By Peter Hancock
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House on Wednesday passed a bill requiring public school textbooks purchased with certain state funds be nondiscriminatory and unbiased in their treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, and that they highlight the contributions that LGBT individuals have made to American history and culture.
“Under current practice in many of our schools, the contribution of LGBT individuals in history has remained hidden and unacknowledged,” Rep. Anna Moeller, an Elgin Democrat and sponsor of House Bill 246, said during debate on the floor of the House.
“This exclusion has denied students the opportunity to obtain a greater and more accurate understanding of world history, and it also has denied LGBT people their identity and reflection in our school curriculum,” she added.
The bill passed out of the House on a largely party-line vote of 60-42. Only three Democrats voted against the bill, and no Republicans voted for it.
Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, argued schools and teachers already struggle to keep up with the growing list of mandates applied to them, and the state should not be adding another, especially one that some might find inappropriate.
“We all know that we need to have a well-educated, well-informed citizenry. We have to have that if we’re going to maintain our form of government,” he said. “But we’re already failing to teach history to today’s and future generations. We’re not even covering the basics of our shared history.”
The bill is in the Senate, which passed similar legislation during the 2018 session, and it awaits assignment to a substantive committee. Chicago Democrat Heather Steans is the legislation’s chief co-sponsor.
But it is unlikely that the bill would have any immediate impact, even if it is signed into law. That’s because it only applies to textbooks purchased through the state’s textbook block grant program, which has not received any funding for the last five years, and which the State Board of Education has not requested funding for in the upcoming budget.
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