The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up its legislative session with a lame duck session in January just before the new legislators were sworn in. Among the bills passed was HB2170, known as the Education Omnibus Bill. As an omnibus bill, HB2170 contains lots of different pieces of legislation ranging from early childhood education all the way up through college. Here are the major parts of the bill that Illinois families should be aware of.
Early Childhood Education
The Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding provided the legislature with a comprehensive set of recommendations, and part of HB2170 aims to implement those recommendations. The bill consolidates early childhood programs into a single state agency, creates a more equitable system of services and funding, and creates funding mechanisms to ensure stability and quality.
HB2170 establishes a kindergarten readiness assessment in state law. Illinois has been conducting kindergarten readiness assessments with its KIDS survey for a couple of years, but unlike most other state assessments, it was not mentioned in law. That oversight is now fixed.
Early intervention services are now available to three-year-olds until their next school year begins, starting July 1, 2022. Under HB2170, children with May through August birthdays who are receiving early intervention services remain in their program until the beginning of the school year following their third birthday. This change eliminates gaps in services that could occur for those children during the summer after their birthday but before their school year started.
HB2170 creates a Whole Child Task Force aimed at creating an equitable, inclusive, safe, and supportive environment in all schools. As part of this effort, the task force will be making recommendations by February 1, 2023 on how schools can become trauma-responsive, a critical part of school improvement made even more so by the pandemic.
HB2170 Article 50 focuses on equitable coursework for college access. By May 1, 2021, the Illinois Bord of Higher Education must report on the coursework required and recommended for college admission and make that information available to all 8th to 12th grade students and their families. Starting with the 2022-2023 school year, all students must have access to those recommended courses. Districts can provide those courses by offering them within the district or partnering with another district, community college, or other course provider at no additional financial cost to students.
Graduation requirements are also changing under HB2170. Starting with students entering the 9th grade in the 2022-2023 school year, the science courses required for graduation must be “laboratory sciences,” and students must take a course that includes computer literacy (which could be English, social studies, or other subjects that already count towards graduation). Students entering the 9th grade in the 2028-2029 school year will need to take two years of foreign language in order to graduate.
By December 1, 2021, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) must develop or adapt computer science learning standards and analyze and revise existing computer science course titles for alignment. And starting in the 2023-2024 school year, all districts with 9th through 12th grade students must provide every student with the opportunity to take at least one computer science course. Note that this is not a graduation requirement for students.
Article 65 of HB2170 requires school districts to automatically enroll students who meet or exceed standards (based on the statewide assessment or other locally selected, nationally normed assessment) in the next most rigorous course (e.g., dual credit, Advance Placement (AP), honors). Students who are automatically enrolled can opt out if a different course better fits their education goals.
Not surprisingly, the pandemic is also addressed in HB2170. Article 70 charges the Illinois P-20 Council with reporting on the academic and social-emotional effects of COVID-19 on students and making recommendations on how the state can support recovery. The report is due by December 31, 2021.
School funding is also addressed in HB2170. The Professional Review Panel (PRP), which monitors the implementation of the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) formula, is to report on how long it will take Illinois to fully fund its schools with an annual investment of $350 million in new funding each year. The PRP is also charged with researching whether the calculation of a district’s adequacy target needs to be adjusted to increase racial equity and whether additional elements should be added to support re-enrolled students and the new foreign language graduation requirements.
When students are required to take remedial coursework in college, it often does not provide college credit while using up some of their financial aid. HB2170 requires colleges and universities to consider multiple measures, including a specific high school GPA and completion of a high school transition course, before placing a student in remedial courses, starting May 1, 2022.