Illinois PTA Convention Preview—Resolutions

The 115th Annual Illinois PTA Convention will be held on April 7th and 8th at the Hilton—Naperville. Convention is a great opportunity to attend interesting workshops and network with other PTA leaders, but it is also the time that the Illinois PTA conducts its business. Part of that business is directing the legislative and advocacy activities of the Illinois PTA.

One of the ways that PTAs influence what the Illinois PTA advocates on is through resolutions. Resolutions can come from an individual PTA or from the Illinois PTA Legislative Policies committee. A resolution can call for legislation, direct the Illinois PTA to work with other organizations, provide information to local PTAs, or study a topic further and make recommendations. At this year’s convention, there are three resolutions for the membership to vote on addressing financial literacy, climate change, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Resolution on Financial Literacy

The Illinois Learning Standards for math touch briefly on financial literacy, requiring students to understand how pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars work as money and as decimals for elementary students and to be able to calculate the effect of interest on money invested for a certain period of time for high school students. But the standards don’t address how to fill out a check, how credit card interest rates affect the cost of the things you buy, or whether you should buy a car by paying more money up front, taking a loan for three or five years, or leasing.

These issues are of increasing importance for our children as more and more students are graduating from college with more and more student loan debt. In fact, the total amount of student loan debt now exceeds the total amount of credit card debt in the United States. The Resolution on Financial Literacy addresses this issue through several actions:

  • That local PTAs and councils work with their school districts to incorporate financial literacy education into their curricula
  • That the Illinois PTA work with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to include financial literacy materials that meet the existing Illinois Learning Standards
  • That the Illinois PTA, local units, and councils work for legislation for programs that teach financial literacy.

Most of the concepts of financial literacy are based in math, and one of the most important ways to get students to take an interest in math is to show them how they can use it in real life. Thus, using financial literacy materials to teach math concepts can be accomplished within the existing Illinois Learning Standards. School districts just need to be willing to make the effort. In addition, many financial literacy materials already aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards are available, and programs from organizations like Junior Achievement can also play a role in developing financial literacy.

Resolution on Climate Change

The overwhelming majority of the scientific community agree that manmade climate change is occurring. Among the effects of climate change that have direct effects on Illinois are an increase in extreme weather events (e.g., tornadoes, droughts, and floods) and public health issues such as:

  • Increased respiratory ailments including asthma due to increased levels of pollen, mold, air pollution, and dust
  • Increased incidence of certain cancers due to higher levels of ultraviolet radiation
  • Increased foodborne diseases and nutritional deficiencies due to food contamination, shortages of staple foods, and the reduced nutritional value of food caused by rising carbon dioxide levels

The Resolution on Climate Change addresses this issue through a multi-pronged approach. These include:

  • The Illinois PTA providing information to local PTAs and councils regarding climate change and its effect on the health and welfare of children
  • The Illinois PTA, local PTAS, and councils encourage school districts to consider including renewable energy resources (e.g., geothermal heating and cooling, wind turbines) and green infrastructure (e.g., energy efficient windows, green roofs, permeable paving) when building or renovating school district facilities
  • The Illinois PTA work with other like-minded organizations on the issue of climate change and its effect on the environment and the health and welfare of children
  • The Illinois PTA, local units, and councils support legislation that regulates activities that contribute to adverse climate change, mitigates the negative effects of climate change, supports and encourages the use of renewable energy, and supports efforts to remediate the negative effects of climate change that have already occurred.

Resolution on Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, uses the injection of water and undisclosed chemicals into rock layers at high pressure to fracture the rocks, allowing oil and natural gas to be extracted more easily. The contaminated wastewater from this process is then injected back into the ground for disposal.

Research has connected hydraulic fracturing to a significant increase in earthquakes, unsafe levels of air pollution near fracking sites (resulting in asthma attacks, lung disease, dizziness and seizures, birth defects, blood disorders, and cancers, among other health effects), and contamination of groundwater. The latter is of particular concern in Illinois, where 35% of all residents, including 90% of all rural Illinois residents, rely on aquifers for their drinking water.

The Resolution on Hydraulic Fracturing addresses this issue through both education and legislation. The resolution calls on the Illinois PTA, local units, and councils to:

  • Share information on the health and safety concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal
  • Work with other like-minded organizations to raise awareness of these concerns
  • Support additional research on current and new methods of oil and gas extraction and their potential environmental effects by independent researchers not affiliated with the energy industry
  • Support state and federal legislation that addresses the environmental and health effects associated with hydraulic fracturing.

Plan Your PTA Take Your Family to School Week Event Now

tn-2017-tyftsw-social3Founders’ Day, February 17th, celebrates the legacy and work of Alice McLellan Birney, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and Selena Sloan Butler to improve the lives of children. The date marks the first National Congress of Mothers, held in Washington, D.C. in 1897. As part of that celebration, National PTA designates the week that includes Founders’ Day as PTA Take Your Family to School Week.

