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7 School Bills To Watch In Illinois

Lawmakers want to switch Chicago to an elected school board, stop the expansion of charter schools and address a statewide teacher shortage.

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The Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield shown here on Tuesday, April 23, 2002.

The Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield shown here on Tuesday, April 23, 2002.

AP Photo/Seth Perlman

Each year in Springfield, a series of perennial education are re-introduced, with many going nowhere. But this year may be different. With Democrat JB Pritzker in the governor’s mansion, Democratic legislators are hopeful he’ll make good on campaign promises, including one to place a moratorium on new charter schools.

A flurry of other bills also were introduced, including legislation in response to the Chicago Public Schools sex abuse scandal uncovered by the Chicago Tribune. State lawmakers are also trying to address a state teacher shortage, which was outlined in a report released last year by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Some bills to watch:

HB279: Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, is re-upping his efforts for a moratorium on new charter schools. Like previous bills he has introduced, this one calls for a moratorium on charter schools in financially distressed school districts. The idea is that a greater investment needs to be made in public schools. Gov. JB Pritzker has said he supports a moratorium on charters.

HB2267 and HB42: Two familiar bills are pending in the House to move Chicago from an appointed school board to an elected board. The bills, which make the switch in 2020 and 2023 respectively, are introduced by Rep. Martwick and Rep. Mary Flowers, both Chicago Democrats. CPS is the only district in the state with a school board appointed by the city’s mayor. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

This issue has come up repeatedly in the race for Chicago mayor. Most candidates support some form of an elected school board, with a split between those who want a fully elected board and those who support electing some members and appointing others. Pritzker also has said he supports a switch.

HB312: Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, has introduced a bill that calls for the immediate suspension or termination of school employees convicted of a sex offense. This measure comes on the heels of last year’s Chicago Tribune report that revealed widespread mishandling of sexual abuse claims within Chicago Public Schools. A number of lawmakers vowed to make changes at the state level. This and related measures are likely to gain much bipartisan support.

HB2056: A bill from Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, would try to ease pressure on teacher certification in hopes of addressing the state’s teacher shortage. Students entering teaching programs must pass a basic skills test known as the Test of Academic Proficiency or TAP. Parkhurst’s legislation would essentially allow a student to go ahead with a student teaching program or internship even if they’ve failed the basic skills test, and they would not be required to take the test again if they complete a year of student teaching. Meanwhile, the Illinois State Board of Education plans to phase out TAP at the end of June and allow teaching candidates to submit their ATC or SAT scores instead.

HR10: Related to teacher licensure, Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, has introduced a resolution urging the State Board of Education to do away with edTPA, an exam prospective teachers to be licensed. Some educators say the test is a major barrier because it costs $300. They object to it being graded by a private firm, Pearson. Critics say Pearson evaluators may take the submission out of context because they are not familiar with the student teacher’s school district or community.

The test also requires student teachers to videotape themselves conducting a lesson in front of students. That’s raised privacy issues, which has spun off another bill, HB256, calling to eliminate the video submission. Lawmakers agree the state’s teacher shortage must be addressed, but there’s likely to be debate over whether certain measures sacrifice quality.

SB28: Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, introduced a bill that says a school attendance day must be no shorter than five hours long and must be under direct supervision of a teacher or the equivalent. In August 2017, the state’s new funding formula law ended the practice of tying state funding to student attendance. It allowed more flexibility for where and how students receive instruction. Bertino-Tarrant’s bill directly challenges that. The measure is unpopular with several school districts trying e-learning days during bad weather. On e-learning days, students complete lessons and assignments remotely, and districts have counted that as an attendance day.

Susie An covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @soosieon

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