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‘Included and engaged’ or ‘political indoctrination?’ Mentoring bill passes state Senate after sharp debate

The Illinois State Board of Education defines culturally responsive educators as those who “critically think about the institutions in which they find themselves, working to reform these institutions whenever and wherever necessary” and have “assessed how their biases and perceptions affect their teaching practice.”

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, left, last year; State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, right, in February.
State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, left, last year; State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, right, in February.
From Facebook; Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

SPRINGFIELD — A bill that would create a new teacher and principal mentoring program in Illinois schools passed the state Senate Wednesday over Republican objections that it would adhere to “culturally responsive” educational standards.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford said the “culturally responsive teaching and learning standards” underlying the bill she sponsored are “about creating a learning environment in which students from all different backgrounds feel included and engaged.”

But southern Illinois Republican Sen. Darren Bailey, who’s running for governor, argued the bill is “replacing our children’s education with political indoctrination.”

Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, said, “This is about professional development and making sure we began to address the teacher shortage, the lack of supports that we give to new teachers, new principals, and so that they have the mentorship that’s needed.”

The culturally responsive teaching and learning standards passed a legislative panel in February and will go into effect by 2025.

State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood at Proviso East High School last month.
State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, speaks at a bill signing at Proviso East High School last month.
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The Illinois State Board of Education defines culturally responsive educators as those who “critically think about the institutions in which they find themselves, working to reform these institutions whenever and wherever necessary” and have “assessed how their biases and perceptions affect their teaching practice and how they access tools to mitigate their own behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc.).”

Citing the nation’s founding, Bailey argued the standards are divisive.

“I’ve had enough of these programs with strings attached that are funded through the hard-earned tax dollars of Illinoisans. It’s got to stop,” the Republican from downstate Xenia said. “Let me be clear, our nation was founded on July 4, 1776, and this ridiculous theory and racially divisive rhetoric are not bringing our state or our nation closer together — it’s dividing us.”

The bill passed on a partisan 36 to 17 vote and now moves to the House.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, kicks off his bid for governor in downstate Effingham in February.
State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, kicks off his bid for governor in downstate Effingham in February.
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Without debate, the Senate also passed a bill creating a loaning and loan forgiveness program for those studying to be in the field of social work and another expanding the mandate of the Department of Aging to include reports of elder abandonment. Those two bills passed unanimously and were also sent to the House.

In the House, Democrats and Republicans united to pass a resolution that directs the state’s auditor general to scrutinize the handling of the coronavirus pandemic at the LaSalle Quincy Veterans home, where 36 residents have died as of Wednesday.

State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, said the auditor should “conduct a performance audit of the state’s response of the management of the COVID-19 outbreak specifically at the LaSalle Veterans home.”

State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris
State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris
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He said the goal of the audit is to “understand the processes that were broken down, the failures of the state and really what we can build on so that we never put our veterans in this situation again, when simple protocols could have been put in place to mitigate the loss that occurred at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.”

Welter said he thinks the auditor general’s report will come back with improvements and changes that can be made.

That measure passed with 111 members voting in favor. State Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights, was the sole member to vote present.

The House also passed resolutions recognizing May as Lyme awareness month and October as domestic violence awareness month.

They passed another sponsored by state Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, who said it was designed to recognize that all students in the state have “a right to comprehensive sex education.”

Mussman’s resolution passed 64 to 44 largely along party lines.

Andrew Sullender reported from Springfield, Rachel Hinton from Chicago