Gov. Quinn puts hold on school mandates; school leaders react

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Governor Pat Quinn gives a break to other Illinois educators. Quinn recently signed a new law that prevents lawmakers from passing any new instructional mandates.

In southern Illinois there is mixed reaction from educators. Some say it's a good thing, while others say they are skeptical.

The mural at Longfellow Elementary in Marion says the school loves to learn. But what and how students should learn is outlined in a very thick Illinois School Code book.

"We are mandated to follow virtually everything in this code book," Marion Superintendent Wade Hudgens said.

Hudgens says each year hundreds of mandates are proposed. Last year, lawmakers passed 74 education bills to the governor. School experts say nearly 26 percent of those were new unfunded or under-funded mandates put on school districts. But Hudgens says even if the program is funded, it doesn't mean the state will pay up. Currently, Illinois owes Marion School District $700,000 in Pre-K funds.

"In following the state's guidelines and trying to have a program for these, pre-school at risk children, we find ourselves having to dip into our other recourses in order to pay for that," Hudgens said.

Illinois mandates more than just the three R's. Some requirements include the use of green cleaning products and teaching younger students how to properly wash their hands.

"It's been increasingly difficult to get those types of things in when we are talking reading, writing, arithmetic, and history," Carterville Superintendent Tim Bleyer said.

That is one reason why Bleyer says this new law will provide a much needed breath for educators.

"It's nice to get some reprieve from the governor," Bleyer added.

But Hudgens says there have been laws like this in the past and he doesn't expect much change now.

"The request or burdens that are placed on school districts seem to be growing daily and it makes for a very difficult situation to run a school district and give the local tax payer the best bang for the buck," Hudgens said.

The new law requires the creation of a task force to look into mandates and make recommendations. The mandate moratorium would also last a year after the group releases its findings.

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