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School Officials React to School Funding Bill Amendment

Updated: Friday, May 23 2014, 03:50 PM CDT
ILLINOIS -- Education officials are reacting to a bill that could eliminate certain classes from your child's school.

This week, the state Senate amended Sen. Andy Manar's school funding reform plan to allow schools to opt out of teaching certain state mandated courses.

The amendment expands the current list of mandates that a school may petition to be exempt from, which would include driver's education.

"There are too many unfunded mandates. Schools can't provide all these things with no money," said Dave Root, Superintendent of the Williamsville School District.

But those school districts drowning in debt could soon have the choice to opt out of some mandated courses, if Manar's school funding reform bill passes.

Those mandated classes include daily physical education, women's history and driver education.

"Drivers ed, really that argument could be made for a long time that drivers ed really is to be taught by the parents should pay for them to go to drivers ed," Root said.

But that's not the way Robert Nika of Southeast High School sees it.
He's been teaching driver's ed to high schoolers for more than 30 years.

"My course is a public safety course. It's an intense course that helps kids understand the responsibility of what it means to drive," Nika said.

Nika says private driver education outside of school is something that would not work for his students.

"They couldn't do it. They couldn't pay the hundreds of dollars to pay for it privately. Also, there's a lot of families that don't have cars, don't have the money for the extra insurance that it would take," Nika said.

And when students transfer to Southeast High School from states that allow parents to teach kids to drive, Nika says he ends up re-teaching them anyway.

"They did a good job in the classroom, but when I got them into the car, I did a lot of modifying to teach them how to drive like you should a little bit more responsibly," Nika said.

Officials with the Illinois Association of School Administrators support changing the bill.

"We think it ought to be left up to local communities to determine what's best for their community. Is three days of P.E. best for their community as opposed to, say, cutting music and having five days of P.E.? Because those are real choices that districts are having to make now," said Mike Chamness, Director of Communications for IASA.

Other mandates on the list that school districts could opt out of include consumer education, U.S. History and a district wide policy on bullying.
Manar's most recent amendment would cap the loss of state funds under the new formula at $1,000 per student.

It passed out of committee today with a 9-3 vote.

Manar says the amendment acknowledges "severe challenges for an equitable way to distribute funding." School Officials React to School Funding Bill Amendment


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