News - School’s out but it’s time to start thinking about school board races; IAR changes still needed; and more

Aside from the city of Chicago, school board elections throughout Illinois take place next spring on April 4, 2023, and candidates can begin collecting signatures to get on the ballot this fall. (The 2023 candidate guide is not yet out from the State Board of Elections, but the 2021 guide has basic info about running.)

If you’re considering running for your local school board or want to support candidates, there’s a great online training next week Wed June 22 at 6pm for current and prospective board members.

Wed. June 22 6pm: How School Boards Work: Taking Leadership in Public Education and Serving on School Boards In this workshop you will learn about the function of school boards, what the role is of a school board member and the importance of serving in leadership roles in our public education systems. Register here

This school board training will be led by Local Progress, a national, non-partisan 501c3 org connecting local elected officials who are working on progressive political goals. Local Progress has a new initiative connecting school board members around the country. If you are already a school board member and want to connect with others via Local Progress, let us know ([email protected]), and we can help you plug in.

This training is part of the series held by H.E.A.L. Together and Race Forward that we’ve shared with you before. Their next event will be July 6th: How Public Education is the Foundation for a Multiracial Democracy

Public schools are absolutely a foundation of our democracy. And with considerable local control of schools, democratically-elected school boards have the power to set many policies themselves or determine how federal and state policies are implemented on the ground in our schools.

School boards are the locus for fights over everything from funding, to standardized testing, charter schools, curriculum, covid mitigation, tech usage, discipline, health and safety, and support for students from marginalized groups. The disruptions, disinformation and attacks we’ve seen on boards and board members have been followed in some places by a mobilization of candidates who aren’t supportive of public schools—but also those who are. It’s crucial for public ed that strong public school supporters engage in these elections on the local level.

NPR: Progressives take a leaf out of the conservative playbook to target school boards

AP News [Nov 2021]: Culture war fight finds mixed success in school board races

Pro-Publica White Parents Rallied to Chase a Black Educator Out of Town. Then, They Followed Her to the Next One.


ISBE’s bad assessment proposal stopped - but change still needed

In case you missed it, IL-FPS and our coalition partners celebrated a big victory last month in our campaign to stop the IL State Board of Education’s proposal to expand state testing! We were thrilled and relieved to hear State Superintendent Ayala’s announcement at the May ISBE meeting that this plan was being dropped. But the state assessment system does need an overhaul in both the short term and the long term. There are three more years left on the contract for the IL Assessment of Readiness, and the state should work with the vendors to implement changes that could be made now: a shorter test, with detailed results returned quickly. Having spent money and time on the Center of Assessment’s exploration of changes that could be made, the state should also begin pursuing the Center’s recommendations for how to make longer term improvements.

On Wednesday at the June ISBE meeting, our assessment coalition delivered a letter from IL-FPS, the IL Federation of Teachers, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Learning Disabilities Association of IL and Raise Your Hand calling on ISBE to do just that. The IL Education Association also spoke in favor of the Center for Assessment’s recommendations. We’ll keep you updated about opportunities to push for improvements in the coming months!


After Uvalde killings, will there be a federal legislative response?

Yet another beyond horrific mass shooting took place at Robb Elementary in Uvalde TX on May 27th, where nineteen children and two teachers were murdered in their classroom, and another nineteen people injured.

According to Ed Week’s tracking, this was the 27th school shooting of 2022, and Everytown for Gun Safety has counted 95 instances of gunfire at schools so far this year. Compared to the amount of gun violence US children are subjected to outside school—guns are the leading cause of death for 0-19 year olds in the US—it is statistically unlikely for any particular child to experience a mass shooting at school, and schools are one of the safest environments for children with respect to gun violence. But the impact on how our public schools operate has nonetheless been huge with dozens of states allowing teachers to carry guns and the majority of states requiring active shooter drills.

Changes to federal law may yet come out of the grotesque and preventable loss of life in the fourth grade classroom in Robb Elementary. Unfortunately, that legislation may very well contain policies that will harm students, not make them safer in school.

In These Times: In the Wake of Uvalde, a Teacher's Plea for Police-Free Schools

We agree with the National Center for Youth Law that any legislation should prioritize children’s health and not exacerbate harm. Please take a minute to email or call our US Senators from IL and share that important message:

As the Senate works to draft language for the bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country -- an effort that is laudable, and of urgent importance -- we need to ensure that your effort does not advance ineffective approaches, and does not cause more harm to children. To date, school hardening, police in schools, student threat assessments and student surveillance have been used in public schools for years – and they’ve been increased after each high-profile school shooting tragedy – but they have been ineffective. The fact is, students are not safer from shootings, and many students are harmed by these approaches – especially students of color and students with disabilities.

The National Center for Youth Law’s reference sheet with recommendations for federal lawmakers is here. And this summary and bibliography of research on armed police officers in schools is a good place to start if you are interested in the issue of police-free schools.


PEER Survey

If you had complete control over educational funding, what types of resources would you want to see in your schools and communities? What would be a priority for you? How would you reimagine school funding? IL-FPS is part of Illinois’ PEER coalition. PEER is a national project working on public ed funding in 9 states. The IL PEER coalition wants your opinions about the resources your school needs! Take part in the survey HERE.