EFFINGHAM — Local school officials and state representatives are opposing a state bill mandating school textbooks include the sexual identity of historical figures.
House Bill 246 proposes that the sexual identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people be identified. The bill is leading the way for the 2019 Equality Illinois Legislative Agenda. It passed the House 60-42.
According to Equality Illinois website, HB246 will support inclusion in the curriculum bill, because Illinois students are being denied the whole story of history as LGBTQ peoples' roles and contributions are not included in the Illinois School Code.
Equality Illinois claims that these students would better understand there were people like them who made important contributions to society throughout history. Others would learn about the contributions and gain a better sense of importance of a diverse society, it says.
The chief sponsor of the bill was Anna Moeller, D-Chicago.
"Under current practice in many of our schools, the contribution of LGBT individuals in history has remained hidden and unacknowledged," Moeller told The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.
The bill requires schools teach about the diversity in society, including the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in society.
The bill would mean that textbooks purchased using the state's block grant program must adhere to the teachings that many conservatives oppose.
The textbook block grant program was established in 2012 as a way to help public and state-recognized non-public schools purchase textbooks. According to officials at the Illinois State Board of Education, however, the program has never been funded, and so it is unlikely passage of the bill would have any immediate impact unless lawmakers decide to include it in future state budgets, according to Capitol News Illinois.
Voting against the measure were local Republicans Blaine Wilhour, Beecher City; Darren Bailey, Louisville; Brad Halbrook, Shelbyville; and Chris Miller, Oakland.
Wilhour encouraged local superintendents to take a stand against the proposed mandate.
"I can't imagine that there are many parents here locally that are eager for their schools to start teaching this curriculum in the classroom," Wilhour said. "If cities like Chicago can ignore federal immigration laws, then surely school districts in Southern Illinois can ignore ridiculous mandates like this. It is time to take a stand against over-reaching, far-left policies like this."
Wilhour said he is hopeful local superintendents will take a stand and refuse to go along with these unfunded mandates being forced on schools.
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Unit 40 school board discussed the matter during a special meeting in April, prior to the seating of the newly elected board members last week.
"From the district's perspective, the Illinois legislature continually creates mandates for school districts without providing funding," Superintendent Mark Doan said. "The locally elected board has the role of leading school districts in preparing students to achieve academic standards that will ensure they are successful in college, careers and as citizens."
With regards to the textbook block grant program, textbooks authorized to be purchased must include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act and must be non-discriminatory. The district will continue to choose textbooks which present academic content without bias, said Doan.
As a former school board member, Bailey opposes yet another mandate on teachers.
"There is nothing that prevents the teaching of the lives of historical figures, including if they were known to have been homosexuals. But forcing that information on 5-year-olds and elementary school children is more of an effort of indoctrination than of learning history about individuals who accomplished important discoveries in science or created great works of art," Bailey said.
Bailey added, "I also opposed this legislation because it does not provide an 'opt out' option for parents who do not wish their children be exposed to this kind of information for religious reasons or because their child may not be of a mature enough age to fully understand the meaning and implications of what LGBT actually is."
Miller believes education needs to focus on subjects, such as reading, writing, math and financial literacy.
"Teachers are overworked now and the system is overwhelmed with unfunded mandates," he said.
Illinois Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, opposes the measure that is now in the Illinois Senate. If it passes the Senate, it would go to the governor for his signature or veto. If approved, the law would then become effective July 1, 2020.
"This is yet another unfunded mandate on local school districts, which means unfunded mandates on local property taxpayers. If those legislators who vote for unfunded mandates want to make these decisions, they should run for school board," said Righter.
Righter added that America was built on individual achievements.
"Additionally, in this country we recognize and celebrate individuals — regardless of who they are or what their personal characteristics may be — because of their individual achievements, as opposed to their status as it may relate to gender, ethnicity, race, or even gender preference. America was built on individual liberty and individual achievement, not classifications."