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Franczek P.C. Works With School District and Legislature to Pass Bill on Instructional Mandates

K-12 Education Publications

In May, both houses of the Illinois General Assembly voted to pass House Bill 4209, which addresses instructional mandates in public schools. If signed by the Governor, the amendment to the School Code would establish a task force to study the propriety of existing instructional mandates and would create a moratorium on the passage of further mandates until one year after the task force issues a report of its findings. Franczek P.C. and Township High School District 214 ( Arlington Heights) Superintendent Dr. David R. Schuler worked together to draft this legislation.

An instructional mandate is a state law that requires a school district to devote time to the instruction of or engagement by students in a subject or course. Research conducted by Franczek attorney Jackie Wernz in late 2009 indicated that there are 29 Illinois mandates. Moreover, the research suggested that in the past 30 years, an average of 3.4 new or modified instructional mandates have been passed each year, with no sign of the trend slowing in future years. Although instructional mandates are generally passed for laudable purposes and with good intentions, the sheer number of existing mandates limits school districts’ pedagogical freedom and forces districts to utilize scarce resources to fulfill the mandates, a significant challenge in light of the financial challenges currently facing Illinois laws that contain approximately 100 specific instructional mandates for school districts.

House Bill 4209 addresses the concerns about the volume of instructional mandates by calling for the creation of an Instructional Mandates Task Force, which will include uncompensated members. The Task Force will include superintendents, a principal, and representatives of a school board association, teacher’s unions and a parent/teacher organization, among others. The Task Force will explore and examine all current instructional mandates and will make recommendations regarding issues such as the propriety of existing mandates, the imposition of future mandates and waivers of mandates. If the bill is signed into law, a moratorium will also immediately go into effect prohibiting passage of new instructional mandates until one year after the Task Force submits a final report to the Governor and General Assembly regarding its findings.