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More Flexibility for Schools and Community Colleges in Pritzker Executive Order

Board Governance Higher Education

Earlier today, April 24, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-31 relaxing a wide number of requirements impacting schools and community colleges. The order touches on educator licensure; requirements for certain administrative certificates, school psychologist qualifications, speech-language endorsements; end-of-year requirements for high school seniors and eighth grade students; and community college electronic construction bid submissionsThis order is another example of the many steps being taken at the statewide and local level to provide flexibility now that schools have been closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.  

Flexibilities for Candidates in Educator, School Support Personnel, and Administrator Preparation Programs  

With respect to educator licensure, the order suspends a number of requirements for candidates for licensure, including:  

  • The teacher performance assessment requirement for candidates completing teacher preparation programs; not that this does not appear to provide any flexibility regarding student teaching requirements for general teacher candidates;
  • The requirement that individuals seeking a professional educator license complete student teaching if they already hold a comparable and valid educator license or certificate from another country; and
  • The requirement that applicants who have not been entitled by an Illinois-approved educator preparation program or who were trained in another country complete an internship. 

The internship requirements for individuals seeking a principal, superintendent, or chief school business official endorsement have also been suspended. A candidate who successfully completes a principal preparation program or applies for a chief school business official or superintendent endorsement, the candidate will receive the endorsement even if they have not completed an internship.   

For those seeking to work in schools as a school psychologistthe executive order suspends the requirement of completing at least one school year of full-time supervised experience in the delivery of school psychological services. Similarly, for those seeking a school service personnel certificate with a speech-language endorsement, the order suspends the requirement to complete 150 clock hours of school-based professional experience.   

The order recognizes that these changes were necessary in light of the 15,000 candidates in educator, school support personnel, or administrator preparation programs at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. The order notes that in the spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis began, as many as 7,500 of those candidates were working toward completion of student teaching and internships, and all of the candidates likely wish to begin teaching in Illinois schools in the fall. Without the relaxation in these requirements, that would have been impossible for most of the candidates.  

Flexibilities for High School Seniors and Eighth Grade Students  

The order also suspends a number of requirements applicable to high school seniors and eighth grade studentsFor eighth graders, the Illinois Constitution Test is suspended. With respect to high school seniors, the order suspends the following requirements:  

  • State assessments 
  • The required patriotism and government exam (the “Constitution Test”) 
  • The requirement to engage in PE for a minimum of five days a week 
  • The requirement to be taught consumer education 
  • Completion of physical fitness assessments 
  • Completion of a foreign language proficiency examination for seniors whose foreign language credit is met through an approved ethnic school program    
  • Successful completion of certain courses as a prerequisite to receive a high school diploma for seniors who are unable to complete such coursework as a result of the suspension of in-person instruction due to COVID-19 

Seniors also are not to be denied credit for apprenticeships or vocational or technical education courses allowed to be substituted for graduation requirements under the School Code if they were not able to complete the course substitutions as the result of COVID-19 closures.   

Again, the order recognizes the necessity of these flexibilities, in this case to allow the over 200,000 Illinois students in eighth grade and twelfth grade to move onto the next stages of their educational careers.  

Flexibilities for Community College Construction Bidding  

With respect to community colleges, the order recognized that community colleges throughout Illinois have a range of construction projects and capital improvements that must be timely bid, awarded, and initiated in order to ensure completion of projects. Currently, the Illinois Public Community College Act (the CCA), 110 ILCS 805/3-27.1, prohibits bids for construction purposes from being submitted electronically. The order suspends that provision, extending the allowance to construction contracts  

A previous Executive Order created flexibility for school districts to communicate, respond to, and open bids electronically for school construction projects. The more-recent order provides similar relaxation for submission of electronic bids in the community college sphere. The other requirements of the CCA for electronic bidding remain in place. Specifically, the bid documents must authorize electronic bid submissions; the bids must be opened in accordance with existing electronic security measures; and the risk of bids being opened prematurely is on the vendor unless the community college provides for a secure receipt.  

For more information on any of these changes or any other COVID-19 related matter, contact the authors of this post or any other Franczek attorney. 

Update: On April 27, 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) issued emergency regulations, ​Emergency Amendment to Part 1 and Emergency Amendment to Part 25, addressing the flexibilities granted in the Executive Order 2020-31 relating to graduation requirements for seniors and the suspension of mandated in-person instruction for educational licensure. ISBE also issued a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document regarding graduation requirement changes.