Your Advocacy Matters, Especially Now

Source: One Voice Illinois

The school year is winding down, and many PTAs and members are thinking about end-of-the-year parties and summer activities. But the end of May also marks the end of the Illinois legislative session, and many of the issues that the General Assembly still faces will have a significant effect on your child and their school. Among those issues are:

  • The state budget for the next fiscal year
  • Additional education funding for the new Evidence-Based Funding model
  • Gun violence prevention and school safety
  • Children’s mental health
  • Juvenile Justice issues

Illinois PTA will be advocating on these and other issues as the legislative session wraps up. We will be filing witness slips on various bills, testifying before committees, and contacting legislators and the governor. But the true power of PTA comes through when our PTA members join us in speaking up for all the children of Illinois.

You Already Are an Advocate

If you’ve spoken to your child’s teacher about an issue in the classroom or with your child’s learning, you are already an advocate. If you have raised a question at a PTA meeting about why your child’s school has a certain policy, you are already an advocate. If you have every spoken at a school board meeting or placed a school referendum sign in your front yard, you are already an advocate.

Advocacy is simply speaking up for another, and PTA advocacy focuses on those who have little to no voice in the halls of power—our children. Many school boards and many legislators have few, if any, individuals speaking up on a particular issue. When you can share your viewpoint and tell how a policy or a bill will have a specific effect on your child, your family, or your community, you have tremendous influence on those who make the policies or pass the bills. Don’t take our word for it, look at what PTA advocates did to get drinking water in elementary schools tested for lead.

How to Advocate with the Legislature

Illinois PTA makes it easy to advocate with legislators. Join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network by going to the Illinois PTA Advocacy page and entering your e-mail and ZIP code in the Quick Sign Up box on the right.

As a member of the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network, you will get occasional calls to action in your inbox. Simply click on the button in the e-mail, which will take you to a prewritten letter to your legislators. Take a moment to add any personal information, including how the bill will affect your child or school, up at the top of the letter, include your contact information, and hit send. That’s all there is to it.

We know that these e-mails do make a difference. Legislators also take notice when Illinois PTA leaders start their testimony on a bill with, “On behalf of the 80,000 members of the Illinois PTA…” Your advocacy, and your PTA membership, makes a difference for your child and for every child in Illinois.

 

Bylaws Available for Review

The bylaws of the Northwest Suburban Council of PTA/ PTSA have undergone their biannual review. 1 item was corrected (Article VIII, officer elections are at the Spring General Membership meeting). These will be posted for comment until the April 9th General Membership meeting and then voted on.

NWSC bylaws 2017-2018 for review

Please submit any questions or comments to Jeanette Harris harris.j.golfer@live.com and Stefanie Boucher president@willowbendpta.com.

Does Advocacy Matter?

Source: One Voice Illinois

PTA was founded 120 years ago to focus on advocacy on behalf of children, and many things we take for granted today—child labor laws, the juvenile justice system, childhood immunizations, the school lunch program—happened because of PTA advocacy. But when we look back at those examples today, our thoughts may lean towards those being obvious choices—of course children shouldn’t work in dangerous factories and mines, be locked up with adult prisoners, die from preventable diseases, or go hungry at school. As individuals, we may feel that our voice is too small, that there are too many lobbyists with too much money drowning out what we’re saying. So, does advocacy matter?

At Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield in 2016, a dozen PTA advocates visited legislators and their staff to push for passage of SB550, a school drinking water lead testing bill that was stuck in committee and going nowhere. Hundreds of other PTA advocates participated in our online Call to Action to contact their legislators as well. The result was a “dead” bill suddenly moving to passage and signed into law.

The law is a great success for PTA advocacy, and we should all be proud of our efforts, but passing a law often seems abstract when trying to get others to join us in advocacy. That is why it is important to remember that passing laws or developing regulations are like only the building of a rocket. It is the implementation that is what launches that rocket.

So what has been the real effect of passing SB550? Schools have been testing their drinking water, and how that testing will benefit young children in Illinois is becoming increasingly clear. School districts across the state are having to deal with unsafe drinking water that has been harming children for decades. Note this small sample of news articles, citing schools with high lead levels:

And there are many more school districts like those listed. It should also be noted that Chicago Public Schools began testing for lead before the law was passed.

So the efforts of about 1% of Illinois PTA members advocating for children means that high lead contamination of drinking water in day cares and elementary schools will soon be a thing of the past. That will make a significant difference in the lives of each of those children, and that is why advocacy matters. Imagine what we could accomplish if every PTA member was actively advocating for children.

Get Involved Now!

Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield 2017 was last week. If you weren’t able to join us, contact your legislators now (it literally takes two minutes), and don’t forget to sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network to ensure you don’t miss additional opportunities to speak up for Illinois children.

 

 

Illinois PTA Advocacy Day 2017

Source: One Voice Illinois

Today is Illinois PTA Advocacy Day. Even if you can’t join us in Springfield, you can still participate. If you have a few minutes sometime in the next few days, send an e-mail to your legislators. The text is prewritten for you, though you can edit it or add more if you would like to. Then, add your contact information and hit send.

If you have a bit more time, schedule a meeting with your legislators at their district offices. They will be in Springfield this week for the veto session, but will be back in their districts next week. If you’re not sure how to set up a meeting or how to talk to a legislator, be sure to check out our webinar from last year on How to Meet with Legislators.

Illinois PTA is advocating on three key issues this year for Advocacy Day:

  • Education Funding: The new funding formula starts Illinois on a path towards adequate and equitable funding, but without additional funding added to the formula in future years, we will continue to have the most inequitable school funding in the country.
  • Environmental Concerns: Based on our 2017 resolutions on climate change and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), we are asking legislators to support science-based regulations on carbon emissions and fracking operations to protect children’s health and the environment.
  • Justice-Involved Young Adults: Based on our report to the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention, we are asking lawmakers to consider legislation treating those ages 18 to 24 involved in the justice system differently from those 25 and older, as scientific research indicates that young adults in that age range behave much more like teenagers than adults due to brain development.

If you are unsure what to say about these topics to your legislator, check out our 2017 Hot Topics webinar or contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty, who can provide you with talking points and handouts to share.

Finally, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your voice heard on important advocacy issues in the future. Find out about Illinois PTA Calls to Action by signing up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network.

 

Aligning National PTA and Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities: Special Education

Source: One Voice Illinois

The National PTA Legislative Checklist calls for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that further supports and improves the lives of more than 6.5 million eligible children, from infants through youth. Reauthorization must:

  • Include a statutory definition of family engagement in education based on National Standards for Family-School Partnerships within section 602 of IDEA.
  • Provide greater protections for the rights of children with special needs, as well as their families, to ensure access to resources and supports for high-quality education.
  • Require transition planning for qualifying students to begin no later than age 14, incentivizing school districts to employ appropriate staff to deliver services.
  • Support the inclusion of behavioral intervention plans in a student’s IEP and 504b plan.

One of the fundamentals of IDEA is the inclusion of Procedural Safeguards designed to enumerate the rights of both the student and family, and the school district when determining appropriate educational programs for students with special needs. These safeguards include, but are not limited to:

  • The parents’ right to receive a complete explanation of all the procedural safeguards, the method of submitting any complaints, and the mechanism for resolving disputes,
  • The right to confidentiality
  • The right to review in its entirety a student’s educational record
  • The right to participate in meetings to identify, evaluate, or place a student in a particular educational program, including the provisions of a free appropriate education for the student (FAPE)
  • The right to obtain an independent educational evaluation
  • The right to prior written notice on matters relating to the student
  • The right to give or deny consent before the school make take certain action with regard to the student
  • The right to disagree with decisions made by the school system

The Illinois PTA recognizes that the educational environment for students with special needs, as defined within the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), must consider the needs of the student as part of the planning process. One critical element of assessing student needs continues to be funding. Item 3c of the Illinois PTA Legislation Platform calls for full funding of all mandated educational and special programs so that all students will have the opportunity to reach their full potential. This position is expanded in Item 3g of the platform which calls for adequate appropriations for the education of special needs students.

In addition, we support the development of Social and Emotional Learning Standards (SEL) which provide content, skills, evaluation, and assessment at age appropriate levels as part of the curricula crafted by Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

ESSA, Family Engagement, and Your PTA

Source: One Voice Illinois

Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues to make progress, with the US Department of Education approving Illinois’s ESSA plan. In Congress, the House of Representatives has included funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) in its appropriations bill. With the approval of the Illinois ESSA plan, attention now turns to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), or school districts in non-legalese, who must create their own ESSA implementation plans using the guidance of the state plan.

PTA’s Role in Planning

During the development of the state ESSA plan, Illinois PTA represented families in many of the committees and working groups that were developing various parts of the plan. Now that school districts are developing their plans, PTA councils and local PTA units have a role to play as well. ESSA requires that all stakeholders, including families, be included in the planning process, and PTAs are uniquely able to fill that role.

PTA councils and units should start the process by letting their school superintendent and school board know that they are interested in being involved in developing the district’s ESSA plan. Your school district should be supportive, as family and community engagement is one of the core elements of the Illinois Balanced Accountability Measure (IBAM) that will measure how schools are doing overall. IBAM replaces the test-score-only approach of measuring a school’s success under No Child Left Behind.

