A District 97 legislative board committee is currently working with state lawmakers on revising Illinois’ school code to allow for greater sharing of student data between non-unit school districts within the same municipality. 

Greg Smith, chair of D97’s CLAIM committee (Committee for Legislative Action, Intervention and Monitoring), said data sharing is among the group’s top issues this year. The school board created the 2-year old committee to lobby Springfield legislators on key educational issues. CLAIM has more than a dozen community members as well as two D97 board members. 

Oak Park’s two school districts have had problems sharing certain data, even though their overall student populations comprise many of the same families, Smith noted. Privacy laws and certain Illinois school code restrictions prevent non-unit school districts from sharing certain information, such as discipline data. 

But unit school districts don’t have this problem, Smith noted.

“Trying to track how our kids in District 97 are doing at the high school is made more difficult,” Smith said. 

State Sen. Don Harmon (39th) is working with CLAIM on drafting new language in the Illinois school code for the allowance. 

Despite the restrictions, D97 and District 200 have tried to share other student data allowable by law. Students’ grades and how they’ve done in D97, for instance, are shared. Teachers from the two districts have also held informal meetings over the years about grades, classroom curriculum and students transitioning from D97 to the high school. 

D200 has tested eighth-graders in reading and math via its EXLPORE Test since 2006, and curriculum administrators from the two districts have discussed how to coordinate parts of their respective algebra curricula.

Smith said school finances are another top priority for the committee, which gets its directives from and sets its agenda with the D97 school board. CLAIM members include D97 parents, former and current educators, and former legislative staffers. 

Committee members regularly meet with Oak Park’s state lawmakers, said Smith, who is an assistant village attorney for River Forest. He added that CLAIM is not unique to Oak Park. Other school districts, including in Barrington and Schaumburg, have similar legislative board committees. Smith said CLAIM members have also met with their counterparts at some state education forums.

Data sharing and finances will be a part of CLAIM’s agenda for the coming year, with the remaining goals still being set, Smith said. CLAIM holds meetings the third Thursday of the month at D97’s headquarters, 970 Madison St. The meetings are open to the public.

As for lobbying state lawmakers as a school board committee, Smith maintained it’s not as challenging as some might think.

“It’s not daunting if you recognize your role and the role of legislators,” he said. “You have to be realistic in what you can achieve. You can really only change what’s already in progress — we’re not trying to do things that haven’t been done before.”              

CLAIM members

Anne Warden                

Brandon Bell                

Carol Threlkeld                

Carollina Song                    

Jassen Strokosch                        

Meredith Schacht                

Peggy Kell                

Sanford Greenberg                

Wiley Samuels    

Greg Smith (chair)                    

Al Roberts (D97 supt.)  

Jim Gates (D97 board)                            

Amy Felton (D97 board)                       

Join the discussion on social media!