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GUEST COLUMN

LETTER: Don't let state dismantle local boards

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Illinois State Board of Education (copy) (copy)

Demonstrators outside the Illinois State Board of Education building protest a statewide indoor mask mandate in all public and nonpublic schools in August in Springfield. 

The state’s mandates regarding masks and vaccinations are merely the headlines and excuses of the moment in an incremental dismantling of local control in public education — and other arenas — that began decades ago, with the pace only picking up since.

Indeed, the latest top-down decisions from the governor and Illinois State Board of Education – and at times we’ve seen this at the federal level, as well – are just a continuation of the pattern of higher officials substituting their judgments for those of local school boards. That has included matters of curriculum, testing, student dress codes, accommodations, discipline, athletics, school lunch offerings, etc. “Unfunded mandates” – directives without the dollars to implement them -- have been a local rallying cry for as long as many of us can remember.

It is fair to ask: What is the point of electing local school boards at all?

We would grant that public safety is of the utmost importance – we want to protect our kids, employees and ourselves, too -- and that people of good intention may differ on the approaches to this pandemic and how best to protect the short- and long-term health and interests of our students. What we would not concede is that we must abandon our principles as a nation in order to preserve and protect the nation and its citizens. Among those principles is the rule of law.

Since March 2020, Gov. Pritzker has issued more than 80 executive orders regarding COVID-19 that have carried the force of law. The actual lawmaking branch of government – the Illinois General Assembly -- has been missing in action.

Lest anyone think our stance here is political, whether it’s a Republican governor of Florida or a Democratic governor of Illinois making these unilateral calls, it is clear that this has become a bipartisan affliction. The aims may be different but the behavior is the same, and worthy of objection in either case.

Indeed, it is impossible to believe that governing by executive order is what this nation’s Founders had in mind when they were forming our nation. Not only have school boards been made irrelevant, but evidently legislatures have been, too. This is not what we teach our students in regards to how our republic is supposed to work. We may not always agree with the legislative outcome, but at least our time-tested processes have been respected.

Meanwhile, federal and state law are abundantly clear as to where the authority lies in regards to public education: “Parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children,” while other public and even private jurisdictions “have the primary responsibility for supporting that parental role.”

Gov. Pritzker himself once subscribed to that view. As recently as July, he stated that “families should be involved in making decisions for their own families. And, school districts and school boards will make decisions for the schools within their districts.”

Evidently, the Governor and ISBE really don’t believe this.

Meanwhile, those of us who took the governor at his word are now dismissed and derided as an extreme minority, the enemies of science and compassion.

First, too many of our state leaders mistake compliance with agreement and consent. More of us than they apparently wish to admit have serious misgivings about how decisions are being made in Springfield.

As for the science, it – or at least the communication of it from the CDC and others – has been inconsistent, at best. Finally, who’s really being punitive here – and to schoolchildren, not adults – when the consequences of not falling in line are to make high school diplomas worthless, or deny funding, or prevent students from participating in athletics? It is precisely because we do care about our young people that we are sparing them these threatened punishments.

In short, may Springfield forgive those of us who have come to view it as less a partner than an adversary in the education of our children.

To say this is a challenging and unprecedented time understates it, but the zig-zag nature of decision-making out of Springfield has made it far more difficult to manage our classrooms, our schools, and our districts, creating unnecessary conflict in our communities. None of that serves our students – our reason for being – well.

It’s not just about the pandemic. It’s about all of the decisions that have been taken out of local hands by those who are all too distant from the resulting fallout. Enough is enough. Absolutely, it is the principle of the thing. Please, restore local control and accountability to our communities and those of us who know them best.

Respectfully,

Morton CUSD# 709

Jeff Hill, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Central Community High School District #71

Dustin Foutch, superintendent, and the Board of Education

El Paso Gridley CUSD #11

Brian Kurz, superintendent

Odell CCSD #435

Mark A. Hettmansberger, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Taylorville CUSD#3

Chris Dougherty, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Meridian CUSD #101

Jonathan D. Green, superintendent

Regional Office of Education #11

Kyle Thompson, superintendent

Midwest Central CUSD 191

Todd Hellrigel, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Trico Community Unit District #176

Larry D. Lovel, superintendent

Carlyle CUSD #1

Annie Gray, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Central A&M

DeAnn Heck, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Mount Zion CUSD #3

Travis R. Roundcount, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Damiansville ESD #62

Dustin E. Nail, superintendent and the Board of Education

Pana CUSD #8

Jason Bauer, superintendent

Shelbyville CUSD #4

Shane Schuricht, superintendent, and board members Abbie Ballard, Jake Hankins, Gary Hayden, Ellen Trainor and Scott West

Red Bud CUSD #132

Jonathan Tallman, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Gardner South Wilmington High School #73

Josh DeLong, superintendent, and the Board of Education.

