The 115th Annual Illinois PTA Convention will be held on April 7th and 8th at the Hilton—Naperville. Convention is a great opportunity to attend interesting workshops and network with other PTA leaders, but it is also the time that the Illinois PTA conducts its business. Part of that business is directing the legislative and advocacy activities of the Illinois PTA.
One of the ways that PTAs influence what the Illinois PTA advocates on is through resolutions. Resolutions can come from an individual PTA or from the Illinois PTA Legislative Policies committee. A resolution can call for legislation, direct the Illinois PTA to work with other organizations, provide information to local PTAs, or study a topic further and make recommendations. At this year’s convention, there are three resolutions for the membership to vote on addressing financial literacy, climate change, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
Resolution on Financial Literacy
The Illinois Learning Standards for math touch briefly on financial literacy, requiring students to understand how pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars work as money and as decimals for elementary students and to be able to calculate the effect of interest on money invested for a certain period of time for high school students. But the standards don’t address how to fill out a check, how credit card interest rates affect the cost of the things you buy, or whether you should buy a car by paying more money up front, taking a loan for three or five years, or leasing.
These issues are of increasing importance for our children as more and more students are graduating from college with more and more student loan debt. In fact, the total amount of student loan debt now exceeds the total amount of credit card debt in the United States. The Resolution on Financial Literacy addresses this issue through several actions:
- That local PTAs and councils work with their school districts to incorporate financial literacy education into their curricula
- That the Illinois PTA work with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to include financial literacy materials that meet the existing Illinois Learning Standards
- That the Illinois PTA, local units, and councils work for legislation for programs that teach financial literacy.
Most of the concepts of financial literacy are based in math, and one of the most important ways to get students to take an interest in math is to show them how they can use it in real life. Thus, using financial literacy materials to teach math concepts can be accomplished within the existing Illinois Learning Standards. School districts just need to be willing to make the effort. In addition, many financial literacy materials already aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards are available, and programs from organizations like Junior Achievement can also play a role in developing financial literacy.
Resolution on Climate Change
The overwhelming majority of the scientific community agree that manmade climate change is occurring. Among the effects of climate change that have direct effects on Illinois are an increase in extreme weather events (e.g., tornadoes, droughts, and floods) and public health issues such as:
- Increased respiratory ailments including asthma due to increased levels of pollen, mold, air pollution, and dust
- Increased incidence of certain cancers due to higher levels of ultraviolet radiation
- Increased foodborne diseases and nutritional deficiencies due to food contamination, shortages of staple foods, and the reduced nutritional value of food caused by rising carbon dioxide levels
The Resolution on Climate Change addresses this issue through a multi-pronged approach. These include:
- The Illinois PTA providing information to local PTAs and councils regarding climate change and its effect on the health and welfare of children
- The Illinois PTA, local PTAS, and councils encourage school districts to consider including renewable energy resources (e.g., geothermal heating and cooling, wind turbines) and green infrastructure (e.g., energy efficient windows, green roofs, permeable paving) when building or renovating school district facilities
- The Illinois PTA work with other like-minded organizations on the issue of climate change and its effect on the environment and the health and welfare of children
- The Illinois PTA, local units, and councils support legislation that regulates activities that contribute to adverse climate change, mitigates the negative effects of climate change, supports and encourages the use of renewable energy, and supports efforts to remediate the negative effects of climate change that have already occurred.
Resolution on Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, uses the injection of water and undisclosed chemicals into rock layers at high pressure to fracture the rocks, allowing oil and natural gas to be extracted more easily. The contaminated wastewater from this process is then injected back into the ground for disposal.
Research has connected hydraulic fracturing to a significant increase in earthquakes, unsafe levels of air pollution near fracking sites (resulting in asthma attacks, lung disease, dizziness and seizures, birth defects, blood disorders, and cancers, among other health effects), and contamination of groundwater. The latter is of particular concern in Illinois, where 35% of all residents, including 90% of all rural Illinois residents, rely on aquifers for their drinking water.
The Resolution on Hydraulic Fracturing addresses this issue through both education and legislation. The resolution calls on the Illinois PTA, local units, and councils to:
- Share information on the health and safety concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal
- Work with other like-minded organizations to raise awareness of these concerns
- Support additional research on current and new methods of oil and gas extraction and their potential environmental effects by independent researchers not affiliated with the energy industry
- Support state and federal legislation that addresses the environmental and health effects associated with hydraulic fracturing.