Pritzker signs law to ‘eliminate racial injustices’ in Illinois education

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MAYWOOD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Gov. Pritzker announced Monday the signing of the Educational and Workforce Equity Act, which seeks to “eliminate racial injustices and structural barriers” in education.

“This legislation accomplishes so much to expand access – from early childhood services to AP courses; To achieve equity – by addressing learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic; And to broaden opportunity – by evaluating and streamlining our workforce programs so more students might choose a career in education,” said Pritzker.

House Bill 2170 uses equity and fairness as guiding principles to improve outcomes across early childhood education, primary and secondary education, higher education and workforce development.

Early Childhood Education
• Expands access to the Early Intervention program by allowing children who turn 3 years old between May and August to continue receiving services until the beginning of the next school year.
• Requires the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to annually assess all public-school students entering kindergarten to measure their readiness.
• Requires that behavioral health providers use diagnostic codes and descriptions that are developmentally and age appropriate for children under the age of 5.

Primary and Secondary Education
• Adds new graduation requirements that will better prepare students in computer literacy, laboratory science and foreign languages.
• Increases access to accelerated placement programs for students meeting or exceeding state standards in English language arts, math, or science.
• Expands the required Black history coursework to include pre-enslavement of Black people, why Black people came to be enslaved, and the American Civil Rights renaissance.
• Requires the Illinois P-20 Council to make recommendations for the short-term and long-term learning recovery actions for public school students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Establishes a 22-person Inclusive American History Commission.
• Requires the Professional Review Panel to study various issues to strengthen the equity components in the state’s evidence-based school funding formula.
• Creates the Whole Child Task Force to focus on expanding trauma-responsive school services.
• Establishes a freedom school network to supplement learning in public schools.

Higher Education
• Establishes the Developmental Education Reform Act, which requires community colleges to use certain measures to determine the placement of students in introductory college-level courses.
• Increases the percentage of grant funds prioritized for Black males and incorporates consideration of financial need in awarding grants.
• Establishes priority in grant funding for students wanting to become bilingual teachers.
• Expands the Illinois Teaching Excellence Program to cover programs working with diverse candidates.
• Reduces the AIM High Program matching funds requirement for public universities based on the percentage of low-income students enrolled at the public institution.
• Requires that ISBE compile a review that identifies the courses that each public university requires or recommends that high school students take in order to be admitted as an undergraduate.

Workforce Development
• Requires the Illinois Workforce Investment Board conduct a feasibility study of all workforce development programs funded by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) sponsored the bill, which was crafted by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.

The law tackles racial inequity from early childhood education to workforce development, by expanding education programs and creating a “Whole Child” task force which will recommend programs for “restorative, anti-racist and trauma responsive” strategies.

The law goes into effect immediately.

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