Gov. George Ryan’s proposed budget for 1999-2000 includes an education plan that he said amounts to “the most far-reaching and ambitious educational package ever set before this Legislature.”

His spending priorities, in order, are:

$60 million to hire 10,000 new teachers over four years, starting with 1,700 to 2,400 in 1999-00, chiefly to reduce class size in kindergarten through 6th grade.

$193.5 million of the $1.5 billion, five-year construction grants launched two years ago, of which Chicago schools automatically get 20 percent.

$10 million for the reading block grant, which is aimed at ensuring all children can read at “grade level” by 3rd grade, plus $8 million for a new governor’s summer bridge initiative, modeled after Chicago’s summer Bridge Program for low-scoring students.

An unspecified amount to implement the “Safe 2 Learn” initiative that Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan unveiled last fall, which the governor said would crack down on gangs, drugs and other “chaos” in the schools.

A $102 million increase in general state aid, including $7 million for the scheduled increase in the minimum spending per pupil—from $4,225 to $4,325—plus another $41 million to raise the level another $30 to $40.

A $107 million increase in categorical aid grants for mandated special education and transportation services, boosting their funding to 90 percent.

Providing for a one-month speedup in the final state aid payment of the fiscal year, which was moved from June to July in 1992 and is scheduled to move back to June this year.

Calling on the Legislature to enact tuition tax credits—an estimated $60 million item that is not in the budget. Ryan said that in Chicago any major closure of parochial schools would put a “heavy burden” on the public schools.

$8 million for the Illinois State Board of Education’s Linc-on Program, currently providing computer Internet access to 40 percent of Illinois students, plus $2 million to connect Linc-on to the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s new Illinois Century Network.

Earlier, Ryan’s transition task force recommended development of a four-year education spending plan so schools could do long-range planning.

Other major items from its mission statement and action plan call for:

Using a “rigorous” teacher recruiting and training program, along with more alternative certification, to fill the 10,000 new teaching positions to come on line.

Increasing the number of teachers from racial minorities.

Increasing state funding of early childhood education to cover all 3- to 5-year-olds considered “at risk” of educational failure.

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