Updated ISBE policy puts private schools on probation for defying mask mandates instead of immediately revoking state recognition

Updated ISBE policy puts private schools on probation for defying mask mandates instead of immediately revoking state recognition

Private schools will be granted a 60-day probation to address COVID-19 compliance issues in line with public school standards under ISBE’s updated policy. Nonrecognized schools were put on probation status Oct. 1.

The Illinois State Board of Education, or ISBE, has reversed course on a policy that immediately revoked state recognition of private schools violating Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mask mandate. As of Oct. 5, public and private schools that are found in violation of the governor’s school mask mandate will be placed on a 60-day probationary period.

The move comes just days after a Kendall County judge ruled in favor of temporarily reinstating state recognition of Parkview Christian Academy, finding ISBE guidelines for recognizing nonpublic schools unequally “burdensome.”

The state board has since updated its policy, placing Illinois’ eight “nonrecognized” private schools on probation in line with public school procedures for breaching the mandate.

ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said Oct. 5 that “moving nonpublic schools to probation instead of nonrecognition gives schools more time to work with ISBE on coming into compliance.”

Board officials are now contacting private schools that defied the governor’s order to discuss compliance issues and will require the institutions to submit a “corrective plan” within 60 days.

Since Pritzker introduced his statewide school mask mandate on Aug. 4, ISBE has placed 58 Illinois schools on probationary status. At least 15 of those schools had their state recognition rescinded.

Illinois schools unrecognized by ISBE lose access to state funding, the ability to participate in interschool sports and accreditation for newly issued diplomas, invalidating years of graduating students’ hard work.

Parkview challenged the punitive measure in court after ISBE stripped the school of state recognition in August for voting to make masking optional. The Christian academy argued the state process for school status revocation was unfairly weighted against private institutions. Krentz ruled in their favor, ordering ISBE to temporarily reinstate Parkview Christian Academy’s state recognition while the case continues to make its way through the court system.

An ISBE spokesperson clarified the “separate processes (for private and public schools) have been in long-standing administrative rules,” adding that the rules themselves have not actually been changed, rather the state board has just recently started enforcing the policy differently.

Matthews said the separate private school recognition process still allows for immediate nonrecognition without a probationary period “in instances in which the state superintendent determines there is an emergency situation present at a school.”

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