New education bill would raise high school graduation requirements statewide

2021-01-25 18:44:53

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — A new omnibus education bill (HB 2170) aims to add five extra courses to Illinois’ high school graduation requirements.

Spearheaded by Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, and the Legislative Black Caucus, the legislation aims to address education inequities, especially amongst students of color, statewide.

Ammons also says the expanded graduation requirements will mirror the classes required for entry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

By the 2023-2024 school year, Ammons says students will be required to take one year of computer science. In addition, two years of laboratory science are required by 2024-2025 and two years of a foreign language by 2028-2029.

For Riverton Community Unit School District 14 Superintendent Brad Polanin, he says finding someone to teach the new courses may prove difficult amid a statewide teacher shortage.

"It is very, very challenging to find those individuals, to find someone that can teach those courses,” Polanin said. “Or we look at a third-party, which we know is not as good as what we have."

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, some members of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) said the new courses could prevent students from taking electives of their choosing.

"Somebody has decided that two years of a foreign language class is more important than art, more important than music, more important than career and technical education courses," Board Member Susie Morrison said.

However, not everyone agrees, including Springfield Education Association President Aaron Graves.

"It will expose students to greater levels of diverse curriculum that can help propel them into the world ahead of their peers," Graves said.

Graves says the bill and new requirements will specifically help to address education inequities amongst students of color.

The bill passed through the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate during the recent lame duck session.

Gov. JB Pritzker, D-Illinois, is expected to sign it.