Illinois State Board of Education

“Tele-Schooling” Bill Could Mean End of Snow Days For Illinois Schools

Snow days as we know them may soon be over, kids.

As lawmakers in Springfield fight to create a new budget and decide what to do — if anything — about Chicago Public Schools' financial crisis, another bill sits on Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk that could drastically impact the state's students.

House Bill 2781, which passed both the Illinois House and Senate in May, seeks to start a pilot program in the state in which students would take classes electronically from home on days that would typically be designated "snow days."

"Tele-schooling" days would take the place of snow days, meaning no extra school days would be added to the end of the school year. Summers would not be shortened, and schools would not have to remain open and eat up costs for those few extra days.

When the pilot program ends, legislators could introduce a measure to make "tele-schooling" an official statewide program. The bill does not address the issue of students who do not have regular Internet access at home, however.

The bill on Rauner's desk would authorize any school board other than the Chicago Board of Education to take part in the pilot program.

Schools enrolled in the program would have to prove their students completed at least five hours worth of virtual work, and only five "tele-schooling" days are allowed per year.

A similar program has already been adopted in Ohio school districts, which allow up to three "tele-schooling" days per year and offer alternatives for students without Internet access.

Illinois schools that wish to take part in the pilot program must submit proposals for an e-learning program to the State Board of Education for approval. The program could run for up to three years, or through the 2017-18 school year.

While the bill will not likely be approved — or rejected — by Rauner any time soon due to the more pressing need of approving a budget, Illinois' students may be in for a wake-up call in the near future when a snowstorm hits.

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