The past year has seen a tsunami of State government initiatives pointed straight at our public school system. From the implementation of Culturally Responsible Teaching and Leading Standards (CRTL) to mask mandates that put bureaucrats in the position of in loco parentis with regard to COVID-19, our schools are losing local control to the dictates of a one-size-fits-all State. I’m now getting emails and calls from constituents about the implementation of curriculum centered on such notions as Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Parents should be the point persons holding school districts accountable for what’s being taught to their kids, but without ready access to what teaching materials are being used in the classroom, they’re flying blind. In 1979, Illinois law affirmed parents’ rights to access curriculum information, but in practice, parents often have limited options to review the materials that are being used in their kids’ classrooms. In the 42 years since the law’s passage, very little has changed regarding how that information is provided to those entitled to see it. It’s often the case that parents who want to review course materials are required to travel to the school during specified hours, or they are shown only incomplete curriculum frameworks that don’t disclose actual content. Too often, parents find out what is being taught only after their child comes home to tell them about it.
It’s with this in mind that I’ve filed H.B. 4117, which requires public school districts having more than 300 students to post online a listing of all instructional materials used in the classroom, whether it be core textbooks, news articles, digital materials, teacher-prepared reading lists or other resources. Parents can already easily go online to the Illinois Report Card to access schools’ financial data, student performance scores, graduation and dropout rates, enrollment processes, and more. H.B. 4117 simply extends the same 21st century access to course content.
Districts will not be required to copy and upload every page of content. Instead, the bill requires schools to simply list the basic information (e.g., title and author or website) to identify each resource, organized by subject and grade. Parents will then have the ability to access these resources for their own review.
While some states have successfully passed legislation banning CRT and other politically divisive materials, I don’t want the State to have a dog in this fight. The battle needs to be waged at the district level, and by giving parents the tools they need to see what’s actually being taught to their kids, they can level the playing field and hold school boards and administrators accountable for their curriculum choices.
As if I couldn’t make it more plain as to what’s at stake, I spoke this week with a colleague of mine who told me that he got a call from a lobbyist for the Illinois Education Association (IEA), which represents teachers throughout the state who told him he’d better not co-sponsor my bill if he wants to continue getting their support. I guess the last thing they want is for parents to know what’s being taught to their kids, even though we pay the salaries of those who teach them.
This spring we saw a partisan map-making process play out in a backroom behind a locked door using inaccurate and incomplete data that produced flawed maps drawn by politicians. The majority party did not allow Republicans to provide input in the process. As we warned, these maps, which Governor Pritzker promised during his campaign he would not sign, were signed by him in spite of that promise.
We received the official decennial census counts released by the U.S. Census Bureau on August 12, and we have now had a chance to review the new accurate information compared with the data used in the first map. It shows that the Democrats’ maps seriously exceed the “safe harbor” limitations which guarantee equal representation and are, in our opinion, in conflict with the U.S. Constitution, federal law, and comparable provisions of the Illinois Constitution.
It’s our position that there was therefore no lawful redistricting plan effective on June 30, 2021 and in this situation, Illinois’ Constitution is clear. If no lawful redistricting plan is effective by June 30, responsibility for drawing maps shifts to the bipartisan Legislative Redistricting Commission.
The Federal court responded with great skepticism to claims by Illinois Democrats that a partisan, pre-Census redistricting map passed in May meets federal requirements for constitutionality. Under federal case law, all electoral districts – including districts for members of the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate – have to be substantially equal in residential population, aka “One Person, One Vote.” Furthermore, these districts must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, a statute that enumerates several identity groups for districting scrutiny. Any map drawn to represent a population that has a substantial number of African-Americans or Hispanics, must prioritize the representation of these groups.
Instead of starting work together in this bipartisan commission, Democrats repeated the process that played out this spring. The Speaker called a Special Session that was held on August 31st after the Federal Judge confirmed that the June 30 maps had serious issues, the sole purpose of which was to vote on another hastily made map drawn without bi-partisan support and with no actual input from the community.
**UPDATE** It should come as no surprise that the Democrats rammed through a revised map that went through several revisions over the course of 2 days and which was dropped at 10:18 a.m. on Tuesday. A committee hearing was held 27 minutes later to rubber stamp them. The maps made it to the House floor that evening and were adopted unanimously by the Democrat majority, with all Republican members voting against.
The intent of the new maps can be summed up in the language from House Resolution 443, describing the changes made to House District 63, which I represent, describing the process from the standpoint of the Democrat majority:
“This district was drawn for political purposes to assist with increasing the political advantage of this district, as well as to impact the political composition of neighboring districts.”
“To the victor goes the spoils” as the old saying goes, but is this what your idea of fair representation looks like?
On Thursday, Governor JB Pritzker announced a statewide indoor mask mandate for all Illinois residents, regardless of vaccination status, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates continue to increase. The masking requirements are effective Monday, August 30.
Governor Pritzker also announced vaccination requirements for individuals in high-risk settings. All healthcare workers, including nursing home employees, all pre-K-12 teachers and staff, as well as higher education personnel and students will now be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Employees in all of these settings and higher education students who are unable or unwilling to receive the vaccine will be required to get tested for COVID-19 at least once per week, and IDPH and ISBE may require increased testing in certain situations.
