Should the State of Illinois require our students to exceed – not just meet – minimum federal standards for student achievement? District 200 doesn’t think so, based on a vote from the October 12 board meeting. The Board voted to support various IASB resolutions, including IASB Resolution 17 to “modify required State student assessments so testing does not go beyond what is required by federal law, and that prohibits the Illinois State Board of Education from pursuing activities designed to expand student assessment without legislative approval.” Testing at the federal minimum - a one size fits all approach - doesn't sound like 21st century learning to me, or a way to encourage improvement. I'd be interested to hear the Board's take on this.
But who are the folks advocating this resolution and other policy positions?
IASB is the Illinois Association of School Boards, a lobbying and trade group for Illinois school boards (not districts). Its resolutions have no binding effect on state law, but serve as a basis for its lobbying activities. According to state records, it employs no fewer than 7 "exclusive lobbyists". Our board has been heavily involved with this group for years; former board member Marie Slater served as its president. The District spends $16,303 for annual dues (see July 13, 2011 Board minutes). At the October 12 Board meeting, it was announced IASB had given District 200's board an award for "good governance." But IASB itself needs to go back to school on governance issues - it should not be a role model.
IASB imposes significant burdens on taxpayers. Though it is a private entity, its employees who have teaching certificates qualify for state teacher pensions. It was recently in the news when its former executive director was caught double dipping. According to news reports, he pulled down a salary of $198,000 a year (paid by those dues) for working an average of 30 hours a month, while also collecting a pension of over $200,000 a year. He had to repay a year's worth of pension payments to avoid legal action - he was quoted describing the situation as a "misunderstanding" - but is now "retired" and back collecting his pension.
There's nothing wrong with school boards sharing ideas - some of IASB's other policy proposals are good ones - but I don't believe we should spend $16,000 a year in tax money, plus more to attend numerous meetings and conferences, for a lobbying-heavy organization that allows its employees to exploit the already stressed pension system.