Illinois PTA Guide to the Midterm Elections

The midterm election is just three weeks away on November 6th. Here are some things PTA members should know before heading to the polls.

Voter Registration

It is too late to register with a mail-in paper voter registration form for the November 6thelection, but you can register online until October 21st. Illinois also has same-day voter registration, so you can show up at your polling place and register to vote there. That also means that if for some reason your name does not show up on the list of registered voters at your polling place, you can still vote that day.

Issues

Illinois PTA maintains a legislator scorecard for Illinois House and Senate members. You can look up the voting history of your legislators through Voter Voice and clicking on the “View Scorecard” link in the sidebar.

If you have the opportunity to ask a question of your state legislator at an event, here are some that you might want to ask:

  • Illinois passed a new school funding formula last year and verbally (but not in law) promised to increase state education funding by $3.5 billion over the next 10 years. Is the candidate committed to the increased funding and how do they plan to provide it?
  • The new evidence-based funding model that Illinois passed indicates that adequate school funding will require at least an additional $7 billion dollars. Does the candidate support continuing additional funding past the promised 10 years or accelerating the rate of additional education funding to get to adequate funding for all Illinois students and how will those additional funds be provided?
  • As part of the new funding model bill, a new $100 million scholarship fund was created for a five-year period to provide scholarships for students to attend private schools. Limited data from the first round of those scholarships indicates that the majority of those funds are going to students who were already enrolled in private schools. Does the candidate support sunsetting the fund after five years or closing the fund before five years to move the extra funding to public schools?
  • While Illinois has increased funding for early childhood programs in recent years, there are still waiting lists for most early childhood programs across the state. Does the candidate support increasing funding for these programs so every eligible child has access to these programs?

Vote!

PTA’s tagline is “Every child, one voice.” A critical opportunity to use that voice is on Election Day, so be sure to vote on November 6th. And if your PTA does any election-related activities, remember as 501(c)3 organizations, there are limits on what you can and cannot do.

Local Unit Spotlight: STEPS PTSA Takes On The World!

Today’s post kicks off a new series highlighting the good things that our local PTAs and Councils are doing. If your PTA or Council would like to brag a bit about what they are doing, send a short write-up to your District or Region Director, noting that it’s for One Voice Illinois. Don’t forget to send us some pictures of your event as well!

STEPS PTSA, servicing the Indian Prairie District 204 transition program for young adults with disabilities, kicked off the 2018 school year in style! More than 50 PTSA members, including parents, teachers, students, alumni, administrators, and school board members were on hand to celebrate a summer of successful and noteworthy achievements.

The STEPS PTSA recognized 17 students and coaches for their accomplishments. Their accomplishments included Special Olympics state qualifiers, members of Team USA—Unified Cup tournament, Special Olympics USA games, Special Olympics World Games, keynote speaker at the National Best Buddies conference, keynote speaker at the Special Olympics Women in Leadership breakfast, MLS All-Star athlete, and members of the Chicago Fire All-Star soccer team. The students and coaches each shared their amazing experiences with the audience and each brought memorabilia, photos, medals, uniforms, and newspaper articles to display. The audience cheered them on waving pom-poms and rally towels. It was a wonderful celebration of student abilities and a fantastic way to start the year!

The STEPS PTSA was formed in 2017 with the goal of focusing on the unique abilities of these young adults and supporting the STEPS Transition Program. The STEPS PTSA works to create social opportunities, activities, and events that allow their members to get involved in the community. STEPS Alumni are an important part of the PTSA. They are invited to join the PTSA so that they will continue to have access to social and community activities and events. The STEPS PTSA knows the importance of building an inclusive culture and breaking down barriers. The sky is the limit for the STEPS PTSA students and alumni!

News from National Convention—Resolutions

At the 2018 National PTA Convention in New Orleans, delegates adopted one new resolution and amended another existing resolution. The first resolution addresses students with disabilities, while the second focuses on mental health programs and services. The links to the resolutions here are to the proposed text and amendments, which were only slightly modified by the convention delegates. The final text of the resolutions will be posted on the National PTA Resolutions pagein the near future.

