• Ben Szalinski
    MAR 04, 2022


    News in brief: House passes bills requiring life rings along Lake Michigan, expanding substitute teacher eligibility, limiting standardized testing


    The House advanced several measures Thursday ahead of Friday’s deadline to move bills on to the Senate. They included a requirement that life rings be placed on public lands along Lake Michigan, a bill to allow college students studying education to become substitute teachers and a proposal to limit standardized testing young children.

    LAKE MICHIGAN LIFE RINGS — Public lands along Lake Michigan will be required to have life rings to prevent drownings under HB4165, which the House passed 112-0 on Wednesday. The legislation comes after 19-year-old Miguel Cisneros drowned at a Rogers Park beach last summer when no life rings were present. “My road is the path the fire engines come down when someone’s in the water, and so I’m very much aware of what happens at the lakefront and every year we lose a person,” the bill’s sponsor and Rogers Park resident Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) told The Daily Line. Cassidy said residents had been pushing to get the Chicago Park District to install life rings at the beach for years. After Cisneros drowned, residents put life rings out themselves, but the park district removed them. Cassidy said she worked with new leaders at the park district to get the life rings back. “We don’t really want rouge operators installing infrastructure everywhere,” Cassidy said. “This was an act of desperation on the part of my friends and neighbors. They tried to do it the right way… this was a last resort.” The bill does not require privately owned beaches to have life rings. The bill now goes to the Senate.   

    SUB TEACHER ELIGIBILITY EXPANSION — College students may soon be able help alleviate Illinois’ teacher shortage by becoming substitute teachers. The House passed HB4798 unanimously Thursday, which would allow college students with at least 90 hours of credit to work as substitute teachers. State law currently requires substitute teachers to hold a bachelor's degree. Supporters of the bill say it will help address the state’s teacher shortage. “The bill… would create the opportunity for increasing the number of substitute teachers by having college students who are education majors and have at least 90 hours of experience get their substitute teaching license,” the bill’s sponsor Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D-Naperville) said. The bill now goes on the Senate.   

    ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TESTING — The House approved a bill (HB5285) in a 79-26 vote to end standardized testing in kindergarten through second grade. Screening for “diagnostic purposes” would still be allowed, according to the bill. Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago) said the bill will not prohibit schools from conducting testing on their own, but it does prohibit the State Board of Education from providing schools with standardized testing resources. However, LaPointe said, “nothing about this bill is taking away any money from local schools.” Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) got emotional recounting the stress her daughter had because of standardized tests and said it’s overdue for lawmakers to take action to limit testing on young elementary school students. “Are we going to teach, or are we going to test? And this state is going way too far in the direction of testing instead of teaching,” Scherer said. However, Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville) said testing is an important assessment tool for educators to see how well their students are learning. “We should not be testing students K through two to rank them. But there can be a lot of value testing students K through 2 to measure growth,” Bourne said. The bill now goes on to the Senate. The Senate passed a similar bill (SB3986) last week in a 53-2 vote to also end standardized testing in kindergarten through second grade.

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