SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) — Jesse Sullivan hopes to win the vote of Republican parents in Illinois by outlining his plan to shake up the state’s education system. The upstate venture capitalist is one of six GOP candidates hoping to take on Gov. JB Pritzker in the November election.
Sullivan says Illinois is failing parents and putting school children at risk with current policies. He argues that his administration would feature a “parent empowerment” program to restore accountability in schools.
Sullivan believes Illinois needs universal school choice and an expansion of the Invest in Kids scholarship program. He says every parent should receive a “backpack scholarship” to send their children to the school of their choice, whether it’s a public, private, charter or religious institution. Sullivan also believes that the Invest in Kids program should be extended beyond 2023. However, there is already a bipartisan bill on Pritzker’s desk that could make scholarships permanent.
Sullivan says one of the main issues is classroom indoctrination. He argues that the Illinois State Board of Education needs to focus on basic education instead of pushing the political agenda.
“We need to get back to loving our country and teaching our kids patriotism rather than what they’ve tried to inject into the curriculum now, which is an ideology in our curriculum,” Sullivan said Thursday. “We need to bring excellence back to our schools and get the indoctrination out.”
Sullivan calls for an “American civic boot camp” for teachers because he believes the Pritzker administration is training schools to teach critical race theory. The Illinois State Board of Education and many state legislators say that is not true because Illinois does not teach CRT at all. Many have mistaken the recent push for greater diversity and inclusion in curricula and classroom discussions as a shift to critical race theory.
The gubernatorial candidate also hopes to have a Parents’ Bill of Rights for Illinois to restore faith in the education system. Sullivan modeled this idea on the bill recently signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. This law states that the government is prohibited from infringing on the fundamental rights of parents or guardians to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.
“If you want a strong leader like Ron DeSantis, someone who’s willing to push back against Joe Biden and the federal government’s overreach in our states, then I’m your man,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want to bring America First policies to Illinois. I want to make this the first policies in Illinois.
Sullivan believes Illinois must stand up for law enforcement, cut taxes, push back against extreme politics in the classroom, support parental rights, be pro-life, and defend the U.S. border against illegal immigration.
While his wife is a teacher, Sullivan said she supports his idea to cut funding for teachers’ unions. Sullivan says union bosses don’t reflect the best interests of most Illinois teachers because some have become a wing of the Democratic Party.
“If you look at their support, what they’re doing is they’re funding a political party and an organization and then they’re sitting on the same side of the table with these lawmakers that they put in power to really get whatever they want,” Sullivan said. added.
Sullivan said he would institute a ban on political donations from teachers’ unions if he were to take over the governor’s office. Most of his concerns relate to the decisions made by the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union. It specifically calls for the investigation and punishment of “hate speech, incitement to violence and protection of sexual predators” by CTU leaders.
He argues that the Pritzker administration has refused to provide common sense protections against sexual abuse in schools while promoting a “radical” sex education curriculum. Sullivan argues that Illinois should punish sexual predators in schools and require parental notification of teacher misconduct.
The Illinois General Assembly has passed several proposals in recent years to specifically address sexual abuse and grooming in schools. The Law of Faith expands the definition of grooming in the criminal code from Internet communication to actions in person, through direct conversation or written communication. This law also created new resources and protections for victims of sexual abuse and their families while requiring school districts to develop a code of sexual misconduct for educators and review employment history.
Separate legislation called Erin’s Law requires new school policies for staff, students, and parents to include increased awareness and knowledge of the warning signs of child abuse. The law also addresses awareness and knowledge of grooming behavior and how to report it. Another provision taking effect July 1 states that the school’s new policy must outline how to report child abuse to law enforcement and the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.
Sullivan would like Illinois to require public schools to post learning materials for sex ed classes and require parents to register for comprehensive sex ed instead of the current opt-out system. He argues that the opt-out options only work if parents are aware of everything in the program.
“If you read this new sex ed bill, in second grade, they talk about teaching gender identity as a choice for young kids,” Sullivan said. “K-3 in our curriculum – we shouldn’t be teaching our kids about sexuality and gender identity. When I’m governor, I’m going to change that and stand up against it.
Most of those changes would be nearly impossible in a state with Democratic control in both houses. Even though a governor has the power to veto legislation, lawmakers could come back and override the veto to keep their laws in place. Sullivan understands that’s a challenge, so he hopes more Republican candidates will win races for Illinois House and Senate seats this fall.
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