Executive Order 2021-20 (COVID-19 EO Number 87), issued by Governor Pritzker on Thursday, August 26, implements the indoor mask mandate and vaccination requirements. Once again, the Governor has acted unilaterally to exercise his emergency management powers, without the advice and consent of the Illinois General Assembly. The Governor used the spread of the Delta variant as a new reason to extend his Disaster Declarations and emergency orders, just when we thought the worst of the restrictions were behind us.
No vaccine will guarantee that those who get vaccinated will not contract or transmit the virus. Since August 1, local health departments across the state have reported 27 COVID-19 outbreaks at schools and currently hundreds of schools are being monitored for potential COVID-19 exposures. Younger children who cannot yet get vaccinated can become carriers of the virus, and while the effects of contracting the virus are less on them than those they may come in contact with and to whom they may transmit it, they are still part of the equation.
While evidence is mounting that the Delta variant is more transmissible but not as dangerous as the prior outbreaks, the evidence is also mounting that the increases in hospital admissions are happening in areas with lower vaccination rates and among those who’ve not been vaccinated. We can’t ignore this evidence. The public health requirements come as regions with low vaccination rates continue to see a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
I’ve heard from many people in the 63rd District who don’t like the ever-changing rules regarding wearing masks in our schools and now again in indoor public spaces. I don’t like them either. Many are saying that they have a right to not get vaccinated. If you’ve got strong religious convictions about vaccinations or a demonstrable health reaction to them, or if you’ve had COVID and possess the antibodies, then you should be able to get on with your life. But with every right comes a corresponding responsibility, a responsibility to ourselves, our families and our communities.
The people in Illinois are in a bad mood about their authority figures, and for good reason. Public-health messaging has consistently failed to address many of your actual concerns and thus, quite understandably, feels sinister and propagandistic. Despite millions spent on public education and ham-handed attempts to keep citizens from sharing their concerns and fears, all we’ve ended up with are lines drawn in the sand with little movement on either side. This isn’t going to make the virus go away and it isn’t going to make the Governor any more open to reason. He’s going to continue to do what he’s been doing right up until Election Day next November, and he’s got a totally compliant super-majority in the House and Senate to back him up.
I’m asking those who choose to not get vaccinated because they maintain that they have the right to not do so to think about all of the consequences of that choice. This is in no way a call for a vaccine mandate. I’m not asking for anyone to surrender their principles, but to take a hard look at where their best interests lie. Let’s get this thing behind us.
Community Events in August:
Almost 90 cars came to our combined Food Drive and Shred Event over the weekend! We were able to recycle 2,458 pounds of paper and collect a great number of items for McHenry County food banks. Thank you to everyone who came out!
We had a great time meeting constituents at our Mobile Office Hours at the McHenry County Fair. This was another great effort by the community to have some summer fun at the Fair!
The Illinois & McHenry County Farm Bureau held their 2021 Nutrient Stewardship Day, where we learned about how woodchip bioreactors are being used to reduce nitrate runoff from farm fields. This technology helps to naturally reduce nitrogen levels in runoff flowing into our watersheds. Again, Illinois farmers stand at the forefront of responsible conservation and resource management.
Fall Events in the 63rd District:
Sep. 5, 2021 – Sep. 5, 2021 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Wonder Center Beach
4110 E. Lake Shore Drive
Wonder Lake, IL 60097
Come enjoy the final show for 2021. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy great waterskiing by our nationally ranked team. Free admission. On-street parking. Soft drinks and team sportswear available for purchase through our Boosters. Donations gladly accepted. …
Sep. 4, 2021 – Sep. 4, 2021 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM
124 Cass Street, Woodstock, IL 60098
We have some very talented crafters who make handmade unique items and some pretty cool vendors who also so unique items. Come out, join us, and browse the floor for deals on Jewelry, Nails, Natural Skin Care, clothing and much more.
In McHenry County, you’ll never have to look far to find farmland fun – plan an afternoon at an apple orchard, experience the country’s first apple maze, and bring home all your favorite fall baked goods!
All Seasons Orchard –
14510 IL. Rt. 176 | Woodstock
All Seasons Orchard has everything you need for a day of family fun with more than 30 different activities. Pick apples or pumpkins, explore the 10-acre corn maze, and play in the barnyard! After everyone has worked up an appetite, grab a meal at the Country Kitchen. Do not forget to visit the Farm Market for homemade pies and donuts, freshly pressed cider, local honey and so much more.
Royal Oak Farm Orchard
15908 Hebron Rd.| Harvard
Royal Oak Farm Orchard is filled with family fun and entertainment throughout their 120-acre farm. You won’t want to miss the country’s first apple tree maze, Amaze-N-Apples. This maze is filled with 3,000 apple trees with 1.5 miles of walking trails weaved throughout. Grab pumpkins, gourds, squash, and lots of tasty treats while you’re there too!
Stade’s Farm & Market
3709 Miller Rd.| McHenry
Spend a day in the country with your family and friends! Whether summer or fall, there is always something special to do at Stade’s Farm & Market. In the fall, explore their 8,000+ tree apple orchard, where you can find some of the most outstanding apples around. After picking, check out the Farmtractions Theme Park featuring jumping pillows, zip lines, pedal cars, a ferris wheel petting zoo, and a carousel to bring out the kid in everyone!
For More local events across McHenry County visit: https://www.visitmchenrycounty.com/Blog/Home