In an era of big data and the push for ever-increasing amounts of technology used in and out of the classroom in the public school system, student data privacy is an important issue for families. You can read our outline here of a comprehensive set of legislation that's needed in Illinois to provide adequate protections for students' personally-identifiable information (PII).
Raise Your Hand helped to organize parents successfully in 2013 to stop the InBloom student data project in Illinois. In spring 2017, the IL General Assembly passed the Student Online Privacy Protection Act, SB1796, a bill that RYH Action opposed. You can read more about this bill and why we opposed it here. Although SOPPA includes some protections for student data, it contains many loopholes that favor tech industry profits over protecting the privacy and security of children's personal information.
This session we are working on HB1295, the Student Information Transparency Act. You can read a one-pager about this bill here.
Want to know more? The national group Parent Coalition for Student Privacy has some of the best resources for protecting and advocating for your child and all children's data privacy, including a great new toolkit for helping parents investigate and advocate on this issue.
Is this an issue that interests you? Email us to join our working group on ed tech and student data privacy.
Public school students are subjected to unprecedented levels of high-stakes standardized tests, and the decisions attached to test scores have ever higher stakes for students, teachers and schools.
Across the country, millions of parents have been taking direct action on standardized testing by refusing to allow their children to participate in the tests.
In prior years, RYH Action has supported legislation to clarify parental rights around opting children out of state-mandated standardized testing. Under that legislation, parents would be able to notify schools in writing that their child was opting out of any state-mandated standardized testing. The child would be provided with an alternative educational activity during test. There would be no negative consequences for students, families, teachers, administrators, schools or districts.
Now, in 2018, the Illinois State Board of Education still does not recognize a parent’s right to make this decision for the child. Children, even those who are not capable of verbally refusing, are expected to refuse state-mandated testing in Illinois. The new state accountability system set up to comply with ESSA will penalize schools with a lowered tier rating for low participation rates on state testing even though there's no obligation under federal law to do so.
Let your state legislators know that Illinois should respect parental rights to make this decision about the value of high-stakes testing for their child.
The first step in pushing back against the misuse and overuse of standardized testing is knowing what testing is taking place.
In June 2016 Governor Rauner signed into law Public Act 099-0590. This legislation was intended to bring some much needed transparency to the use of standardized testing in Illinois public schools. It was opposed by the Illinois State Board of Education (in the House and the Senate.)
This law requires that within the first 30 days of the school year, every district must provide a detailed report to the State Board of Ed on the standardized tests to be administered that year in each of its schools, including:
- which tests are to be given;
- when they’ll be given and how long they’ll take;
- who is requiring the tests (i.e. state, district, etc);
- which students will take the tests and
- finally, if the results of the test are to be used for purposes other than for guiding instruction, what they’ll be used for, such as promotion, course placement, graduation, teacher evaluation or school performance ratings.
Importantly, the law also says that every school will also make this same information publicly available to parents on a school website or via a handout sent home.
If you are past the 30th day of the school year in your district, request that your principal provide you with this information.
You can check whether your school has provided the IL State Board of Ed with this information on the ISBE website here. If the info sent to ISBE seems inaccurate or is missing, let your elected school board or local school council know that your school is out of compliance with state law.
Chicago is one of the nation's most fiscally-disadvantaged large urban school districts. And Illinois has been 50th out of 50 in percentage of funding that comes from the state, as opposed to local and federal sources. In short, Illinois inadequately funds public education.
Because local school funding comes primarily from property tax levies, districts with lower property wealth are less able to raise revenue than wealthier ones. This has resulted in wide disparities per student education spending. In short, the state also inequitably funds public education.
In August 2018, the General Assembly finally passed a school funding bill that is intended to address the broken funding formula in Illinois and provide pension relief for Chicago. The state was long overdue in meeting their obligation to fund Chicago pensions, and so this was a good step.
