 students per year. Ward began his career in education in 1967, as an Advanced Sociology and History teacher at Joliet Catholic High School.  He is a member of numerous professional and community organizations.
The seven new members join two remaining members on the state board, Dean Clark (R-Glen Ellyn) and Joyce Karon (D-Barrington).  Clark, a member of ISBE since January of 2003, is the president of Graphic Chemical and Ink Company.  Clark has extensive background in education policy.  He served on the Glen Ellyn District 41 School Board and on the Education Funding Advisory Board.  Karon has also served on the state board since January of 2003.  She served as an affiliate instructor at Northern Illinois University and an independent consultant for school and public libraries. As a library-media specialist in Barrington schools, Karon designed and implemented library media curriculum, created staff development activities to integrate technology into classrooms, chaired local and state committees focused on education and technology and served on state library task forces.
The members’ appointments require confirmation from the Illinois Senate, but the members are permitted by statute to begin work immediately.  The new law reduces the length of ISBE members’ terms from six years to four years and allows governors to remove board members for incompetence, neglect or malfeasance.  Future governors will appoint five board members at the onset of their terms and four more appointments two years into their terms.
“We began the last legislative session looking to create a Department of Education.  That would have meant even greater accountability.  The bill I signed today is a compromise, but it gives the newly appointed State Board of Education a chance to do what we sought from the beginning – bring more accountability and take the State Board of Education in a new direction. This board has been given the authority to work with local districts to help them save money and every extra dollar saved is an extra dollar that can be spent on textbook, a computer, or to help pay for a new teacher.  Saving money and investing it in the classroom is a big part of what I expect the new State Board of Education to be about,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
“But, I am asking the board to focus on three main areas.  First, the State Board has to immediately work to reduce the backlog in teacher certification.  I’ve already signed legislation
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that gives the board more time to clear the backlog.  Second, the board has to reduce the number of rules and regulations that burden local school districts.  For years, the board seemed to have been more focused on making it harder for local districts to do their job.  It’s time the board started making it easier for local districts.  And, third, I’m asking this board to come back to me by the end of the year with one major idea for a new policy initiative we can focus on in 2005.  I’m asking them to bring me one realistic and affordable initiative that allows us to do something real, something that tangibly improves the way we educate our children here in Illinois.”
SB 3000 gives the Governor and legislature more control over the board’s financial management by subjecting the State Board to line-item budgeting for the first time.  Line-item budgeting and new agency divisions specifically outlined in SB 3000 allow the board to better focus on helping schools educate children and improve services such as early childhood education. 
SB 3000 provides for the creation of shared service centers, allowing school districts the option to pool their resources to save on administrative costs and a new purchasing program to allow local schools districts access to statewide contracts where they might find lower prices.  To assist local school districts with their health care costs, the law authorizes districts to participate in the state’s prescription drug purchasing plan.
“I am proud to have sponsored this critical legislation to move Illinois education in the right direction.  This law will ultimately make the system of education more accountable to the Governor and to lawmakers, for the benefit of the children of this state.  I believe the reform that the Governor signed today puts us on the right track to help us determine how we fund education in Illinois,” said Rep. Calvin Giles (D-Chicago), chairman of the House Education Committee.
The reform also takes several steps to reduce the 2,800 pages of rules and regulations imposed on local school districts by the Illinois State Board of Education.  The law makes ISBE more accountable by requiring the board to follow statutory rule-making procedures when it makes new rules. And, one of ISBE’s statutory tasks is to further reduce the number of existing mandates.
SB 3000 was sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators led by Sen. del Valle and Rep. Giles and including Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago), Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Westmont), Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), Sen. Louis Viverito (D-Burbank), Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero), Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Chicago), Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), Rep. Renee Kosel (R-Mokena), Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-Rock Falls), Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville), Rep. David Miller (D-Dolton), Rep. Annazette Collins (D-Chicago), Rep. Eddie Washington (D-Waukegan), Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), Rep. Kathleen Ryg (D-Vernon Hills), Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park), Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), Rep. Michael Smith (D-Canton), Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Hazelcrest), Rep. Deborah Graham (D-Oak Park), Rep. Wyvetter Younge (D-East St. Louis), Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), Rep. William Davis (D-Chicago) and Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn).

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