3 preK-12 Committees in Illinois House

Thursday, January 29, 2015 3:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
In a departure of past practices reaching back 
at least three decades, elementary and secondary 
education policy will be guided by three committees 
rather than the single House Elementary and Secondary 
Education Committee that [State Rep. Linda] Chapa 
LaVia so ably chaired in recent years.

No one is a greater champion  of charter schools than our new Gov. Bruce Rauner. Also, charters now have their own committee - the Elementary and Secondary Education: Charter School Policy Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives.
 
....the committee may be either a positive or a negative from the charter advocates' standpoint. When you look over the list of Democrats who are members (Republican's aren't yet appointed), you see critics of the charter movement in leadership positions and public school advocates up and down the line.
 
The charter agenda this year is sure to include: (1) lifting or removing the statutory limits on the number of charters that can be authorized in the state; (2) boosting the funds received by charters from the school districts where they operate; and (3) fending off efforts to dissolve the Illinois State Charter School Commission.
 
The Commission was created in haste when the state was competing for federal "Race To The Top" funding. It's members are appointed by the State Board of Education from a list of candidates submitted by the governor. It has the authority to put a charter school in your town - even if your elected school board has turned the charter down.
 
That's right. Local control means nothing in Illinois when it comes to the ability of a commission that was appointed by a board that was appointed to trump the collective wisdom of a locally elected board of education. And Rauner, the state's number-one fan of charters, now gets to appoint a majority of the SBE.
 
But back to the House committee, the chair is Rep. Esther Golar of Chicago, a former CPS Local School Council member and ardent advocate of "neighborhood" schools. The vice chair is Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia of Aurora, who did her best last year, as House committee chair, to dissolve the Charter School Commission.
 
There's Rep. Deborah Conroy, former school board member from Villa Park; Rep. Camille Lilly of Chicago, a community activist on several fronts; Michelle Mussman, a PTA leader from Schaumburg; Rep. Sue Sherer, a public school teacher from Decatur; Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, a former school board member from Westchester; and Rep. Kathleen Willis of Northlake, former Addison elementary school board member.
 
The next largest is the Elementary and Secondary Education: Licensing Oversight Committee, which is to be chaired by Rep. Emily McAsey of Romeoville (former middle school teacher), with Rep. Robert Martwick of Chicago as vice chair. Chapa LaVia is a member of this committee, as is Rep. Dan Burke of Chicago, a thoughtful and gracious proponent of increased charter school funding.
 
Rounding out the Democratic membership of the licensing oversight panel are Rep. Monique Davis of Chicago, a veteran legislator and former CPS teacher; Rep. Scott Drury, a lawyer of Highwood and author of some thought-provoking bills; and Rep. Anna Moeller of Elgin, former officer of an elementary school PTO.
 
The Republican caucus will probably put four members on this committee.
 
Finally, the other new committee is the Elementary and Secondary Education: Curriculum & School Policies Committee, which will be chaired by Rep. Rita Mayfield of Waukegan (former Waukegan School Board member) with Rep. Sherer as vice chair. House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie is also on the committee.
 
When you think about it, the scope of this committee's mission will be pretty large for it to have just three members. 

Curriculum is a narrow enough concept, but it is hugely important. 

"School policies" is about as wide as a mission can be. 

It would cover everything a local school board is authorized (or not) to do.
 
The presence of Rep. Currie on this committee is also curious. She is second only to Speaker Michael Madigan in House leadership. For many years, she has sponsored the most complicated and emotionally charged controversial bills in every legislative session. Her expertise seems to know no limits, much like her eloquence.
 
Still, Currie is no stranger to School Code policy. It was under her sponsorship and guidance, for example, that Illinois first began to develop high quality early childhood education programs back in 1985.
Jim Broadway, Illinois School News Service, January 29, 2015


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