This year, PTA Take Your Family to School Week is February 13-17, and the theme is Celebrating the Changing Faces of Families. Research shows that families engaged in their children’s education results in greater student success, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, or parents’ level of education. PTA Take Your Family to School Week provides PTAs with an opportunity to engage the families at their school in their children’s education. It also promotes your PTA and the work you do in your school, which can lead to more families joining your PTA to support that work.

Now is the time to think about how your PTA will bring families into your school building. Do you want to provide the opportunity for families to share a meal with their children, either before, during, or after school hours? Will you work with your principal to provide families the chance to participate or observe in the classroom? Do you have no idea where to start?

If your PTA isn’t sure where to start, both National PTA and Illinois PTA have resources to help you host a fun, pre-planned event for the families at your school.

National PTA also has an invitation letter to send to families and specially-sized graphics for your PTA to use on social media to help you promote your event. Plan your event now to celebrate PTA Take Your Family to School Week.

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week

drugs-shatter-the-myths-coverNational Drug and Alcohol Facts Week runs from January 23rd to 29th. It is a program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to connect students with scientists and other experts to counteract the myths and misinformation about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, social media, television, movies, music, and their peers.

Part of this year’s activities include an online Drugs and Alcohol Chat Day on Thursday, January 26, from 7:00am until 5:00pm CST. Anyone will be able to view the live chat, but schools that have registered in advance and received an access code will be able to submit questions. In addition, approximately two weeks after the chat, a transcript will be posted allowing students and parents to see all of the questions and answers. Transcripts from the past nine years of chats are available now.

The National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week website is the coordinating hub for events going on around the country. On the website, you will find:

While alcohol, cigarette, and opioid use among teens has decreased in recent years, marijuana use remains steady and e-cigarette use is increasing. Make sure that both you and your teen understand the facts regarding drug and alcohol use by checking out the NIDA website together.

SB550 Becomes Law, Reducing Lead in School Drinking Water

sb550-fountain-signedSenate Bill 550 (SB550), the Preventing Lead in Drinking Water bill, was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on Monday, January 16, 2017. The bill has been a key focus for Illinois PTA advocacy this past year, and its passage is a win for the children of Illinois.

It is also a reminder that PTAs can have their biggest effect on the lives of children at their school when they advocate together for policy changes that benefit every child in Illinois or across the country. Illinois PTA thanks those who participated in the passage and signing of SB550 by contacting their legislators.

What SB550 Will Do

During the lame duck session of the Illinois General Assembly on January 9 and 10, 2017, SB550 was amended in the House before passage. Here is what the law will do for Illinois children.

  • School buildings built before 2000 that serve 10 or more children in grades pre-K through 5, whether public, private, charter, or nonpublic day or residential institutions, will need to test each source of potable water for lead. Those sources include taps, faucets, drinking fountains, and classroom wash basins as well as food preparation water sources, but janitorial sinks and basins are excluded.
  • The water to be tested is to be the first draw of water that has been standing in pipes for at least 8 hours but not more than 18 hours. If a sample exceeds 5 parts per billion (ppb), the school is to promptly notify parents and legal guardians of the location in the school where that sample was taken. Note that this level is below the US Environmental Protection Agency’s lead action level of 15ppb.
  • Schools built before 1987 are to conduct testing by December 31, 2017. Schools built from 1987 to 1999 are to be tested by December 31, 2018. The state will determine by June 30, 2019 if schools built from 2000 onward will need to conduct lead testing as well.
  • Licensed day care centers, day care homes, and group day care homes built before 2000 that serve children under the age of 6 will need to test drinking water for lead based on rules that will be in place by January 1, 2018. Those rules are to include testing requirements, training requirements, and notification of results.
  • Community water systems are to complete a comprehensive inventory of lead service lines in their system by April 15, 2018 and update that information annually. Such systems are also to notify potentially affected residences of construction or repair work on water mains, lead service lines, or water meters that could potentially increase lead levels in drinking water. Notification is not required if the inventory shows that the water system being worked on is lead-free.

Join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network

This past fall, SB550 had passed the Senate but looked like it would die in the House. With Illinois PTA advocates meeting with legislators and staff during Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield in November and many more contacting representatives through our online campaign, the bill began to move during the veto session but did not pass. Our final campaign over the holidays to push SB550 through the house during the lame duck session in January helped get the bill finally passed.

Illinois PTA is most effective when our members combine their voices into PTA’s one voice, and the passage of SB550 provides ample proof of the impact we can have together. To add your voice to Illinois PTA’s one voice on future issues, sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network. Your e-mail address is only used to alert you to Illinois PTA advocacy campaigns, and our Voter Voice tools make it easy for you to contact your legislators in just minutes with a prewritten e-mail stating the Illinois PTA position. Join today!