IL lawmakers want to require lead testing in schools

ILLINOIS (KFVS) - State lawmakers in Illinois want to require lead testing in schools, but some school administrators say there's no money to pay for it as the law is currently written.

The bill would require that all schools built before 2000 with pre-kindergarten through fifth grade classes test all water sources used for drinking or food preparation for lead.

The lead testing would be paid for by local schools and water providers, which is why many of those bodies statewide oppose its passage.

The legislation was initiated by Madigan and the Illinois Environmental Council this past spring in response to alarming levels of lead found in water in many Chicago and suburban school districts.

In the last year, some Illinois schools that have voluntarily tested drinking water for lead have shown unsafe levels.

Chicago Public Schools found elevated levels of lead in water fountains in more than 113 of the 327 schools tested.

Test results from other school districts, including Glenview and St. Charles, also revealed drinking water sources with elevated lead levels.

"We care about our students and take student safety very seriously," Murphysboro Superintendent Chris Grode said. "We would love to test that water, but right now the funding makes it very difficult."

In November, the Illinois Association of School Boards came out with a list of what they regard as "unfunded mandates" set forth by the state since 1992.

The 166 item long list ranges from things like requiring sprinkler systems, to  requiring a suicide prevention team.

"The things on this list are obviously good things," Grode said. "They're things we should be able to provide, and want to provide for our children. But some of them are things that require allocation of manpower, equipment, utilities… and the state assumes we have a way to pay for it."

Many of us just don't."

Grode said the amount of state-provided funds has decreased in the past five years, and pointed out 22 mandates that were added to the aforementioned list between 2015 and 2016 alone.

"Whatever we have to do" said one long-time Murphysboro resident. "Our kids are our future... we have to make sure their drinking water is clean. So, whatever it would take."

In addition to requiring water testing for lead in all sources of drinking water in schools with pre-kindergarten through fifth grades and day cares, the legislation requires an inventory be taken of all lead service lines in the state that pose the risk of increased lead exposure in drinking water.

The bill number is SB 550.

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