Jesse Sullivan hopes to empower parents and shake up Illinois education system

Illinois Republican candidate for governor Jesse Sullivan speaks with the Gray TV Illinois...
Illinois Republican candidate for governor Jesse Sullivan speaks with the Gray TV Illinois Capitol Bureau on May 19, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Jesse Sullivan hopes he will win the vote of Illinois Republican parents by introducing his plan to shake up the state’s education system. The downstate venture capitalist is one of the six GOP candidates hoping to face Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the November election.

Sullivan says Illinois is failing parents and endangering school children with current policies. He argues his administration would feature a “power to the parents” agenda to restore accountability in schools.

Sullivan feels 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 kids to whatever school they choose whether it is a public, private, charter, or religious institution. Sullivan also feels the Invest in Kids program should be extended past 2023. However, there is already a bipartisan bill on Pritzker’s desk that could make the scholarships permanent.

Sullivan says one of the core issues is indoctrination in the classroom. He argues the Illinois State Board of Education needs to focus on core education instead of pushing political curriculum.

“We’ve got to get back to loving our country again and teaching our kids patriotism rather than what they’ve been trying to inject into the curriculum now which is an ideology into our curriculum,” Sullivan said Thursday. “We need to get excellence back into our schools and get the indoctrination out.”

Sullivan is calling for an “American civics boot camp” for teachers because he thinks the Pritzker administration is training schools to teach Critical Race Theory. The Illinois State Board of Education and numerous state lawmakers say that’s not true because Illinois is not teaching CRT at all. Many have confused the recent push for more diversity and inclusion in curriculum and class discussions as a move to critical race theory.

The gubernatorial candidate also hopes to have a parents’ bill of rights for Illinois to restore trust in the education system. Sullivan modeled this idea off of the bill recently signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. That law states government is banned 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 is willing to push back against Joe Biden and the federal overreach into our states, then I am your guy,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want to bring America First policies into Illinois. I want to make them Illinois first policies.”

Sullivan believes Illinois needs to stand up for law enforcement, reduce taxes, push back against extreme policies in classrooms, support parental rights, be pro-life and defend the United States border against illegal immigration.

While his wife is a teacher, Sullivan said she supports his idea to defund teachers unions. Sullivan says union bosses do not reflect the best interest of most Illinois teachers because some have become a wing of the Democratic party.

“If you look at their support, what they are doing is they’re funding a political party and organization and then they are sitting on the same side of the table with these legislators they put in power to really get whatever they want,” Sullivan added.

Sullivan said he would institute a ban on political giving from teachers unions if he were to take over the governor’s office. Most of his concerns surround decisions made by leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union. He is specifically calling for investigations and sanctioning of “hate speech, incitement of violence, and protection of sexual predators” by CTU leaders.

He argues the Pritzker administration has refused to provide commonsense protections against sexual abuse in schools while promoting a “radical” sexual education curriculum. Sullivan argues Illinois should punish sexual predators in schools and require parent notification of teacher misconduct.

The Illinois General Assembly has passed several proposals over recent years to specifically address sexual abuse and grooming in schools. Faith’s Law expands the definition of grooming in the criminal code from internet communication to in-person actions, through direct conversation, or written communication. That law also created new resources and protections for sexual abuse survivors and their families while requiring school districts to develop a sexual misconduct code for educators and review employment history.

Separate legislation called Erin’s Law requires new school policies for personnel, students, and parents to include increased awareness and knowledge of warning signs of child abuse. The law also addresses awareness and knowledge of grooming behavior and how to report it. Another provision taking effect on July 1 states new school policy must explain how to report child abuse to law enforcement and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Sullivan would like to see Illinois require public schools to post learning materials for sexual education courses and require parents to opt-in for comprehensive sex ed instead of the current opt-out system. He argues opt-outs only work if parents know about everything in the curriculum.

“If you read through that new sex-ed bill, in second grade they are talking about teaching gender identity as a choice for young children,” Sullivan said. “Kindergarten through 3rd grade in our curriculum - we should not be teaching sexuality and gender identity to our children. When I’m governor, I’m going to change that and push back against it.”

Most of these changes would be nearly impossible in a state with Democratic control in both chambers. 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 is a challenge, so he hopes more Republican candidates win races for Illinois House and Senate seats this fall.

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