General Assembly and Congress Wrap Up Work Before Spring Breaks
This Legislative Update wraps up the first half of the 99th General Assembly. The House and Senate finished their business and cancelled session Friday, March 27 and will return after a two-week spring break. When lawmakers return April 14 they are scheduled to be in session 34 days until adjournment on May 31. In that time they need to craft and pass the FY16 budget, consider bills on 3rd Reading in each chamber and then move those bills through the opposite chamber for final passage. Below is a summary of the legislation that we reviewed in the first two Legislative Updates and information about some highly discussed topics. The legislative spring break is a good opportunity for you to reach out to your legislators and discuss these issues.

At the federal level, Congress left town after a marathon evening session in the U.S. Senate. They are scheduled to be home for district work until April 13. When Congress reconvenes, the Senate is expected to start work on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Contact your U.S. Senator about taking action on ESEA.

FY15 Budget Outcome
The governor and leadership of the General Assembly came to an agreement to address the approximate $1.6 billion shortfall in the FY15 budget. This agreement includes sweeping more than $1.3 billion from special funds in the State’s treasury, as well as across-the-board cuts to state agencies and grant programs. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) budget took approximately a 2.2 percent reduction in all grant programs, including General State Aid, for a total reduction of $148 million. The reduction in General State Aid is approximately $97.2 million. However, the budget bill later appropriates back $97 million to be used by ISBE for school districts in financial distress. The bill does not include a definition of “financial distress” so IEA will be working with the State Board of Education as they make the determination of what constitutes a financially distressed district in order to expend these funds. With the addition of the $97 million for financially distressed districts, the net loss in overall PK-12 education funding is $50 million.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education and individual institutions were also cut by approximately 2.2 percent of their General Revenue Funds. The Illinois Community College Board was also cut but at a lesser percentage to protect line items that have a maintenance of effort that requires a certain amount of funding from the State in order to receive federal funds.
HB 317 and HB 318 contained the language for this agreement, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly. Governor Rauner signed both bills as soon as they were transmitted to him.

FY16 Budget Process
Fiscal year 2016 will run from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. On February 18, Governor Rauner gave his FY16 budget address and since that time both he and his staff have testified before numerous Senate and House appropriations committees on the budget proposal. It is unlikely that the governor’s budget proposal will become law as proposed. The legislative appropriations process always influences how budgets come together at the end of a legislative session. Legislators are currently hearing from advocacy organizations and state agencies about budgetary needs and consequences of reduced funding. At this time, the state faces a $4.2 billion revenue reduction from the previous fiscal year as a result of the full-year phase out of the 2011 temporary tax increase. With revenues decreasing and the increased spending pressures, the legislative budget process will be a contentious topic for the remaining legislative session. There are a number of ways that the legislature and the governor may choose to deal with the budget deficit. Any budget scenario will impact IEA members whether it means increased education funding or the possibility of cuts to education, the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) or a pension payment reduction. We will report on the FY16 budget process in future updates.

School Funding Formula
SB 1 – Senator Manar made changes to his school funding proposal from last year (SB 16) and introduced slightly modified language this year in SB 1. ISBE recently completed a model of these changes using FY13 and FY14 data. You can review the impact to your local district on the ISBE website. You can also review a Power Point summarizing the amendment on the ISBE website.

In addition, the House of Representatives has established the House Education Task Force which will have the primary task of reviewing the primary education funding formula (General State Aid) and discussing potential proposals for change. The task force is chaired by Representative Barbara Flynn-Currie and Representative Bob Pritchard is serving as the minority spokesman. In total, the task force has 23 members, including Representatives Steven Andersson, John Bradley, Peter Breen, Linda Chapa LaVia, Fred Crespo, Will Davis, Marcus Evans, Laura Fine, Mike Fortner, Esther Golar, Elizabeth Hernandez, Jeanne Ives, Rita Mayfield, Emily McAsey, Michelle Mussman, Ron Sandack, Elgie Sims, Joe Sosnowski, Michael Tryon, Grant Wehrli and Barb Wheeler.

The task force met for the first time on March 11 in Springfield and heard testimony from Senator Andy Manar on his proposal to change the school funding formula. In addition, school management groups offered thoughts on the various funding proposals, including Senator Manar’s proposal, from a school district perspective as well as their thoughts on short- and long-term funding needs.

It is the task force’s intention to continue with discussions about the current funding formula and potential funding changes. At this time, no additional meetings of the task force are scheduled, but members can track the task force on the General Assembly’s webpage.

