Gov. Pat Quinn kicks off 2014-2015 school year

Gov. Pat Quinn (D)  during stop in Rockford earlier this year. (Jim Hagerty)
Gov. Pat Quinn (D) during stop in Rockford earlier this year. (Jim Hagerty)

Online Staff Report

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), Tuesday, Sept. 2, visited students at two Chicago Public Schools on their first day of school to wish all students in Illinois a happy and healthy year of learning. The Governor visited Vanderpoel Elementary Magnet School and Schmid Elementary School on the south side of Chicago.

Today’s events were part of Quinn’s agenda to give every child in Illinois the opportunity for a high-quality education.

As we kick-off a new year of learning, I wish all our students across Illinois a happy and healthy school year,” Quinn said. “There’s no more important investment than an investment in our children’s education. As we work to try to bring classroom funding to the highest levels in Illinois history, it’s important to give thanks to all our teachers who are helping to make a difference across our state.”

Governor Quinn also announced today that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is moving forward with an initiative that aims to promote mastery of two or more languages. The state is among the first in the country to allow school districts to award a State Seal of Biliteracy to students who demonstrate a high level of proficiency in one or more languages, in addition to English. The seal will be placed on a student’s academic transcript and diploma.

Language skills are increasingly valuable in today’s global economy,” State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch said. “The seal will help promote and acknowledge the great value and many benefits that come with being multilingual and multicultural.”

Illinois was the third state to pass legislation offering a Seal of Biliteracy, joining California and New York. States such as New Mexico, Washington and Louisiana are among those that have since passed legislation offering the seal as well. Illinois education officials hope the seal will inspire students to pursue biliteracy, recognize students who excel in language skills, and provide evidence of these achievements to future employers and college admissions offices.

We hope the opportunity to earn this credential will be another tool to encourage schools to offer foreign language earlier in students’ education, ideally before high school,” Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico said. “Even with the rigorous process proposed for earning this credential, we expect thousands of Illinois students will attain it within a few years.”

School districts will use the language proficiency standards established by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) to qualify for the State Seal of Biliteracy program, which is optional for districts. The proposed rules also include standards for proficiency in American Sign Language, which is defined in the law as a foreign language for purposes of qualifying for the State Seal of Biliteracy.

In the 2012-13 school year, Illinois enrolled more than 200,000 English Learner (EL) students, nearly 10 percent of the state’s more than 2 million public school students. While the majority of EL students attend schools in Chicago and the collar counties and speak Spanish, EL students in Illinois speak more than 160 languages in addition to English.

Governor Quinn is committed to investing in education across Illinois and making sure that every child has the opportunity for success.

This past week Quinn announced a $10 million state investment in the Safe Passage program for Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The investment will expand the program by increasing routes to 93 schools currently in the program and adding 27 new schools. These schools are attended by more than 65,000 elementary and high school students. The Safe Passage program places trained employees along designated routes to and from Chicago’s public schools to monitor student safety and notify school and law enforcement officials of any possible threats.

Over the next five years, the governor’s plan would bring classroom funding to the highest levels in Illinois history.

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