Resolution on High Expectations for Students with Disabilities

As the new resolution on high expectations for students with disabilitiesnotes, more than half of all students with disabilities spend at least 80% of their school day in general education classes. These students need both quality general education instruction and targeted interventions and accommodations. For students with disabilities, time in general education classes lead to fewer absences, less disruptive behavior, and better outcomes after high school, as well as new learning opportunities for students without disabilities.

Yet for students with disabilities, there continues to be a gap between the achievement of these students and those without disabilities. Research has shown that teacher expectations for students with disabilities, parental expectations for their children’s academic achievement, and students’ own mindsets all play key roles in their success.

The resolution directs National PTA and all PTAs under it (including local PTAs) to:

  • Collaborate with school communities to include students with disabilities and their families in all school activities.
  • Support peer mentoring, collaborative problem solving, cooperative working groups, and more casual or unstructured interactions between student with disabilities and those without disabilities.
  • Include a relevant general educator present at Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings.
  • Support funding for teacher professional development regarding adapting instruction to meet the needs of students with disabilities, accommodations that improve access to the general curriculum, and high expectations for all students regarding both academics and behavior.
  • Support implementation of best practices to meet the needs of diverse students, including Universal Design for Learning (UDL), inclusion, Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), and Response to Intervention (RTI).
  • Support students with disabilities access to accommodations, including assistive technology.

Amended Resolution on Children’s Emotional Health and Mental Health Awareness

The convention delegates amended the 1969 resolution on Children’s Emotional Health to address mental health issues as well. The amended resolution notes that mental health issues in children have increased in recent years, with 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 living with a mental health condition. Furthermore, 79% of students ages 6 to 17 with mental health disorders do not receive mental health care. The average delay between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment for these children is 8 to 10 years.

The amended resolution calls on National PTA and its constituent associations to:

  • Support efforts to establish comprehensive community mental health providers that offer preventative and treatment services to children and adults, as well as comprehensive school mental health programs that include adequate access to school psychologies, school counselors, and school social workers.
  • Advocate for teacher and administrator training to improve the understanding of child emotional and mental health needs, with an emphasis on the importance of establishing a school climate conducive to good mental health.
  • Promote education programs for parents and families to strengthen understanding and supportive home environments.
  • Support efforts to provide education and other supports for school staff and professional development to assist with addressing and early detection of mental health issues.

National PTA Statement on Family Separation

Last week, the National PTA Board of Directors adopted the following statement on the administration’s zero-tolerance policy and family separation. This statement was unanimously endorsed by the delegates to the 2018 National PTA Convention on Sunday, June 24thto demonstrate that the broad support for National PTA’s statement goes far beyond the Board of Directors. While the president has signed an executive order ending the practice, National PTA has stated that they will continue to monitor the situation and urges the administration to reunite families as quickly as possible.

A founding principle of National PTA’s mission is to promote the safety and well-being of all children and youth. National PTA recognizes that the United States began as a country of immigrants and the resulting blend of cultures enriches our nation. National PTA believes all children, regardless of their immigration status, have the right to access a quality public education, adequate food and shelter, and basic health care services. The separation of a child from their parent creates toxic stress and trauma that can have significant harm on a child’s brain development. Children entering the United States either unaccompanied or accompanied by a parent or adult family member must be treated with dignity and respect, should be adequately cared for, and reunited with their family as soon as possible under U.S. laws and policies.

The National PTA supports the following statements:

  • Family unity is a core principle of society. Children belong with their parents, family members or legal guardian.
  • The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement (Flores) lays out the protections and expectations regarding the detention, release, and care of all children – both accompanied and unaccompanied undocumented children – arriving in the United States.
  • The separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement, management, or detention is never in the best interest or well-being of children. Children should not be used as a deterrent to enter the United States.
  • If a child is separated from their parent(s) during immigration detention, federal policy should ensure children are reunited as soon as possible with their parent(s) in accordance with Flores to maintain family unity while they pursue their immigration and protection claims.

It is in the national interest to ensure all children, including undocumented children, have the opportunity to reach their full potential and become productive members of society.

National PTA calls on the U.S. Congress and the administration to take the necessary steps to immediately stop any zero-tolerance policy that may result in harmful separation of undocumented children from their parents or family members. National PTA also seeks the immediate reunification of families presently separated under current enforcement policy.