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Democratic lawmakers, teachers unions want minimum hour requirement reinstated for Illinois schools

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Thursday, January 31, 2019  |  Article  |  By Benjamin Yount

Education reform (38) , Education--Elementary and Secondary (36) Weaver, Chuck -- State Senate, 37
Illinois lawmakers accidentally left a requirement for a minimum number of hours in the classroom out of last year's education overhaul and now Democrats and teachers unions are racing to put it back.

Illinois school kids are required to be in school for 176 days. But, because of an oversight in last year's education reforms, there's no set number of hours for those days.

Some schools are using the new-found flexibility to let students learn from home on snow days or enroll in an apprenticeship.

Democratic lawmakers and teachers unions, however, want to enforce a minimum of five hours in the classroom.

Sean Denny with the Illinois Education Association told lawmakers Tuesday that allowing local schools to set their own calendars is making it hard for the union.

"All we're asking for is to even out the playing board again," Denny said. "So we can hit the reset button, and actually talk about these flexibilities in the light where there is an entire group of people who have all of the cards. And we have nothing."

But some Republicans, like state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, and local school districts like the flexibility of not having a required number of hours.

"We're talking about kids," Weaver said. "We're talking about flexibility to help with things like apprenticeships, things like dual-credit classes. Those are really important for kids."

A number of local school district superintendents who are using some school day and school year flexibility said they're willing to let things play out for the rest of the school year.

But that may not happen. An Illinois Senate panel approved the five-hour minimum with a plan to have a new law in a matter of weeks.