I would like to thank Gov. Pritzker for signing House Bill 2170 into law last week that will improve education in Illinois. Illinois Public Act 101-0654, which takes effective immediately, is a key part of the Illinois Black Caucus’ legislative agenda.
As chair of the Illinois House Appropriations-Higher Education Committee, I am happy this new law increases the percentage of grant funds prioritized for Black males and incorporates consideration of financial need in awarding grants, among other improvements to higher education.
And this new law also incorporates what I and other advocates have been fighting for – a change in the teaching of history in our schools. This new law expands the required Black history coursework to include pre-enslavement of Black people, why Black people came to be enslaved and the American Civil Rights renaissance.
The law also establishes a 22-person Inclusive American History Commission. This Commission will (1) Review available resources for use in school districts that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of this state and country, to be posted on the State Board of Education’s website; (2) Provide guidance for each learning standard developed for educators on how to ensure that instruction and content are not biased to value specific cultures, time periods and experiences over other cultures, time periods and experiences; (3) Develop guidance, tools and support for professional learning on how to locate and use resources for non-dominant cultural narratives and sources of historical information.
The governor’s office says the new law, which was signed into law March 8, strengthens the state’s priorities in delivering high-quality learning from cradle to career by supporting public schools, making college education more affordable, investing in vocational training and expanding the teacher workforce – all with a heightened equity focus on communities that have been disproportionally impacted by longstanding disinvestment.
In a statement, Gov. Pritzker says: “I was proud to collaborate with the Black Caucus to help build a bill that truly does more for the students of Illinois, with a mission to make progress toward eliminating racial inequities and structural barriers that hold our learners back. Much has been accomplished here, but there’s more work to be done.”
Major aspects of the new law include:
Early Childhood Education
• Expands access to the early intervention program by allowing children who turn 3 between May and August to continue receiving services until the beginning of the next school year.
• Requires the Illinois State Board of Education to annually assess all public-school students entering kindergarten to measure their readiness.
• Requires that behavioral health providers use diagnostic codes and descriptions that are developmentally and age appropriate for children under the age of 5.
Primary and Secondary Education
• Adds new graduation requirements that will better prepare students in computer literacy, laboratory science and foreign languages.
• Increases access to accelerated placement programs for students meeting or exceeding state standards in English language arts, math or science.
• Expands the required Black history coursework to include pre-enslavement of Black people, why Black people came to be enslaved and the American Civil Rights renaissance.
• Requires the Illinois P-20 Council to make recommendations for the short-term and long-term learning recovery actions for public school students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Establishes a 22-person Inclusive American History Commission.
• Requires the Professional Review Panel to study various issues to strengthen the equity components in the state’s evidence-based school funding formula.
• Creates the Whole Child Task Force to focus on expanding trauma-responsive school services.
• Establishes a freedom school network to supplement learning in public schools.
• Establishes the Developmental Education Reform Act, which requires community colleges to use certain measures to determine the placement of students in introductory college-level courses.
• Increases the percentage of grant funds prioritized for Black males and incorporates consideration of financial need in awarding grants.
• Establishes priority in grant funding for students wanting to become bilingual teachers.
• Expands the Illinois Teaching Excellence Program to cover programs working with diverse candidates.
• Reduces the AIM High Program matching funds requirement for public universities based on the percentage of low-income students enrolled at the public institution.
• Requires the ISBE to compile a review that identifies the courses that each public university requires or recommends that high school students take in order to be admitted as an undergraduate.
• Requires the Illinois Workforce Investment Board conduct a feasibility study of all workforce development programs funded by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.