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State

Illinois schools start year with 24 new mandates

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Schools in Illinois have begun their academic years with two dozen new requirements from lawmakers that don't come with any corresponding state funding.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports (http://bit.ly/1pIkoou ) data collected by the Illinois State Board of Education show the 24 additional requirements this year are down slightly from the average 27 new rules imposed each year since 2007.

This year the new rules include training students how to use automatic external defibrillators and practicing how to evacuate schools in emergencies.

The new requirements for schools come at the same time as Illinois' rising unfunded pension liability prompted severe cuts to school funding in recent years, with district officials frequently voicing complaints that the cost of complying often comes at the expense of other programs or even local property tax increases.

State officials say at least 64 of the estimated 224 new requirements handed down in the past seven years would cost school districts money.

"Obviously, there are some things that are worthwhile," Mike Williams, superintendent of the Maroa-Forsyth school district in central Illinois, said. "We'd just appreciate the ability to review some of them and decide whether they fit with our mission."

Mandates put on the books in recent years that some decry as unnecessary include requiring school districts to accept miniature horses as service animals for certain disabled children. Others require schools to teach about Internet safety and to have all flags flown at public school buildings manufactured in the United States.

Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill last spring introduced a proposal that would allow school districts to opt out of having to comply with some mandates — a way of appeasing some districts that questioned his plan to overhaul the state's school funding formula.

But idea was later dropped after opponents suggested it would be tough for lawmakers to remove requirements that could be viewed as important to crucial voting blocs — among them requiring the teaching of women's rights and African-American history each year.

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Information from: Quad-City Times, http://www.qctimes.com

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