Quick Hits – We expect way too much of our schools

Quick Hits – We expect way too much of our schools

As a result of my December 2, 2019 column on the Tribune’s and Pro Publica’s take on Illinois school district quiet rooms, Montgomery, Illinois, State Rep, Stephanie Kifowit, and yours truly got into one of our more fascinating no-holds-barred social media deliberations.

Stehphanie Kifowit

You see, I fervently believe Ms. Kifowit harbors a vast capacity to forget that she’s a card-carrying member of the General Assembly and she possesses all the power that comes along with that. Through, it can be quite amusing to sit back and watch our State Rep play the role of outraged citizen.

She does harbor a certain charm!

During that first debate (there’s been a second since), we got into it about the unfunded mandates she and the General Assembly regularly thrust upon our school systems. And you know me, rather that relying on flapping gums like the rest of the rabble, I resorted to U-46 CEO, Tony Sanders, who quickly provided me with the three most cumbersome unfunded mandates Illinois’ second largest school district faces.

So, let’s get started!

1. Carbon monoxide detectors

As is par for the politician course, particularly among the Illinois variety, they tend to lack a necessary keen perception of the obvious. So, when disaster inevitably strikes, they swiftly move from doing absolutely nothing to diving directly into being the worst kind of Geneva, Illinois, helicopter parent.

After a faulty exhaust pipe sent 150 downstate Girard middle school students and staff to the hospital in 2014, our illustrious Illinois legislators’ oblivious response was to require every last district to deploy a plethora of CO detectors in various locations throughout every last building – even though that Girard incident is the only one of its kind in Illinois history.

Of course we should protect students against this threat. But while I understand the necessity to put smoke detectors in every classroom, given the likely areas of first exposure, my residence has a single carbon monoxide detector sitting at the confluence of the basement and inner garage doors.

And our school districts should have been similarly asked to address this possibility. They don’t need to go everywhere!

But no! Springfield’s predilection to run around screaming the sky is falling at every turn means a huge purchasing and maintenance expense for which the General Assembly has failed to provide one thin dime.

Unfunded Mandates

2. Daily PE

Look! I realize the term “morbidly obese” doesn’t begin to describe us as a nation and physical education is critical, particularly for boys who have difficulty sitting still all day. But, once again, why do we reflexively look to our schools for the fix?

Don’t parents share some responsibility for their corpulent children? And how are schools supposed to fix that?

If U-46 is forced to offer daily PE, the current lack of space and staff will quickly add up to a semi-repeating $7 million in associated annual costs. Sure, we had everyday PE back at Evanston Township High School in the 70s, but that was at a time the State felt obligated to put their money where their mandated mouth was.

This Springfield gaggle gets the biggest kick out of telling educators what to do, slapping each other on the back for having done so, and then just walking away. How is U-46 supposed to come up with that kinda cash – a couple of bake sales?

No! Something will have be cut or your property taxes will go up!

3. Defibrillators

I’ve written about this pet peeve before.

If you look up the definition of the word “life” in that dogeared old family Merriam-Webster, it simply says “risk.” Well, not really, but it should, because the Sword of Damocles hangs over each and every one of our heads and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

Again! I’m not saying we shouldn’t take reasonable precautions, and well-placed CO detectors are a reasonable precaution, but despite our best efforts, children die, and they  continue to die every day. Short of rolling them in bubble wrap and locking them in the downstairs closet, which might you in trouble with DCFS (or maybe not), there is nothing we can do to change that sad reality.

No one wants to see a parent lose a child, but since speaking with Mr. Sanders, I’ve asked at least ten teachers and administrators to tell me the last time a district defibrillator was used. None of them could come up with a single instance.

And if you think carbon monoxide detectors can get expensive, the average (non-refurbished) cost of a defibrillator is $1,300 and that doesn’t include the recurring related training expenses.


Again! If the State of Illinois wants to foist these mandates upon our hapless school districts, then they need pony up the cash, and they need to it without raising taxes. But they don’t because they’ve got a great scam going. They enact absurd statutory requirements which require raised taxes, and who gets the blame? That’s right! The school boards and not the mopes truly behind it.

So, here’s a crazy thought! Why don’t we get back to having parents take responsibility for their children, taking reasonable precautions in our schools BEFORE tragedy strikes, and simply letting our educators educate.

I know that’s quite a radical thought, but that’s just the kind of guy I am! And I’m guessin’ this column means a third debate with Ms. Kifowit.

Don’t worry! I’m up for it!

3 thoughts on “Quick Hits – We expect way too much of our schools

  1. Anytime a government entity requires another entity to purchase something I always wonder what legislators have a piece of it. I realize it is a tad cynical but I have lived in Illinois my entire life.

  2. So Illinois schools buy expensive defibrillators, yet vaping bans are loosely enforced at best and kids are dying from harmful chemicals in those devices. Mandate PE but consumption of certain school lunch or concession items will undo any minimal health gains from high school gym class. As you said, leave it up to the parents.

    1. “Loosely enforced at best” is right. Some nitwit administrator at some high school (not in Illinois, thank God) actually invited a Juul representative in to speak to a freshman class about how fun and safe vaping is. I sure hope that doofus got at least a severe reprimand.

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