EDUCATION REFORM BILL APPROVEDWith a flurry of action that felt more like the end of May than the middle of January, Monday night the Illinois House of Representatives concurred with the Senate and sent House Bill 2170 (Ammons, D-Champaign) to the desk of Governor JB Pritzker. As previously reported in IASB Legislative Reports 101-24 and 101-25, HB 2170 is the education pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus social justice reform package. The comprehensive bill will bring changes to early childhood, elementary, secondary, and higher education.
The General Assembly, which had not met since last May, scheduled a “lame duck” session, which began last Friday. Working through the weekend to slog its way through dozens of lengthy, comprehensive, and controversial issues, the legislature will finish the business of the 101st Illinois General Assembly later today (Tuesday) or Wednesday morning. Members of the new 102nd General Assembly will be sworn into office Wednesday at noon.
Besides the education reform bill, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus initiated bills on judicial and police reform, health and human services reform, and equity in employment reforms. Though the education bill was eventually amended to remove most opposition, police organizations across the state are still strongly opposed to the judicial reform bill and business groups are still opposing the employment bill.
THE EDUCATION BILL
Below is a summary of what is contained in HB 2170 after a series of amendments were adopted. The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and bill sponsors were responsive to IASB and other education organizations as concerns were brought up about implementing some of the original provisions of the bill. The written testimony submitted by IASB is also available on the Legislative Issues webpage. While this bill is now headed to the governor, work on these vital issues is on-going. IASB will be involved in multiple task forces and continuing to discuss implementation of this legislation. Multiple “trailer” bills to clear up language in the legislation are also likely in the 102nd General Assembly, which will start to gear up in February.
The analysis in IASB Legislative Report 101-24 was based on the original 500-page amendment that was first introduced. The redraft in Senate Amendment #3 removed many provisions and cut the bill down to 218 pages. The significant provisions removed from the bill include:
- Equity in Early Childhood provisions;
- Reading and Math Intervention provisions;
- Dyslexia screening provisions;
- Early Reading instruction provisions;
- The provisions for the addition of 15 days to the school year; and
- Invest in Kids Act expansion provisions (funding for non-public school scholarships).
- Adds to high school graduation requirements two years of laboratory science (rather than science) – by the 2024-25 school year
- Adds to high school graduation requirements one year of intensive instruction in computer literacy (can be embedded in other curricula)
- Adds to high school graduation requirements two years of a foreign language – by the 2028-29 school year
- Opportunity for every high school student to take at least one computer science course
- Instruction in computer literacy skills, beginning in elementary school
- Adds to Learning Standards rigorous standards in Computer Science
- Adds to Learning Standards revisions to standards in Social Science
- Adds specific course requirements in the unit of instruction on Black History
- After a report by higher education that lists courses state universities require for acceptance, requires high schools to have all of these courses available.
- Creates the Inclusive American History Commission
- Creates the Whole Child Task Force
- Department of Public Health to research a Behavioral Health Services diagnostic assessment system
- Department of Human Services and the Board of Higher Education to research Early Childhood educator effectiveness and development
- School districts must submit a report on educational technology capacity and policies
- P-20 Council to research and make recommendations for short-term and long-term learning recovery actions for public school students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Report due by December 31, 2021.
- Earlier provisions that made specific changes to the Evidence-Based Funding Program were removed. Instead, the Professional Review Panel will review the entire bill and propose necessary changes to implement the provisions of the new law.
- Requires ISBE to assess all students entering kindergarten with a common assessment tool.
- Requires a school district's accelerated placement policy to allow for the automatic enrollment of a student into the next most rigorous level of advanced coursework offered by the high school if the student meets or exceeds State standards in English language arts, mathematics, or science.
- Establishment of Freedom Schools to study the contributions that Freedom Schools make to provide quality education for all students, to motivate active civic engagement, and to empower disenfranchised communities. These would consist of a six-week summer program.
- Increased funding for Minority Teachers Scholarships and programmatic and fiscal changes to the Illinois Teaching Excellence Program
- Removes the provision that required applicants for an Alternative Teacher License to achieve at least a 3.0 GPA.