(The Center Square) – The leadership of the Illinois State Board of Education is about to change.
Illinois State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala is stepping down in January. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office announced her retirement for Jan. 31.
“Not only did Dr. Ayala’s steadfast leadership guide our schools through an unprecedented pandemic, but she also kick-started students’ academic recovery,” the governor said in a statement.
The governor’s suspension of in-person education in 2020 lasted months with hybrid learning leading to significant learning loss across the state.
Pritzker said Ayala was integral in helping students recover after the loss of learning.
“Under her leadership, we’ve seen significant growth in high school graduation rates and other key educational metrics, a true testament to her hard work and dedication to Illinois students,” Pritzker said. “I’m grateful for her service and wish her and her family all the best for a well-deserved retirement.”
Some have criticized Illinois’ education performance.
“I think it is really sad and indefensible that Gov. Pritzker and other educational leaders in this state refuse to acknowledge just how bad things are in education and how we need dramatic reforms in school choice,” Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski said last month. “If they’re not willing to acknowledge the problems then they’ll never have any plans to fix them.”
Dabrowski uses state performance data to show poor reading scores, including just 16% of white 3rd graders in Decatur Public Schools being able to read at grade level, and only 7% of Black 3rd graders in Rockford were at grade level.
Other COVID-19 mitigation policies pushed by ISBE like masks, exclusion and vaccine mandates sparked a slew of lawsuits demanding local control and parents and students rights before mandates were relaxed at the beginning of this year.
Ayala’s leadership also experienced other controversies, including new sex education stadards schools must follow if they teach sex ed.
The issue of ISBE leadership under Ayala was a flashpoint in the recent gubernatorial election with Pritzker’s Republican challenger state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, saying his first action if elected would be to fire Ayala and replace the entire board. Pritzker won a second term last week.
Pritzker’s office didn’t immediately announce a replacement for Ayala.