The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up the spring legislative session Saturday morning with a series of education bills heading to Governor JB Pritzker’s desk. They address the impact of COVID-19, the state’s teacher shortage, and mental health.
During the session, Republican lawmakers introduced a series of bills that proposed restricting what the state board of education, the state department of public health and the governor’s office could do during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a number of bills curricular transparency law. These bills did not make it out of committee in February.
Bills that quickly passed the House and Senate focused on challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, such as teacher shortages, a lack of substitutes to fill in when teachers are sick or must isolate due to exposure to COVID, and mental health puts emphasis on educators Other notable bills sought to change literacy standards in the state, prevent testing for young students between kindergarten and second grade, and allow Chicago principals to unionize .
Here are some bills that Chalkbeat tracked down during the legislative session.
Bills that passed and are headed to the Governor’s desk:
Mental health workshops for educators: AN compromise bill will allow Illinois educators to use sick days for mental health. The original bill would have given teachers an additional five days to use for mental health reasons; the bill that passed both houses of the legislature expands how sick days can be used. Some Illinois educators hope this is the start of the conversation about mental health needs.
Recruitment of retired teachers: senate Bill, SB 3465, will allow retired teachers to return to the classroom without hurting their retirement funds. Local schools will be able to hire retired teachers until June 30, 2024 if they request help to fill classrooms in an area with subject shortages.
Lower the age for paraprofessionals: an invoice lowers the age for obtaining a paraprofessional license, allowing 18-year-olds to teach pre-kindergarten through eighth grade until they are 19 years old.
Getting more substitute teachers into classrooms: Illinois school districts have been hit by another crisis during the coronavirus pandemic: a shortage of substitutes. When cases emerged over the winter, many teachers called in sick or had to quarantine and schools scrambled to find substitute teachers. an invoice, SB 3915, will waive the application fee for a short-term substitute teaching license when the governor declares a disaster due to a public health emergency. another bill, SB 3907will allow substitute teachers to teach up to 15 days in the classroom instead of five days.
Evaluations for the first students: The ‘Too Young to Test’ Bill will prevent the Illinois State Board of Education from administering standardized tests to students in kindergarten through second grade. However, it will not prevent school districts from administering the Statewide Kindergarten Survey of Individual Development, local screenings, or diagnostic evaluations to determine if a child has a disability.
Promising bills that didn’t pass
Phonics-Based Literacy Instruction: The ‘Draft Law on the Right to Read made an effort to centralize how reading is taught statewide by lobbying the state board of education to create a list of evidence-based reading programs. He would also have moved school districts toward using phonics-based instruction to teach students to read. The bill is currently in negotiations with advocacy groups concerned about literacy for English language learners. This bill could reappear during the veto session in the fall or in the next spring session.
Removal of Students with Disabilities from Classrooms: Under house accountRemoving a student for disciplinary reasons at any time during the school day will be counted as a formal removal and will be recorded. Special education advocates have heard from parents who say they never received the paperwork after their child was checked out during the school day. That makes it difficult to track how many times a child is removed from class. This bill did not go through committee.
Create a union for Chicago directors: Another attempt to unionize Chicago directors failed to make it through the legislature. State law has prevented Chicago directors from unionizing because they are considered managerial employees. A House bill that stalled in the Senate, HB 5107would have changed the definition of management employees to district employees who play a significant role in negotiating collective bargaining agreements.
Bills already signed by the governor
COVID Paid Sick Leave for School Employees: Pritzker has already signed into law a bill creating paid administrative leave for fully vaccinated school employees who must stay home for COVID-related reasons. He also restores sick days to employees who had to use them for COVID-related absences at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. For bus drivers, janitorial workers, cafeteria staff and classroom assistants affected by school closures or e-learning days, the bill will protect hourly wages.
Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering school districts across the state, legislation, special education, and the state board of education. Contact Samantha at email@example.com.