Illinois Democrats have sent legislation to the House Floor that would reinstate a five-hour minimum requirement for public school days, but Republicans are trying to negotiate some of the flexibility into the legislation at the request of school districts.
Illinois school kids are required to be in school for 176 days. But, because of an oversight in last year’s education reforms, there’s no set number of hours for those days in the current school year.
State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, said House Bill 247 is simply fixing a mistake, not shortchanging school districts that are enjoying the extra scheduling flexibility.
“School districts hate to lose that flexibility, but they gained that flexibility through a mistake that was made last year when this language was removed,” he said.
Some schools are using the newfound flexibility to let students learn from home on snow days or enroll in an apprenticeship. State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, said she has schools in her district that were abusing the flexibility, sending home work sheets and calling it a school day. Bourne said she couldn’t support Crespo’s bill because it removed all discretion.
“If we push this bill forward with no flexibilities included, they’re not going to be able to plan for some of the flexibilities that I’m hearing both sides agree to,” she said.
State Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha, said schools in his rural district have benefitted from allowing e-learning during times of bad weather.
“The superintendents continue to say we enjoy the flexibility we have today and we feel that we’re going to lose flexibility with this mandate,” he said.
The bill is backed by education unions that will benefit from a minimum requirement for class time when they negotiate teacher contracts.
It now awaits a House vote.