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Illinois taxpayers to pay for climate education mandates

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(The Center Square) – Beginning with the 2025-2026 school year, every public high school shall require a unit of instruction addressing climate change in either a required science class or a required social studies class.

House Bill 4895 gives the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) the directive to create professional development resources for educators to best teach climate change coursework.

State Rep. Janet Yang Rohr, D-Naperville, said she is working to ensure young people understand the science behind climate change and the effects it will have.

“ISBE recognized that there is a real hole and need for professional development to help train our educators on how to teach about climate change. This bill allows ISBE to create those professional materials subject to appropriation,” said Yang Rohr.

State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, said he thinks the legislature is starting to impose too much of what they believe the educators should be teaching Illinois children.

“Rather than the educators, the people we’re told are the professionals, decide what to teach the kids, allowing it to be up to the school boards to decide what their kids need to succeed, allowing educators to educate…we instead are interjecting a political ideology on our schools and children and asking that to be taught. I’d rather them reach their levels in math and reading and then we start worrying about things like this,” said Ugaste.

Not a single child tested proficient in math in 67 Illinois schools. For reading, it’s 32 schools, according to a Wirepoints report.

Yang Rohr’s bill is subject to appropriation and it’s estimated ISBE needs about $300,000 to share professional development resources with teachers. Rohr said it’s a one-time fee. House Republicans were skeptical and said likely the training materials ISBE purchases with the $300,000 will need to be upgraded and that upgrade could come at a cost to taxpayers.

Yang Rohr said young people know all too well that climate change is a pressing issue facing their future.

Yang Rohr said part of her efforts in Springfield is to create fact-based coursework and teacher preparation programs on the history and future of climate change. Her bill that passed the House this month does just that.

“I think what ISBE recognized is that a lot of our educators have much on their plate. We [the state] do require and expect a lot of them. When we have these mandats and learning standards, sometimes educators can benefit from coaching and more material,” said Yang Rohr.

An annual study by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools shows that 9 in 10 schools report a serious or very serious teacher shortage.

State Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, pressed Yang Rohr and said, “So what you’re saying is that we’re [the legislature] is going to add more things on their plate because we’ve already got so many things on their plate…but you didn’t answer my question, ‘what kind of holes exist in the curriculum or in the pedagogy of climate science that those holes need to be filled by ISBE?’”

Yang Rohr said there is just so much material available and the science continues to update and her and her staff want to make sure Illinois educators have the materials to meet the learning standards that are already set.

“We can’t swing a dead cat without discussing climate this, climate that. I do believe this is not a proper subject for ISBE to be instructing educators more and more about things you might consider as an evolving thing, but the fact is evolution is a natural thing. What you say is causing that evolution I believe and fear will creep into the curriculum and further confuse rather than enlighten our children about what is the true nature of the climate on this planet,” said Reick.

State Rep. Adam Neimerg, R-Dieterich, said he hopes the opposition to so-called man made global warming, or climate change will be included in the curriculum.

“There needs to be the folks that have done the work to show that the science around man made global warming and climate change is false,” said Neimerg. “We can’t be teaching our kids one side of political indoctrination without the other. It needs to be balanced.”

Yang Rohr’s bill passed last week and heads to the Senate for further action.