But school funding in Illinois is likely to remain inadequate for years to come. In order to get to an adequate funding level for the state’s schools, Illinois will need to come up with at least $6 billion over the next 10 years. The bill that passed relies on this money to fulfill the purported long-term goal of adequacy, but it doesn’t mandate it, so public school supporters will need to keep pushing for adequacy targets to be met.
Unfortunately, as part of passing the school funding bill, the legislature agreed to what amounts to a $75 million voucher scheme that allows wealthy taxpayers, including businesses, to take up to $1 million each in tax credits for donations that fund scholarships for private and parochial schools. The magnitude of the tax credit further erodes the separation of church and state in Illinois by diverting so much tax revenue to parochial schools. In Chicago, this de facto state subsidy to parochial schools, which have the space to enroll thousands of students, will mean declining enrollments at many CPS schools, giving CPS reasons to close even more schools.
There’s a lot of debate over whether this is a voucher program or not. It’s similar in that a student uses money diverted from tax funds to go to a private or religious school. The main difference is that the government doesn’t cut the check directly to a family but a middle organization or scholarship fund cuts the check directly to the school.
Either way, it’s tax money diverted from the public good to private schools. It means $375 million less in the General Revenue Fund over the next five years in a state that's already more than $6 billion behind in adequately funding public education.
Currently, there's a bill under consideration in the IL Senate, SB2236 (Chief Sponsor Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant), which says that no money can be distributed for the new voucher (aka "tax credit scholarship") program unless the state meets the funding levels for public schools required by the recent school funding reform bill.
Call your state senator and ask them to commit to voting YES on SB2236. You can find your senator's contact info here.
The IL State Charter Commission is not good for Public Schools. Support HB768
Illinois plans to open at least 48 new charters (half in Chicago!) with an initial federal grant to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) of $42.3 million. This grant does not include funding for the operational budget for these schools, so dollars will be diverted from the same inadequate pot used to fund our existing schools.
Additional federal grants were made to the Noble Network and the Lawndale Educational and Regional Network (LEARN). The Noble grant alone is for $8.4 million; LEARN will receive $6.5 million. Think what kind of classroom resources that could buy your local school.
Democracy has taken a back seat as privatization takes over our public schools. What can parents and concerned citizens do?
- HB768 is a bill that would weaken the IL state charter commission. This commission can approve charters that local school boards reject. The commission has approved four schools, and three out of four of those schools are now under federal investigation or have been asked to close by a judge. Schools under the commission get higher per-pupil funding and have no oversight from the local district whose funds they are using. HB768 passed both chambers of the IL legislature in 2017; it has now been sent to Gov. Rauner to be signed. If he vetoes it, the bill will need more votes than it originally received in order to pass in a veto override. Ask your state senator and state representative to support this bill HB768 if it's overridden.
- Ask your state rep and senator to write a letter to ISBE opposing their decision to expand charters unilaterally without input. Explain to your reps that this federal grant does NOT include funding for school budgets, so money for these new schools will come out of the already inadequate existing pool of money to fund all of our schools.
- Call your US Rep and US Senators and say you don’t want your taxes going to fund more charter schools. There’s no evidence that charters outperform district schools.
- Talk to parents and LSC members at your school about the need to speak up for funding for your district schools. Make a video like this school, Darwin, did. Educate parent groups on policies impacting whole system.
We work on public education policy issues at both the city and state level. Currently, our efforts are concentrated in the following areas:
- adequate and equitable school funding,
- public school privatization, including the expansion of privately-run charter schools and the creation of a voucher (aka tax credit scholarship) program for IL
- misuse and overuse of standardized testing
- democratic and transparent public school governance, in particular the need for an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools
- protection of the security and privacy of student data
Raise Your Hand Action is a grassroots advocacy organization primarily powered by volunteers. We can accommodate all levels of involvement--whether you only have a couple minutes to call your legislators or submit a witness slip or can contribute a few hours a month to help organize fellow public ed supporters in your community.
Fill out the form below to let us know how you'd like to plug in to our work and whether any particular issues most interest you.