South Central School District #401

Kerry Herdes, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Paris CUSD #4

Danette Young, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Braceville Elementary School #75

Josh DeLong, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Nokomis CUSD #22

Scott E. Doerr, superintendent, Chad Ruppert, board president, Carl Kettelkamp, board member, and Denny Bauman, board secretary.

Clifton Central CUSD # 4

Tonya Evans, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Havana CUSD #126

R. Mathew Plater, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Eureka CUSD #140

Robert Bardwel, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Freeburg Community High School District #77

Gregory Frerking, superintendent

Woodlawn USD #209

Eric Helbig, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Windsor CUSD #1

Erik Van Hoveln, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Cowden-Herrick CUSD #3A

Seth Schuler, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Bartelso SD #57

Tom Siegle, superintendent

St. Libory CSD #30

Thomas Rude, superintendent

Mt. Pulaski CUSD #23

Fredrick A Lamkey, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Ridgeview CUSD #19

Erik Young, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Flanagan-Cornell District #74

Jerry Farris, superintendent, and the Board of Education

New Berlin CUSD #16

Jill Larson, superintendent, and the Board of Education

North Clay #25

Travis Wyatt, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Benton Consolidated High School District #103

Benjamin Johnson, superintendent

Marshall CUSD #C-2

Kevin Ross, superintendent

Red Hill CUSD #10

Jakie Walker, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Community Unit School District #4

Scott D. Riddle, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Bourbonnais Elementary School District #53

Adam Ehrman, superintendent

Vandalia C.U.S.D. #203

Jennifer Garrison, superintendent, and board president Joe Lawson

Tremont CUSD #702

Sean Berry and the Board of Education

Roanoke-Benson CUSD #60

Thomas Welsh, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Regional Office of Education #21

Lorie LeQuatte, superintendent

Iuka Grade School CCSD #7

Sam Alli and the Board of Education

Oakwood CUSD#76

Larry Maynard, superintendent

Central City School #133

Tim Branon, superintendent

Farmington Central CUSD #265

Zac Chatterton, superintendent

Field Community CUSD #3

Wayne Stone, superintendent

LeRoy CUSD#2

Gary Tipsord, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Payson CUSD#1

Donna Veile and the Board of Education: Lisa Schwartz, Vinson Sill, Chanse Barker, Clint Twaddle, Danelle Donley, and Denise Albsmeyer

Benton CCSD #47

Steve Smith, superintendent

Neoga CUSD #3

Bill Fritcher, superintendent

St. Elmo CUSD #202

Julie Healy, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Okaw Valley CUSD #302

Kent Stauder, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Mount Vernon Township High School #201

Melanie Andrews, superintendent, and Matthew Flanigan, board president

Ramsey CUSD #204

Melissa Ritter, Superintendent, and the Board of Education.

Teutopolis CUSD #50

Matthew Sturgeon, superintendent

Sullivan CUSD #300

Ted Walk, superintendent

Bluford USD #318

Shane Gordon, superintendent

Mulberry Grove CUSD #1

Robert Koontz and the Board of Education

Effingham CUSD #40

Mark E. Doan, superintendent

Anna-Jonesboro CHSD #81

Rob Wright, superintendent

Anna CCSD #37

Julie Bullard, Superintendent, and the Board of Education

Beecher City CUSD #20

Philip Lark, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Reginal Office of Education #13

Matt Renaud, superintendent

Damiansville ESD #62

Dustin E. Nail, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Freeburg Community Consolidated District #70

Melanie Brink and the Board of Education

Hutsonville CUSD #1

Julie Kraemer, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Altamont CUSD #10

Casey Adam, superintendent

Gifford CCSD #188

Jay P. Smith, superintendent

Salem Community High School #600

Brad Detering, superintendent

Brownstown CUSD #201

Mike Shackelford, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Prairie du Rocher CUSD #134

Rob Pipher, superintendent

Calhoun CUSD #40

Andrea Lee, superintendent

Delavan CUSD #703

Andrew Brooks, superintendent

Scott-Morgan CUSD #2

Kevin Blankenship, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Winchester CUSD #1

Kevin Blankenship and Board of Education

DeLand-Weldon CUSD #57

Amanda Geary, superintendent, and the Board of Education

Spring Garden CCSD #178

Tammy Beckham, superintendent

Chester CUSD #139

Brian Pasero, superintendent

Norris City-Omaha-Enfield CUSD #3

Matthew J. Vollman, superintendent

Clinton CUSD #15

Curt Nettles, superintendent

Cumberland CUSD #77

Todd Butler, superintendent

Submitted by DeAnn M. Heck, Superintendent, Central A&M.

Co-signed by in excess of 100 administrators and school boards around the state. Full list available with letter on herald-review.com.

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