The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) voted Feb. 17 to approve the controversial new teaching standards some say would require teachers to abandon their religious beliefs. Meeting the standards will now be required to receive teaching certification in Illinois.
The Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards (CRTLS) touch on issues such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and race-based privilege in what supporters call an effort to encourage support for diversity in school age children. But critics said the standards could infringe on teachers’ First Amendment rights.
“We object to the rule change based upon First Amendment free speech and religious rights,” said Bob Vanden Bosch, executive director of Concerned Christian Ministries, in an e-mail prior to the vote. “The rule asks teachers to meet ‘knowledge indicators’ and ‘performance indicators,’ both vague and undefined terms which will not allow any objective assessment of teacher performance. This requirement basically means that teachers will not teach students HOW to critically think, but teach them WHAT to think.”
The standards were developed with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) by the Diverse and Learner Ready Teacher Network. According to the ISBE, the Network is made up of “22 leaders from across the state selected to provide recommendations on increasing teacher diversity and promoting culturally responsive teaching.” It includes “students and representatives from higher education, K-12 classrooms and administration, and policy and advocacy groups.”
The standards have received national attention with Washington Post opinion columnist George Will writing on February 5, “If the board’s policy is ratified, Illinois will become a place congenial only for parents who are comfortable consigning their children to ‘education’ that is political indoctrination, audaciously announced and comprehensively enforced.”
Following the vote, State Senator Darren Bailey (R) who represents the 55th District in southern Illinois and opposed CRTLS, addressed it on his Facebook page. “We’re going look at that and see how local school boards can and should push back against that,” he said. “But unfortunately, these teaching standards that we’ve been frustrated and concerned about they were failed to be denied in JCAR, so they will be entered into our education system soon.”
The standards were amended to take effect in 2025, rather than 2021 as previously proposed. According to an ISBE representative speaking at the meeting, teachers at private and parochial schools are not required to be licensed by the state of Illinois. Therefore, those schools do not fall under the new guidelines.