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Tomorrow's Leaders

Understanding Illinois Local Government

Good citizenship begins early. It is vitally important that we introduce students at an early age to the role local government plays in our individual and collective lives.

What consists of 6,700 parts and nearly 200,000 people and is rarely studied in Illinois public schools? The answer is "local government," which thanks to a coalition of several groups is now explained in a new curriculum targeted to Illinois high school students.

"Tomorrow's Leaders: Understanding Illinois Local Government" is designed to develop citizens who care about and contribute to their communities. By helping students discover how Illinois local governments solve the problems closest to us (such as good roads, strong schools, effective fire and police protection, and safe water supplies) we will build an informed citizenry ready to assume leadership roles in their communities.

"Tomorrow's Leaders" examines the world we live in everday and how local governments provide support services that allow communities and citizens to thrive. Although national and state public policy generate more headlines, we live at the local level. It is the services provided by our local governments counties, cities, townships, and special purpose governments that affect our lives most profoundly.

The curriculum consists of eight units:

Unit 1: Introduction to Local Government especially helps those teachers and students who are learning about local governments for the first time. This unit provides some anticipatory activities to get students thinking about local government.

Unit 2: Who's Who in Local Government provides details about the individual roles and responsibilities that local officials play. In this unit you will see how local governments' roles and responsibilities intertwine with and depend on one another.

Unit 3: Local Government Finance covers such aspects of finance as taxes, property valuation, and budgets. This section helps students begin to see where the money goes, why we have taxes; and the services being provided by local government in their very own communities. Knowledge of these factors is one of the first steps in being a citizen.

Unit 4: Physical Infrastructure introduces students to the topic of infrastructure and heightens their awareness that infrastructure has a direct impact on the ability to live safely and harmoniously in their communities.

Unit 5: Law Enforcement and the Court System piques students' interest in legal matters with an Intrnet investigation of relevant web sites. Additional information on law enforcement and Illinois court systems is provided.

Unit 6: Local Government Services gives students a more detailed understanding of the services that local government handles or provides.

Unit 7: Public Safety focuses on the issue of safety and some of the ways that our local government protects citizens and residents in daily life and in the course of a disaster or emergency.

Unit 8: Being a Good Citizen discusses being a good citizen. Citizenship is an integral part to each of the preceding units, so it may not be necessary to teach this concept as an independent unit. Instead, aspects of Unit 8 can be worked into any of the other units.

If you are interested in obtaining the curriculum for your classroom or for more information contact:

Department of Human and Community Development
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
539 Bevier Hall
905 South Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61801
(217) 244-2850 (217) 244-2861


In order to encourage adoption of this local government curriculum by high schools across Illinois, we request that your county board adopt a resolution to acknowledge the Partnership for Local Government Education and use of the "Tomorrow's Leaders" curriculum.

Mail a copy of the adopted resolution to:
Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners
413 West Monroe
Springfield, Illinois 62704

The Partnership for Local Government Education is a collaboration formed to increase the interest and involvement in local government in Illinois. Our mission is to further the understanding of the role that local government plays in our individual and collective lives, and appreciate the depth and breadth of services that the various forms of local government provide their constituents. We firmly believe that through this educational effort, the effectiveness of local government across Illinois will be improved. The Partnership for Local Government Education is composed of the Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners, Illinois Municipal League, Township Officials of Illinois, and University of Illinois Extension.

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