ISBE official confirms teachers’ union bosses have heavy hand in anti-private school bill

ISBE official confirms teachers’ union bosses have heavy hand in anti-private school bill

Private schools found a way to stay open during the pandemic while the majority of public schools remained closed. Teachers’ union bosses want to rewrite the rules to handicap their competition should another state of emergency arise.

Nearly 17,000 Illinoisans sent a message to state lawmakers that they don’t want the state to push ahead with over-reaching new rules to govern public and private schools.

Lawmakers didn’t listen. Instead, they pushed House Bill 2789 out of Senate Executive Committee on May 27. The bill awaits a full vote in the Senate. The House must vote on the final version of the bill by the end of the day May 31.

House Bill 2789 is essentially the teachers unions’ attempt at revenge against private schools, which took innovative steps to keep students in the classroom during the pandemic. They did it with a fraction of the funding public schools have access to while the majority of public schools remained closed.

An amended version of the bill passed out of the Senate Executive Committee May 27 and awaits a full vote in the Senate. The House must then vote on the amended version of the bill.

“We’ve been working with IEA for several weeks to ensure student safety no matter the learning environment,” Amanda Elliott, executive director of legislative affairs at the Illinois State Board of Education, said at the May 27 committee hearing.

That may seem like an innocuous statement, but it’s incredibly telling. Teachers’ unions have had unmatched access to the public officials in determining the future of rules that will affect public and private schools alike. Private schools and parents have essentially been shut out of the conversation.

The bill moving through the legislative process now will only apply more state oversight during an emergency order from the governor. A previous version of HB 2789 would’ve allowed for stricter state oversight of all schools, public and private, all the time. Union leaders don’t like that the amended version of HB 2789 moving ahead only applies in the event of an emergency order.

“If I can speak for the School Management Alliance, they don’t like this because they want stronger rules, while even these rules are still light,” said Illinois Education Association Director of Government Relations Sean Denny at the May 27 committee hearing.

Opponents of the bill decry the unfairness of punishing schools that have served parents and students well through a global pandemic. The proposed rules defy direct guidance from federal health officials.

“The end result of this language is that private schools could have any of their facilities shut down by state authorities,” said state Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-West Dundee. “My private schools had a stellar record, many even stayed open. I’d hate to compare that record with the public schools – many of whom told me they had no guidance at all.”

As COVID-19 numbers continue to drop and the state prepares to fully reopen June 11, it’s unclear why the General Assembly needs to rush through new rules right now with so much other pressing business that needs immediate attention before they adjourn on Memorial Day – especially when the rules are highly contentious. The fact that HB 2789 has gone this far is a testament to how much clout teachers’ unions have not only in public schools, but the political process that ultimately determines the fate of private ones, as well.

Take action

Call your state senator today and tell him or her to VOTE NO on HB 2789, a direct attack on teachers’ unions biggest competitors – the private schools that kept kids in-person all year. Find your lawmaker here.

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