Legislation regarding preschool absenteeism sparks House debate
Yelling echoed in the House chamber during floor debate of HB5771, which would allow for the collection and review of chronic absence data in state block grant-funded preschools.
Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) defended HB5771 and said she was excited by the idea of documenting data to track absentee patterns, which have been proven to reflect academic success in later education.
“Early childhood is just as important as primary and secondary ed,” Chapa LaVia said.
Working with Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley) on the measure was a delight, Chapa LaVia said, adding they are pushing education to the forefront of everybody’s minds.
Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) did not feel the same way about the bill and pointed out that the state will spend approximately $500 million this year on early education, averaging $5,000 to $17,000 annually for a 4-year-old pre-school student. She said the bill, which asks for a written report on absences, is illogical.
“How about this, if you don’t show up for class, you don’t get to put your 3-, 4- or 5-year-old into taxpayer-funded childcare and early education, how about that for accountability,” Ives said.
Reporting a preschool child’s attendance record is not even mandated by law, according to Ives, who added that for $17,000 a year, the state might as well fund a year of Illinois State University (ISU) education for the student.
Yelling as loud as she could across the aisle, Chapa LaVia pointed out without her bill there is no future education.
“Well the funny thing is representative, they don’t get to ISU if they don’t have early childhood education,” Chapa Lavia said.
Chapa LaVia claimed Ives' numbers were off base.
“Someone needs to put you in your place on that, because I remember as a freshman, you saying you wanted to eliminate all of early childhood education,” Chapa LaVia said. “You want to know what is different about your community and my community, my kids go to jail without early childhood education. She should talk to the bill because she is not talking to me.”
Ives countered, saying she was not finished with her statement and she didn’t even ask Chapa LaVia a question, suggesting her outburst was not appropriate.
“The truth is those are the numbers,” Ives said as she began to raise her voice.
If you're looking for accountability, then do not allow a child to return to the program if they are chronically absent, Ives said.
“That is what we should be doing, then people will show up,” Ives said.
Rep. Steve Andersson (R-Geneva) said he was not going to speak to the bill until he heard Ives’ comments suggesting that the idea “that we would throw our children out of preschool if they didn’t show up enough,” is not the answer.
This is not just about low-income areas, "it is about my areas too, affluent areas,” Andersson said.
"Kicking a child out of school for being chronically absent is a recipe for disaster," Andersson said. “You are abandoning children when you do this."
Andersson apologized to the floor for raising his voice, noting he was very upset.
Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) said as a former educator, it is a fact early childhood education is key to a successful academic career.
“I strongly urge an (aye) vote, and I hope it is unanimous,” Scherer said.
HB5771 passed on a 107-4 vote and moved to the Senate.