Legislative proposal relating to parental rights and state testing

Last week, Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), a 34-year House veteran and a key leader in the House, sponsored a bill (HB 266), which effectively proposes that a schoolchild’s parent should have a right to decide if her child will or will not participate in state-mandated standardized tests. (In 2015 similar bill passed the house, but was delayed and was never considered by the Senate.)

Two hundred and seventy-five people filed witness slips in favor of HB 266, which was debated in a PK-12 committee on Wednesday, March 22nd. Only eleven (11) people signed slips in opposition while the remainder all showed support for the bill. But the House Committee sided with the opponents. The opponents included the Illinois State Board of Education, Advance Illinois, The College Board, Stand for Children, and the Large Unit District Association (LUDA) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS). No opponent discussed parental rights at all, instead they discussed loss of funding if participation feel below 95%, lack of data for students with IEPs, and an encouragement to not take SAT and then “not be able to get into college”.
It should be noted that there is nothing in current law to cause a state to lose federal funds by reason of low test participation rates, and that in fact no school or state has ever lost any funding as a result of low mandated test participation.

Many of the proponents of the bill cited the trending evidence that testing results are more of a product of the geography and demographics of a school, and particularly cited the growing disparities and inequities of school funding. Representative Sue Scherer of Decatur (a former teacher) argued, “When you can show me a day when every child in Illinois gets the same amount of money spent on them, that’ll be the day that I’ll agree that every child can take the same test.”

To date, the bill has been called for an additional hearing, but no action has been taken yet. As you may recall, our District was targeted by the ISBE for low participation rates, and were required to provide a participation improvement plan. This spring PARCC testing showed slightly increased participation at the elementary schools, but not much change at the middle school (no PARCC testing at GHS this year).

Another Legislative Season, More Budget Gridlock

Governor Rauner’s recent address rallied a roomful of cheers when he stated that General State Aid would be fully funded.¬† Interestingly enough, this “full funding” actually equates to a foundation level of $6,119 per student… which is precisely what the level was artificially placed at in 2010.¬† There have been a number of different Blue Ribbon panels who have offered a multitude of solutions to an inequitable and inadequate school funding formula.¬† Different policy and tax institutes will take both sides of the debate– one group suggesting that Illinois has already overfunded schools and wasted money in certain districts, the converse taking the position that we are not allocating money to places where it is most needed.

This article discusses not only the position for the Chicago Public Schools, but in general, decries the facts that the type of educational opportunities that children receive are based in large part on the zip codes of their residences.

As reported at the February Board of Education meeting, Geneseo District 228 has seen audited revenues from General State Aid decline from roughly $7M per year, to roughly $4.4M the past several years.  There are limited ways that a new funding formula may benefit our district unless the State approves an Evidence-Based Funding Model, which identifies research-based instructional strategies and resources for public schools.

Report Shared at February 9, 2017 Board Meeting

This is a BOE Presentation, February 9 2017 c¬†that was shared in open session at the regular February school board meeting last evening. ¬†More than 70 people were in attendance, and there was several different pieces of information that were shared, as well as even more background material from the meeting that was shared February School Board Meeting at the district’s online school board meeting presence.

Geneseo Schools have a long tradition of excellence in academics, athletics, arts and activities.  The combination of declining state revenues, as well as increasing costs of mandates, and community desire to offer an extremely comprehensive educational program for a district of our size, has created financial challenges that leave the Board with some very difficult decisions.  Hopefully this report helps make the context of where we are and what options exist easier to understand.

SB 2912 Relieves some pressure in hiring teachers

Recently approved legislation, Senate Bill 2912, which was signed by Governor Rauner last week, will allow for more efficient transitions for teachers from other states to earn licensure in Illinois, and relaxes some of the requirements for substitute teachers to earn licensure.

There is an enormous shortage of teaching candidates, and also substitute teachers all across Illinois.  Contact the Regional Office of Education at (309)-936-7890 if you would like more information to apply or to direct a friend or family member to research these opportunities.