For those who serve on school district committees for PTA, it is important to remember that they are representing PTA and families, not their personal opinion. The National PTA Federal Public Policy Agenda, ESSA advocacy tools, and ESSA Local Roadmap can help support your efforts. From Illinois PTA, our legislative platform provides information on our positions, and Education Issues Director Kelli Denard can help with questions you might have. Finally, Partners for Each and Every Child and the Council of Chief State School Officers jointly developed a handbook to help school districts and school leaders cooperate to effectively implement ESSA at the local level.

PTA’s Role in Family Engagement

Illinois has its Family Engagement Framework to help local districts implement effective family engagement practices. The four principles of the framework parallel the six National Standards for Family-School Partnerships developed by National PTA. National PTA has additional resources in its Family Engagement Toolbox.

Even if your PTA is not interested in getting involved with your school district’s ESSA plan development, you can be involved in improving family engagement in your school. The National PTA School of Excellence program has a proven track record of improving family engagement. Illinois PTA has highlighted the success that Kreitner Elementary PTA had in becoming a School of Excellence in 2016.

If you’re interested in making your school a School of Excellence this year, the signup deadline is October 1, 2017. Don’t delay, sign up today.

 

Aligning National PTA and Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities: Juvenile Justice

Source: One Voice Illinois

The 2017-18 Federal Public Policy Agenda Checklist of the National PTA calls for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), reducing the number of youth unnecessarily involved in the justice system. Reauthorization must include that the juvenile justice system:

  • Incentivize family and community based alternatives to incarceration
  • Eliminate certain exceptions to the Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders core requirement
  • Extend the Jail Removal and Sight and Sound Separation core requirements to all children under the age of 18 during all forms of detainment
  • Require states to establish solutions to reduce racial and ethnic disparities

Item 11 of the Illinois PTA Legislation Platform addresses Juvenile Justice issues, calling for adequate programs on both state and local level for:

  • The prevention of juvenile delinquency
  • Services for early intervention for juvenile offenders
  • Treatment and separation of dependent and delinquent children in institutions and in Juvenile Court, as well as original exclusive jurisdiction over children and youth under age 18 to be in the Juvenile Court
  • Support of laws and regulations in our justice system that address the differing needs of youth as they continue to mature from age 18 to age 25

In addition to these items found in the platform, the Illinois PTA holds continuing positions on the support and supervision of youthful offenders in residential facilities; support for the federal Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention Act, including adequate appropriations to facilitate the Act; a strong Juvenile Court System in Illinois recognizing that youthful offenders should not be treated in the same manner as adult offenders; and a Juvenile Justice system that is focused on rehabilitation.

These positions highlight a number of legislative successes. Illinois has raised the age of majority from 17 to 18 for the juvenile justice system. Juvenile offenders are now separated from adults when incarcerated. Redeploy Illinois, a program supported by Illinois PTA, is successfully reducing the rate of recidivism of youth also reducing costs by avoiding incarceration. During the state budget crisis, Illinois PTA pointed out that closure of Redeploy Illinois programs in 23 counties meant that 275 youth served by the program at a cost of $1.6 million would need to be incarcerated at a cost of $30.5 million. Illinois PTA’s report on consideration of how to handle “emerging adults,” (19 to 25) differently has received attention across the United States.

Just this year, with Illinois PTA support, Illinois now requires:

  • Restorative Justice training for all Dept. of Justice personnel (PA100-157)
  • Expansion of the ability to expunge juvenile arrest records (PA100-285)
  • Forbidding expulsion of children from pre-school programs (PA100-105)
  • Forbidding of booking stations in schools (PA100-204)

For further explanation, please refer to the 2017 National PTA Federal Public Policy Agenda, the Illinois PTA Report on Young Adults Involved in the Justice System, Ten Years of Progress (2009), and the complete Illinois PTA Legislation Platform.

 

Illinois PTA Statement on SB1947

Source: One Voice Illinois

Today, Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1947 (SB1947), the negotiated agreement of Senate Bill 1 (SB1), into law. While Illinois PTA supported SB1, we called for an override of the governor’s amendatory veto of SB1 and did not support SB1947.

Illinois PTA has long supported adequate, equitable, and sustainable funding of public schools, and SB1 was an important first step in improving the most inadequate and inequitable state education funding in the country. The process that resulted in SB1 took several years of research, negotiations, and public hearings. The result was a school funding formula that would put Illinois on a path towards guaranteeing every child in Illinois a high quality education regardless of their zip code.

