Illinois Education Association honors retired Illinois State School Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala and Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch

SPRINGFIELD – Today the Illinois Education Association (IEA) honored former Illinois State Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., and Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch for their commitment to public education.

Ayala was awarded the IEA “Friend of Education” award.  Welch was honored with the IEA “President’s Award.”

The following statements are attributable to IEA President Kathi Griffin:

“As the first woman and first person of color to be selected as Illinois State Superintendent, Dr. Carmen Ayala was instrumental in developing the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE’s) first strategic plan. This laid out a roadmap for elevating the rigor and inclusiveness of instruction for all students; growing the teacher pipeline (which included the number of teachers of color), expanding access to trauma-informed practices and achieving the highest high school graduation rate in more than a decade. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Ayala met frequently with the IEA to navigate what needed to be done to keep our students and educators healthy while continuing to provide an education to our students. It is often said there are reasons people are in leadership at different times. I believe Dr. Ayala was the right person to lead us through this pandemic, and I believe she is worthy of being recognized as the IEA’s 2023 Friend of Education.”

“Since Chris Welch entered the General Assembly, we’ve had a fierce advocate on behalf of public education. We knew that right away.  Early in his career, Speaker Welch began working with the IEA to abolish the State Charter School Commission. He stuck with it for more than three years and eventually the charter school commission was abolished. Since he’s taken over stewardship of the House, we’ve never been in a better position to make sure that our member voices are being heard in the Statehouse.”


At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.

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