New school board oath one step closer to becoming law

SPRINGFIELD – The school board oath bill (HB 4768) unanimously passed out of the Senate Education Committee late Tuesday (5/15) afternoon. The Illinois Education Association (IEA) helped draft the bill that would prompt school board members to look out for the best interests of students, not just taxpayers, as part of their job responsibilities.

The current school board member’s oath of office, set forth by Illinois law, has nothing in it that pertains to the wellbeing and education of students.

“It’s really unbelievable that we don’t have an oath that represents the students we are here to serve,” Illinois Education Association member Annette Jaynes said. “I am a Carbondale teacher and I strive to make sure my students have access to a high-quality education. I choose to serve on the Murphysboro CUSD 186 School Board so I can take my commitment to improving the life of every child in this district a step further. It’s about time we all start pledging to put our students first.”

The proposed bill, HB 4768, introduced by Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, a former teacher, also would ask school board members to look out for the best interests of students and take into consideration the participation of the community’s voice in defining goals for the district.

“As a former teacher, I understand how important it is that students have the very best shot at a good education,” Wheeler said. “As a public servant, I understand how important it is that the job you do reflect the people you represent. School board members represent not only taxpayers, but also students and school employees. Their oath should reflect that fact.”

IEA President Kathi Griffin said she’s often wondered why students haven’t been a factor in the school board members’ oath because there’s no more important component to schools than students.

“Our children are our state’s greatest assets. School board members should include them in their oath of office,” Griffin said. “I certainly understand the need for school board members to look out for the dollars and cents. There’s no question that’s important. But the educational outcomes of our students rise above any economic bottom line. And that fact should be reflected from the start of the school board member’s job.”

If passed, the bill would add the following components to the oath:

  • With extensive participation of the community, formulate the goals, define the outcomes and set the course for the district;
  • Help establish a structure and environment designed to ensure all students have the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework;
  • Ensure a continuous assessment of student achievement and all conditions affecting the education of our children;
  • Serve as education’s key advocate on behalf of students and our community’s school to advance the vision for the district;
  • And, strive to work together with the district superintendent and school personnel to lead the school district toward fulfilling the vision we have created, fostering excellence for every student in the areas of academic skills, knowledge, citizenship and personal development.

The bill now heads to the Senate Floor.

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The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.