Celebrating Legislative Successes in 2018—Education Issues

Source: One Voice Illinois

As we approach Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on February 6, 2019, we are taking the opportunity to reflect on the substantial legislative gains Illinois PTA made on issues affecting our children and youth in the areas of health, including mental health, safety, gun control, social and emotional learning, and special education. Today’s article looks back at new laws covering education issues, including special education and social and emotional learning.

IEP Parent Notification

Many parents and students may be unaware of the special services available and, as a result, may not receive the early and effective interventions needed. PA 100-0993, Individualized Education Program(SB454) amends the Children with Disabilities article of the School Code to provide that at a child’s initial Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting and at each annual IEP review meeting, the IEP team will provide written notice to the child’s parent or guardian advising as to whether the child requires assistive technology in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Section 504 Parent Information

Another statute, PA 100-1112, amends the Children with Disabilities Article of the School Code in connection with Mental Health Services (HB5770) to provide that a school board will provide notice through its student handbook, newsletter, and/or website that students who do not qualify for an individualized education program, may, however, qualify for services under Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, if the child has or is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment, beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.

Social and Emotional Learning

The Illinois PTA supports social emotional learning (SEL) programs in schools pursuant to our continuing position on this issue. SEL programs have been shown to have immediate improvements in mental health, social skills, and academic development. Incorporating non-violent conflict resolution and positive interactions with others—important components of social and emotional learning—may be an effective means of preventing further suspensions and needs for disciplinary action in the near future and many years from now. A 2017 meta-analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, the University of British Columbia, and Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) determined that SEL programs benefit students long-term. As many as 18 years later, students exposed to SEL in school continue to do better than peers in the following areas: positive social behaviors and attitudes; empathy; teamwork; and academics. They also were found to have fewer problems in connection with conduct, less emotional distress, and lower drug use. CASEL found that SEL skill development is best done through effective classroom instruction, student engagement in positive activities in and out of the classroom, and broad parent and community involvement in program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

In connection with this, we supported related bills – HB5786 and HB4657. PA 100-1035, In School Suspension Focus on Non-violent Conflict Resolution (HB 5786) amends the School Code regarding in-school suspensions so that the school district may focus on non-violent conflict resolution, and positive interactions with other students and school personnel, as well as permits a school district to employ a school social worker or mental health professional to oversee the in-school suspension program. PA 100-1139, Emotional Intelligence and Social and Emotional Learning Task Force, (HB4657)amends the School Code, creating the Emotional Intelligence and Social and Emotional Learning Task Force to develop curriculum guidelines, assessment guidelines and best practices on emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning.

Parenting Education

Research across numerous agencies has shown that programs that promote healthy social, emotional and cognitive development can improve the quality of life and potential for many children. In particular, properly developed parenting programs have been shown to promote positive parenting behaviors and effective discipline strategies, change adverse family patterns, and to reduce levels of child abuse and neglect. According to the National Academy of Sciences, abuse can change a child’s brain, including with respect to: the way the brain regulates emotions, such as fear and anxiety – altering the way a child connects with peers and adults; cognitive processing – including planning, reasoning and decision-making ability; and can lead to an increase in social problems, including drug abuse, violent and/or criminal behavior, to list just a few. The AAP Report also found that parenting education is an effective means to prevent abuse and mental illness before it starts.

PA 100-1043, Parenting Education Bill (HB4442) amends the School Code to require, in part, that the State Board of Education implement and administer a 3-year pilot program to support the health and wellness student-learning requirement with a unit of instruction on parenting education in participating school districts for the ninth through twelfth grade, encouraging instruction on the following: 1) family structure, function, and management, 2) child abuse prevention, 3) the physical, mental, emotional, social, economic, and psychological aspects of interpersonal and family relationships, and 4) parenting education competency development, aligned to the social and emotional learning standards of the student’s grade level. Importantly, it will also allow the State Board of Education to provide grants for those participating in the pilot program.

Take Action

Do we have more to do? Every day! How can you help? Sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Networkto stay up to date on issues, and  join us for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Please contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty at lgarbaty@illinoispta.org.