A key focus of Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget proposal, the Illinois General Assembly has a plethora of education-centered bills it is considering during this spring session.
While more than 400 bills passed in the chamber alone in the four-day stretch, the state House of Representatives took action on several last week amid its frenzied leadup to Friday’s third reading deadline.
This week is the state Senate’s deadline to advance its bills to the next chamber, where it made some progress last Thursday and Friday by passing 68 bills.
Related:March madness in the General Assembly: Hundreds of bills pass House, Senate
The governor’s budget proposal, now being reviewed by the General Assembly, includes millions in education funding from preschool through higher education. Most notably, he has called for universal preschool through the Smart Start Illinois program and $70 million to address teacher vacancies.
In the Capitol, lawmakers have responded to the governor’s proposal with several initiatives of their own – adding new forms of curriculum and addressing the decline of literacy seen nationwide following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are a few bills seeing voting action so far in the state legislature.
On Friday, the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 2243. The bill sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester would require the Illinois State Board of Education to develop a “comprehensive literacy plan.”
In 2022, nearly 38 percent of Illinois’ 4th grade students did not meet grade level reading standards, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
“Today’s students who struggle to read are tomorrow’s adults — adults who desperately need literacy to sign a lease agreement, fill out a job application, manage their own health care, support their children’s education and participate in democracy,” Lightford said on the Senate floor Friday.
Deborah MacPhee, a researcher and professor at Illinois State University, said early literacy education has become politicized with debates taking place between competing systems of reading instruction.
MacPhee said she liked that the bill requires the plan to involve “education stakeholders.” She said this will contribute to the ongoing conversation around what sorts of educational programs teachers should use.
In a 2022 study published in the journal Reading Horizons, MacPhee and her team found that 97 percent of Illinois teachers use phonics in their classrooms to teach reading. Despite the near universal adoption of this method, there is diversity across the state as to what programs are being used. Of the 80 percent of teachers using published curriculum for their phonics instruction, at least 41 different programs are used.
“We have to be educating teachers to be using programs effectively,” she said.
The House passed a literacy bill later that Friday in a 68-35 vote. House Bill 3147 creates the Literacy and Justice for All Act which permits the state Board of Education to form a rubric for use of the school districts regarding evidence-based, culturally inclusive reading instruction and literacy plans.
Additions to school curriculum could come through three House Bills passed last week, now heading to the Senate for further consideration.
Following a lobby day at the Capitol during last year’s veto session, state Native American organizations are one-step closer to seeing one of its highest priorities enacted. House Bill 1633 passed 75-32 on Thursday to require all public elementary and high schools to craft a course teaching Native American history beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, said he worked with Native American groups in crafting the legislation. The American Indian Association of Illinois and the Native American Chamber of Commerce were among the bill’s proponents.
“You cannot truly understand our state or our country without learning about the experience of Native Americans,” West said in a statement. “We must preserve the history of Native Americans in Illinois, and it is absolutely critical for our young people to understand the Native American experience as they grow into the next leaders of our state.”
House Bill 3924, sponsored by state Rep. Janet Yang Rohr, D-Naperville, passed unanimously on Thursday and calls for school districts to craft a unit regarding the dangers of fentanyl. The program would be taught in every state-required high school health course.
Legislation crafted by state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago would require schools to use phonics to teach reading. Though it was met with pushback from teachers’ unions, House Bill 2773 passed unanimously on Thursday.
Also being considered this week in the Senate Education Committee is legislation from state Sen. Donald Dewitte, R-St. Charles, that would order ISBOE to adopt an advanced manufacturing training program to be made available to all public schools. Senate Bill 993 is among five pieces of legislation on the committee’s agenda for a Tuesday afternoon session.
The actions in Springfield came as the U.S. House of Representatives passed what has been called the “Parents Bill of Rights Act” last week along mostly party lines. House Resolution 5, not expected to be taken up in a Democrat-majority Senate, would allow parents to review the books, curriculum and budget related to their child’s school.
U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., supported the legislation which included two provisions drafted by the 15th Illinois House District legislator. In a statement, she said the act will “protect children from radical gender ideology,” as its permits parents to opt out their students from taking surveys pertaining to sexual orientation or transgender studies.
“Parents have the right to know what is being taught to their child and the right to opt their child out of any discussion about sexual orientation and gender ideology,” Miller said.
U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Ill., joined fellow Democrats in opposition, where House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., called the bill an attempt to mainline rightwing ideology on school children. Five Republican Reps. also voted ‘no’ on the resolution.
Captiol News Illinois reporter Andrew Adams contributed to this report.
Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, email@example.com, twitter.com/pkeckreporter.
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March 27, 2023 at 06:36PM