SPRINGFIELD -- Beginning today, public schools across Illinois are required to offer students a moment of silence to pray, ponder the day or otherwise reflect on their lives.
Such moments have been allowed under state law for years, but this year a group of lawmakers -- all Democrats -- decided to require it.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich rejected the plan this summer, but in recent days, lawmakers cast aside his veto, the final stroke coming Thursday when the House voted 74-37 to support the moment of silence.
Supporters said a little silence in the hectic classroom wouldn't hurt and said this has nothing to do with religion in the classroom.
"Our children today are bombarded by noise," said state Rep. Monique Davis, a Chicago Democrat and supporter.
Critics called it a thinly veiled attempt to put prayer in public schools.
"Let's face it, that's what this is about," said state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat and opponent.
Other critics questioned why lawmakers would spend so much time and energy on something that state law already allowed and even now includes no penalties for non-compliance. Meanwhile, a financial crisis looms for the region's mass transit agencies and school funding remains unaddressed, as does tax help for Cook County homeowners.
"But we're going to take up the time with something like this?" said state Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat. "This is a bad idea."
In addition to including no penalties for those who refuse or forget, the new law offers no guidelines on how long this "moment of silence" should be, only that it occur at opening of every school day. The requirement applies to every grade.
How they voted
The Illinois House gave final approval Thursday to requiring a moment of silence at the start of every school day. The 74-37 vote cast aside Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto and puts the law into effect immediately.
Local lawmakers supporting the moment of silence:
Robert A. "Bob" Biggins, Elmhurst Republican; Linda Chapa-LaVia, Aurora Democrat; Fred Crespo, Hoffman Estates Democrat; Tom Cross, Oswego Republican (House Republican leader); Mike Fortner, West Chicago Republican; Brent Hassert, Romeoville Republican; Patricia Reid Lindner, Aurora Republican; Ruth Munson, Elgin Republican; Harry R. Ramey Jr., Carol Stream Republican; Dennis Reboletti, Elmhurst Republican; Angelo "Skip" Saviano, Elmwood Park Republican; Timothy L. Schmitz, Batavia Republican; Ed Sullivan Jr., Mundelein Republican; Michael Tryon, Crystal Lake Republican; Eddie Washington, Waukegan Democrat.
Local lawmakers opposing:
Mark H. Beaubien Jr., Barrington Hills Republican; Franco Coladipietro, Bloomingdale Republican; Sandy Cole, Grayslake Republican; Joe Dunn, Naperville Republican; Jack D. Franks, Woodstock Democrat; Paul Froehlich, Schaumburg Democrat; Carolyn H. Krause, Mount Prospect Republican; Sidney H. Mathias, Buffalo Grove Republican; Rosemary Mulligan, Des Plaines Republican; Elaine Nekritz, Northbrook Democrat; JoAnn Osmond, Antioch Republican; Sandra M. Pihos, Glen Ellyn Republican; Kathleen A. Ryg, Vernon Hills Democrat.
Suzanne "Suzie" Bassi, Rolling Meadows Republican; James H. "Jim" Meyer, Naperville Republican
Source: Illinois House roll call SB1463