- How will school-funding reform affect Kane County schools and taxpayers? This is the first of an ongoing series of articles that looks at the local effects of Senate Bill 1947.
One of the lesser-known byproducts of the state of Illinois’ “grand bargain” on school funding is a waiver on several physical education and driver’s education mandates.
For parents and students in Kane County, that could mean fewer PE classes, especially for kids involved in athletics and other extracurricular activities, and exempt more students at the middle school level.
At last week’s Kane County Legislative Committee meeting, Lea Negron, a legislative assistant of 33rd District state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, said an amendment to Senate Bill 1947 includes a waiver of certain mandates for PE and driver’s education.
According to a handout Negron provided, the state “mandate relief” includes these components:
- The daily PE requirement will be eliminated. PE will be required three days per five-day week.
- PE waivers will no longer be limited to six renewals.
- School boards will be allowed to let student athletes out of PE in grades 7 through 12. (Presently, the state allows student athletes to skip PE in grades 11 and 12.)
- Local hearings regarding PE waivers will no longer be required to be held on a different day than regular board meetings.
- Going forward, districts will be able to seek mandate waiver from a law in the School Code if they can demonstrate that they can address the intent of the mandate in a more effective, efficient or economical manner.
- Going forward, districts will no longer have to request a waiver to contract out from driver’s education services.
A streamlined mandate-waiver process will include a panel of four leaders reviewing waiver requests, as opposed to the entire General Assembly — unless three of the four leaders objects to the waiver request.
Kane County Regional Education Office Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo said that the mandate relief has the potential to save districts staff time and money.
“The mandate relief is one way that SB 1947 works toward giving each child in Illinois an equal chance at education,” she said. “With districts being given flexibility regarding physical education and driver’s education, (school boards) can allocate these resources into other areas of need in their district.”
Of course, whether or not this part of SB 1947 will have a big impact on your son or daughter’s curriculum will depend on the policies and decisions of your individual school district. Some districts already have waivers in place that excuse certain students from PE classes, including high school students involved in marching band, ROTC students and others.
Under SB 1947, schools are still required to offer drivers’ education courses. The main difference is they’ll be able to contract out the drivers’ education courses more easily and without jumping through so many hoops.
SB 1947 does not change the limit on the amount school districts may charge students for drivers’ ed. A school seeking to charge more than is allowed by statute, then must follow the mandate waiver procedures to get this authorization.