Gov. Pat Quinn was at Lexington Elementary School in west suburban Maywood for the signing, surrounded by leaders from across the state.
A high school marching band set the tone for the ceremony with the national anthem. Political heavy hitters from across the state gathered at Lexington to praise the bill. Quinn signed it in front of a gymnasium full of people and schoolchildren who heard from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others.
The legislation is being hailed by teachers' unions. It is supported by reform groups and school boards. It is an unprecedented agreement on education issues that have gone unresolved.
"When we have a big issue in our state, we do not push people to the side. We bring everybody to the table," said Quinn.
"The kid in Houston gets three more years of education than the kid in Chicago based on the length of day and the length of the year. When the governor signs this, that is coming to an end," said Emanuel.
Talks to put the law together started in November. Lawmakers hope that Illinois will serve as a national model for others to follow.
"Isn't it something to say the people of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey -- more than I care to mention -- there is a better way to do education reform. It is to do it collaboratively. We will show you how to do it right," said Ken Swanson, Illinois Education Association.
For schoolchildren, the education reform package will mean longer days in the classroom. It also gives school districts new powers to fire poorly performing teachers, and it bases tenure decisions on performance instead of seniority. The law will also make teacher strikes more difficult.
The legislation would allow unions to strike, but it requires school boards and unions to negotiate longer and disclose their positions before a strike can occur.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has praised the legislation. The bill drew bipartisan support in the Illinois House and Senate when it was passed.