State educators propose plan to improve public schools

State educators have proposed a comprehensive plan to improve public schools in Illinois.

Brent Clark, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, discussed the Illinois Vision 20/20 plan Thursday morning with local business leaders from the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce. Clark, who is a former superintendent of Belleville Township High School District 201, said this initiative proposes changes in policy that will promote better efficiency within the state’s education system.

“I remember when I was a school superintendent, I always assumed that there was this master plan that we were all working under in order to improve education. And I assumed that being a local superintendent, I was doing my part,” Clark said. “There’s not a plan. There’s never been a plan about how to systematically fix, repair and improve our system. There is no articulated plan about how to move forward progressively and solve things.”

Illinois Vision 20/20 was formed three years ago by a partnership with the IASA, the Illinois Principals Association, the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity and the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools.

Clark said many of the problems that this plan addresses are man made and stand in the way of enhancing efficiency in Illinois schools. Therefore, they call for man-made solutions, he said.

“This is about improving our schools system, for the kids’ sake,” Clark said.

The plan is built on “four pillars:” highly effective educators, 21st century learning, shared accountability and equitable and adequate funding. It identifies about two dozen different ideas, of which seven have been crafted into seven bills that currently sit before the General Assembly.

One of those is HB 3535, which would allow school districts to opt out of unfunded mandates. Clark said the state has 213 unfunded mandates on the books that are hurting schools.

“They are absolutely choking our districts,” he said. “It’s an intolerable environment.”

The plan is a long-term work in progress, Clark said, and will take coordination and cooperation throughout the state legislature.

“Vision 20/20 means not only seeing clearly, to have 20/20 vision,” he said. “But it’s also about the year 2020, recognizing that this is going to take a while to get policy and ideas introduced, get them passed and get them implemented.”

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