CHICAGO – Amidst a day of controversy over a four year old email discussion released by Mayor Emanuel including comments in which Governor Rauner wrote that half of Chicago Public School teachers were "virtually illiterate," the governor publicly signed a bill affecting schools Friday.
"Let me very clear, I apologize for the statement that I made in that email in 2011. The remarks I made were inaccurate and intemperate, and I apologize to the teachers and I regret those comments," Rauner told reporters.
"I am passionate about education," Rauner said. He said one of the reasons he ran for governor in 2014 because education fund had been cut four times in the prior ten years by previous governors.
"We are going to redo our state funding for education. I'm committed to that," Rauner said. "Unequal funding denies the American dream from too many children in low income neighborhoods."
Before signing the two bills into law, three Chicago public school teachers read statements indicating their outrage with the governor's email comments, assuring the governor that "we are not illiterate."
The governor signed House Bill 5901 to increase transparency surrounding school district testing information, and House Bill 6181 to provide teachers more flexibility in earning and keeping professional development hours.
“I’ve long said that teachers are our state’s most important resource as they are the ones entrusted with educating the next generation of leaders,” said Governor Rauner. “These bills will help teachers with that awesome responsibility by removing bureaucratic red tape and encouraging them to continue to seek training and professional development and by addressing concerns that students are being ‘over-tested’ by requiring school districts to be more transparent about testing information.”
House Bill 5901 responds to the increased attention from teachers and parents on standardized tests and potential "over-testing" of students. While experts agree that assessment is an important part of instruction, there are also concerns about excessive testing taking away from instructional time. The bill increases transparency by requiring school districts to report information about many of the assessments used within the district to the Illinois State Board of Education.
Information that will be reported for each test includes: its administration window, which is the time in which the test has to be administered; who requires the test; which grade levels take the test; which subsets of students take the test; the estimated average time to take the test; and how the results of the test will be used.
House Bill 6181 allows educators to earn credit for professional development hours exceeding the required number during the last 3 months of their professional educator license (PEL) renewal cycle. Instead of being lost, these professional development hours can now be rolled over toward the next license renewal cycle. This provision respects and encourages teachers’ choice to seek out professional development beyond their licensure renewal requirements.
“These bills, which had clear bipartisan agreement, will give teachers the flexibility they deserve to schedule high quality, individualized professional development,” said Secretary of Education Beth Purvis. “They will also provide transparency surrounding assessment and the data required to better address the issue of ‘over-testing’.”
House Bills 5901 and 6181 are effective immediately.