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New Illinois bill aims to expand access, equity, and opportunity in education

SPRINGFIED, Ill. (WGEM) -- Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation that expands access, equity and opportunity in Illinois’ education system.

The governor's office stated this legislation strengthens the state’s priorities in delivering high-quality learning from cradle to career by supporting public schools, making college education more affordable, investing in vocational training, and expanding the teacher workforce –all with heightened equity focus on communities that have been disproportionally impacted by longstanding disinvestment.  

“This legislation accomplishes so much to expand access – from early childhood services to AP courses; To achieve equity – by addressing learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic; And to broaden opportunity – by evaluating and streamlining our workforce programs so more students might choose a career in education,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “Improving education, and especially early childhood education, was an important focus of mine for more than 20 years prior to holding this office, and it’s my great honor to carry forward that mission as governor. I was proud to collaborate with the Black Caucus to help build a bill that truly does more for the students of Illinois, with a mission to make progress toward eliminating racial inequities and structural barriers that hold our learners back. Much has been accomplished here, but there’s more work to be done.”

"House Bill 2170 is a step toward ridding Illinois of the damaging policies and procedures built into our state's systems of law and government that have created deep inequities and opportunity gaps in education for Black students," said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford. "It's time for our children to accelerate their education throughout the duration of their careers, from early learning to prestigious universities, followed by successful careers. I’m humbled to have led this effort and look forward to continuing to fight to ensure fairness and equality in Illinois for all our state’s residents." 

“When the ILBC sat down to construct HB2170 we knew that we needed to pull together experts who agree that education must be redesigned to address the root problem of equitable access,” said House Majority Conference Chairperson Carol Ammons. “This bill reimagines education and seeks to uproot the systemic racism that has persisted in it for centuries. Passing this bill was a labor of love. I am grateful to my mentor and partner Leader Kimberly Lightford, my education partner in the House, Representative La Shawn Ford, the entire ILBC, and Governor Pritzker for his unwavering support.” 


The governor's office stated House Bill 2170 uses equity and fairness as guiding principles to improve outcomes across early childhood education, primary and secondary education, higher education and workforce development. 

Early Childhood Education  

  • Expands access to the Early Intervention program by allowing children who turn 3 years old between May and August to continue receiving services until the beginning of the next school year. 
  • Requires the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to annually assess all public-school students entering kindergarten to measure their readiness.  
  • Requires that behavioral health providers use diagnostic codes and descriptions that are developmentally and age appropriate for children under the age of 5. 


Primary and Secondary Education 

  • Adds new graduation requirements that will better prepare students in computer literacy, laboratory science and foreign languages.  
  • Increases access to accelerated placement programs for students meeting or exceeding state standards in English language arts, math, or science. 
  • Expands the required Black history coursework to include pre-enslavement of Black people, why Black people came to be enslaved, and the American Civil Rights renaissance. 
  • Requires the Illinois P-20 Council to make recommendations for the short-term and long-term learning recovery actions for public school students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Establishes a 22-person Inclusive American History Commission. 
  • Requires the Professional Review Panel to study various issues to strengthen the equity components in the state’s evidence-based school funding formula.  
  • Creates the Whole Child Task Force to focus on expanding trauma-responsive school services. 
  • Establishes a freedom school network to supplement learning in public schools.  


Higher Education 

  • Establishes the Developmental Education Reform Act, which requires community colleges to use certain measures to determine the placement of students in introductory college-level courses.  
  • Increases the percentage of grant funds prioritized for Black males and incorporates consideration of financial need in awarding grants. 
  • Establishes priority in grant funding for students wanting to become bilingual teachers.  
  • Expands the Illinois Teaching Excellence Program to cover programs working with diverse candidates. 
  • Reduces the AIM High Program matching funds requirement for public universities based on the percentage of low-income students enrolled at the public institution. 
  • Requires that ISBE compile a review that identifies the courses that each public university requires or recommends that high school students take in order to be admitted as an undergraduate.  


Workforce Development 

  • Requires the Illinois Workforce Investment Board conduct a feasibility study of all workforce development programs funded by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  


HB 2170 is effective immediately. 

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Jim Roberts

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