After the Senate overrode the governor’s amendatory veto, the House was unable to do so, and a new agreement was negotiated over the weekend. This agreement was amended into SB1947, the details of which were not made public until Monday, just hours before the vote was taken. The Senate passed the new SB1947 on Tuesday.

While Illinois PTA applauds the new funding formula included in SB1947, which was essentially that of SB1, and believes it will begin the process of improving education funding in Illinois, there are items included in the agreement that Illinois PTA could not support:

  • The creation of a $75 million scholarship tax credit for private schools, which diverts public funds for non-public schools (see Illinois PTA Legislative Platform 3.a.). With Illinois schools receiving the worst level of state funding in the country and the state of Illinois having $15 billion in unpaid bills (a significant fraction of which are due public schools), Illinois PTA believes that any “extra” funding for education that the state “finds” should go to public schools.
  • Mandate relief that allows school districts to reduce the required number of days for physical education from five days per week to three. With childhood obesity continuing to grow, Illinois PTA believes that schools should be instrumental in helping children develop healthy habits such as daily exercise. In addition, as schools cut recess time, PE increasingly becomes the only time children have during the school day to be active, which is critical not only for their health but helps improve student achievement.
  • The creation of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Reform Task Force, while an important first step in discussing the effect TIF districts have on school funding, will not be subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information or Open Meetings requirements. Illinois PTA believes that this discussion deserves to be visible to the public and not hidden behind closed doors.

The new education funding formula is a significant victory for the children of Illinois, and Illinois PTA is proud to have been a leading advocate on their behalf. We are, however, disappointed that a crisis manufactured by the governor’s amendatory veto was used to create a scholarship/voucher program with no public hearings or debate, and we strongly encourage the General Assembly to not renew the program when it sunsets in five years.

Aligning National PTA and Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities: School Funding

Source: One Voice Illinois

Primary goals of both the National PTA and Illinois PTA are the adequate funding of education programs.

The National PTA puts funding front and center in the 2017-18 Federal Public Policy Agenda Checklist with a call for a regular appropriations process replacing the current practice of sequestration “with a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not further cut education funding and invests in key programs.” One current initiative is the Stop Cuts to Classrooms campaign.

The Illinois PTA Legislation Platform addresses education funding that is “adequate, equitable and sustainable.” Item 2 of the Platform addresses tax considerations by calling for revision of the revenue article of the state constitution, legislative revision of the taxation processes, new sources of revenue which might expand the sales tax base, modifications of the existing taxation processes, appropriation of taxes to best meet the needs of Illinois citizens, removal of unjust tax limitations on unit districts, and removal of the limitations on bonding power of school districts.

Why? To provide the best possible education for every child in every public school in Illinois. Without adequate, equitable and sustainable funding, Illinois will continue to lag behind much of the nation in providing the kind of education our children deserve. Currently, one of the hottest topics in the Illinois legislature is the revision of the school funding formula, Senate Bill 1 (SB1), which was passed by both chambers of the Illinois legislature. The Governor issued an amendatory veto to the bill, which the Senate has overridden, and now the fate of SB1 is in the House as of this writing. Our Legislation Platform allows us to take a position to support SB1.

The National PTA provides its most current legislative priorities in its Federal Public Policy Agenda found at www.pta.org under the Advocacy menu. The Illinois PTA Legislation Platform is on our website in both full and brief form at www.illinoispta.org under Advocacy.

Want to know more? Go to the Illinois PTA website advocacy page. Be a champion for children, join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network, and join us in Springfield to be a part of “advocacy in action” on November 14, 2017.

Aligning the National PTA Public Policy Agenda and the Illinois PTA Legislation Platform

Source: One Voice Illinois

Want to know how positions of the National PTA and the Illinois PTA align on advocacy issues?  Over the next several months, we will be providing you with information on the Public Policy Agenda of the National PTA and offering insights into how the Illinois PTA Legislation Platform fits into advocacy efforts at the national level.

This bi-weekly series of articles will identify the current National PTA Legislative Checklist and highlight the corresponding areas of the Illinois PTA Legislative Platform. The checklist identifies areas that the National PTA will bring to the 115th Congress, and you may be asked to contact your federal legislative members urging them to take action on a particular item on the checklist. Currently, the Stop Cuts to Classrooms campaign is underway and, if you are part of the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network, you will receive a Call to Action through the Voter Voice system.

At the state level, we follow a series of legislative initiatives that are addressed in our adopted Legislative Platform.  Again, you may be asked to contact your state legislative members through Calls to Action. These calls provide you with a prewritten letter that you can edit or send as is, and responding only takes a minute or two of your time.

Your voice matters—both in Washington, DC and Springfield, IL. Please join us and be a champion for children.