Testing bills in hearing this week; Child tax credit for IL; Mask chaos in IL schools

Updates on standardized testing bills in hearing in the House this week, HB 5285 and HB 5149; expanding the Earned Income Credit and creating a Child Tax Credit to make IL's tax structure less regressive; what's happening with the mask mandate lawsuit and its impact on schools.

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Action alert: House hearing on Too Young to Test HB 5285

Last Tuesday the Senate version of the Too Young to Test bill, SB 3986, passed in the Senate Education Committee. There is also a companion bill in the House, HB 5285, filed by chief sponsor Rep Lindsey LaPointe with the same language as the Senate version that is now moving, and it has a House Education Committee hearing this Wednesday 2/16 at 2pm.

Please put in a witness slip as a PROPONENT before the hearing! Witness slip filing instructions here.

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Letter to Champaign Board of Ed about play and school day length

Champaign CUSD 4 is in contract negotiations with the Champaign Federation of Teachers, and the Board of Education wants to extend the day by 50 minutes starting in fall 2023. Justification for this change is the passage last summer of the Right to Play recess bill which requires 30 minutes of play for grades K-5 in public elementary schools every day. IL Families for Public Schools sent a letter about this to the CUSD 4 Board of Education. Letter here and text below.

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Action alert: Senate hearing on Too Young to Test SB 3986

Things are moving again in Springfield, and the Too Young to Test bill, SB 3986, we're working on has a Senate Education Committee hearing at 1:30 tomorrow afternoon!

Please put in a witness slip as a PROPONENT before the hearing! Witness slip filing instructions here.

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Ruling issued on mask & other covid mitigation mandates in IL schools: What's next? - Una decisión temporal sobre el caso sobre máscaras y otros mandatos de mitigación de Covid en las escuelas de IL: ¿Qué sigue?

(Español sigue abajo)

Last night the judge in the covid-mitigation measures in schools case issued two rulings. The first was on class certification, whether the lawsuits could become class action suits on behalf of not just the plaintiffs, but all members of the class (the class of parents of school students and the class of school employees). This wasn’t granted (at least for now). The judge acknowledged that there is not a uniform class that wants covid mitigation measures like masks in schools lifted. Last month our director Cassie Creswell submitted a declaration as part of the lawsuit in opposition to the class certification. You can read it here. 

The second ruling was not good news for public health and public schools, certainly in the short term and possibly longer. The judge granted a temporary injunction on the rules from the IL Department of Public Health and the IL State Board of Education requiring masks, quarantining for those exposed to covid, and vaccinations and testing for employees. You can read the ruling here. See p. 28 for the actual order. 

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IL-FPS news update: K-2 is Too Young to Test! Also: Naviance profits from student data

Despite the fact that the federal government does not require standardized math and reading tests for students in grades K-2, the IL State Board of Ed is considering a proposal that would expand the state testing system to include those grades. They will be voting soon on this proposal, which would also increase 3-8th grade state math and reading testing to three times a year instead of once, in addition to paying for districts to give these tests to our youngest learners—when there’s absolutely no federal requirement to do so!

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Letter to US Sen Durbin about Vista Equity and its ed tech holdings

Illinois Families for Public Schools and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy sent a letter to US Senator Dick Durbin on Thursday in response to recent reporting in the Big Tech watchdog publication The Markup about the implications for student data privacy of ed tech companies with products including Powerschool and Naviance that a private equity firm, Vista Equity, has recently been buying up:

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Orgs call on CPS to revise SOPPA policy

Illinois Families for Public Schools, along with the Computer Science Teachers Association - Chicago ChapterCS4ILChicago Teachers Union, and the editorial boards of two student newspapers, the Lane Tech Champion and the Jones Blueprint, sent the Chicago Board of Education and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez a letter today calling on Chicago Public Schools to revise their policy for the Student Online Personal Protection Act and join a statewide consortium in order to make educational software in use around the state available to CPS students. The letter states: "Providing access to technology and protecting student data are not inherently in opposition, and we firmly believe that school districts can do both well." Full letter text below.

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What options do IL schools have for remote learning?

As many districts around the state have had to take an adaptive pause after or for the first week back at school post-winter break, we are seeing lots of confusion from parents about whether ISBE needs to approve this or not, and whether districts can make this decision on their own. Some parents have told us their district has said it’s up to ISBE, which is not accurate. And Chicago Public Schools continues to tell parents the district is not currently authorized by law to do districtwide remote learning.

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Getting the facts straight on covid testing in schools

As we deal with the omicron surge, we are seeing wide variations in the covid testing procedures happening at schools around the state. IDPH began funding the University of Illinois’s SHIELD saliva testing for some schools last spring and expanded it to all schools in August 2021. Last fall additional capacity was added through a federal program. Chicago Public Schools, however, is using other federal covid relief funds to implement testing separately.

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