(CHICAGO) -- A proposal that would have prohibited school buildings from being used as polling places did not gain sufficient support to change a position held by the Illinois Association of School Boards since 2007.
Representatives from 357 school boards considered resolutions on a variety of public school issues at the Association’s annual Delegate Assembly. The assembly was held Nov. 19 in conjunction with the 2016 Joint Annual Conference in Chicago.
IASB’s existing position statement supports legislation that allows school districts the right to refuse the use of their school buildings as polling places. The resolution that would have changed this position, submitted by Indian Prairie CUSD 204 in Naperville, failed by a vote of 143 for to 173 against. The Association has long held that the safety of students should be considered in the decision to use school buildings as polling places.
A total of 16 resolutions as part of 27 recommendations were heard by delegates. Two were debated and voted on separately. The others were approved as part of a consent agenda, involving topics such as early childhood education, school finance reform, standardized testing, healthier schools, and student readiness.
The suggested change to the position involving polling places initially included wording to move election days to days when students are not in attendance. Mark Rising, representing Indian Prairie CUSD 204, said the issue was about increasing student safety.
“Currently if an election official wants to use our buildings … we don’t have a choice. It is not always possible to take the days off. Yes, our schools are public buildings and we should offer them to the public as much as possible. But we live in a different age and time. We have children in these schools, and it’s taking the choice away from us, when we are responsible for their safety,” he said.
Those opposing the change cited the public, taxpayer-funded nature of school facilities, the need for safe places for citizens to vote, and that the existing statement already allows school districts to determine the use of their buildings.
Roslon Seals of Brookwood SD 167 spoke against the proposal. “We have a small community. How dare we not allow our citizens into our schools?”
Carol Nichols of Quincy SD 172 also spoke against the resolution. “Removing civic education from the eyes of our children is not right,” said Nichols, who was among 12 delegates who spoke on the resolution before the vote was taken.
Another resolution that would have adopted a new position for the Association supported legislation that would not require a school district to be financially accountable for a student’s special education services beyond their 19 th birthday if the student has enough credits for graduation. After hearing from 13 delegates, the assembly voted 119 for to 160 against adoption. Those speaking in favor of the resolution claimed the need for districts to maintain fiscal responsibility and local control. Those speaking against cited the best interest of the student and whether the change would be allowable under federal law.
“The reason we are having this debate is because the state has broken the law by ignoring the Constitution when it comes to fully finding education,” said Jared Pluger, school board member at CUSD 308, Oswego. “I think it’s shameful that the direct impact is on the students who are most at risk.”
Resolutions adopted will become part of the Association’s Position Statements, which can be found at: http://iasb.com/govrel/positions.cfm. Also approved were changes to the IASB Constitution, which was updated to remove outdated language and no longer relevant sections.
The Delegate Assembly also elected Phil Pritzker for a second term as IASB president, and Joanne Osmond for a second term as vice president. Both will serve one-year terms. Pritzker has served on the school board for Wheeling CCSD 21 for 28 years and has served as board president, vice president, and on the finance committee. He has served IASB as director of the North Cook Division. Osmond serves on the school board for Lake Villa CCSD 41. She was an officer in IASB’s Lake Division starting in 1996 and has also served the Special Education District of Lake County.
Pritzker opened the Delegate Assembly by saying “We have entered a new era, where we can no longer remain passive. Together we must, and together, we shall, lead. We have no alternative.”
Delegates also received a financial report from IASB Treasurer and Central Illinois Valley Director Thomas Neely of Morton CUSD 709. IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy presented the Association’s Annual Report, in which he outlined IASB’s efforts to encourage full state funding for public schools and reported on IASB’s activities on behalf of its membership throughout Fiscal Year 2016.
The Delegate Assembly was part of the 84th Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of School Business Officials. The Conference offered a wide variety of professional development programs offered in more than 100 panel sessions, pre-conference workshops, general sessions, and other leadership development opportunities. More information about this year’s Conference can be found at www.iasb.com/jac16/.
IASB is a voluntary organization of local boards of education dedicated to strengthening public schools through local citizen control. Although not part of state government, IASB is organized by member school boards as a private not-for-profit corporation under authority granted by Article 23 of The Illinois School Code.