Charter School Local Control
HB 397 (Welch) is an IEA INITIATIVE that would remove the ability of any state entity to overturn the decision of a local school board to deny a charter school application. This bill addresses the appeal process when a charter application is denied by a local board of education. Currently, if a charter school application is denied by the local board of education, the charter school applicant can appeal the decision to the State Charter School Commission. If the Commission overturns the local board decision to deny the charter, then the charter would become a Commission-authorized charter school and be established regardless of the local board’s decision.

HB 397 was not called for a vote this week. The IEA will continue to work in favor of this initiative to see that it passes the House before the 3rd Reading deadline. You can help pass this bill by contacting your state representative and ask them to vote ‘YES’ on HB 397, a bill that supports local control for establishing a charter school in a community. A fact sheet on the bill can be found here. To find your state representative’s contact information, click here, and select the Elected Officials tab.

Unfunded Mandates on School Districts
The topic of unfunded mandates is increasingly prevalent since school budgets have seen decreasing revenues from the State. Districts claim they are trying to find relief from the financial pressures of State mandates. Several bills were introduced this session in an attempt to address what some consider unfunded mandates on school districts. Below is the list of bills we mentioned in our first update. IEA opposed these bills and none of them were voted on in committee.

HB 1330 (Sandack) removes the requirement for daily physical education.

HB 1448 (D. Harris) amends the physical education statute to include students in grades 9 and 10 (instead of just 11 and 12) that can be excused from physical education for statutorily listed reasons.
SB 114 (McConnaughay)/HB 2536 (Tryon) permits a local board of education to excuse students in grades 9-12 from physical education if they are enrolled in two or more Advanced Placement courses if the student requests to be excused.

SB 1507 (Bertino-Tarrant) allows school districts to not comply with many statutory mandates or administrative rule mandates that are unfunded, with limited exceptions. Exceptions include civil rights protections, laws pertaining to student health, life or safety and federally required mandates, including No Child Left Behind. The school district could hold a public hearing and then submit a question to referendum. If a majority of the electorate agrees, the district would no longer have to engage in the mandate.

In response to this growing debate, Governor Rauner signed Executive Order (EO) – 15-15, which created the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force. The EO states the purpose of the task force shall be to study issues of local government and school district consolidation and redundancy, and to make recommendations that will ensure accountable and efficient government and education in the State of Illinois. The task force held their first meeting this week and more will be scheduled throughout the year. IEA will be monitoring the work of the task force and will provide input on issues to its members.

The task force will be chaired by Lt. Governor Sanguinetti and the following members have been appointed:

  • Rep. Tom Demmer, Former Lee County Board Member
  • Rep. Mark Batinick
  • Rep. Jack D. Franks
  • Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch
  • Sen. Dan Duffy
  • Sen. Dale A. Righter
  • Sen. Martin A. Sandoval
  • Sen. Linda Holmes
  • Karen Darch, Barrington Mayor
  • Karen Hasara, Member of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, Former Mayor of Springfield, Chair of Sangamon County Citizens Efficiency Commission
  • Brad Cole, Executive Director of the Illinois Municipal League, Former Carbondale Mayor
  • Ryan Spain, Peoria City Council Member
  • Dan Cronin, DuPage County Chairman, Former Member of the Illinois General Assembly
  • Michael Bigger, Former Stark County Chairman
  • Mark Kern, St. Clair County Chairman, Former Alderman and Mayor of Belleville
  • John Espinoza, Whiteside County Board Member
  • Rev. James T. Meeks, Illinois State Board of Education
  • Dr. Darlene Ruscitti, DuPage Regional Superintendent of Schools
  • Steffanie Seegmiller, Arthur School Board Chairman
  • M. Hill Hammock, Senior Fellow – Metropolitan Planning Council, Former Chief Administrative Officer for Chicago Public Schools
  • Char Foss-Eggemann, Park Ridge Library Board of Trustees
  • Warren L. Dixon III, Naperville Township Assessor, Former DuPage County Board of Review
  • George Obernagel, Chairman – Kaskaskia Regional Port District

Vision 20/20
We received several inquiries about Vision 20/20, an initiative of the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA). This school management effort produced several legislative initiatives for the spring legislative session in an attempt to “unite the education community and to develop a long-range blueprint for improving public education in Illinois”. The IEA was not invited to participate in this effort or in the creation of the legislation. IEA reviewed the Vision 20/20 Report and applauds the effort that it took for school administrators to put forth this vision. Some of the Vision 20/20 concepts are aligned with IEA’s legislative platform and some of the legislative proposals are not. The IEA is monitoring the legislative initiatives and working with the sponsors as any legislation moves forward. You can read more about Vision 20/20 here.

The following are the major areas addressed by the Vision 20/20 proposal and the introduced legislation:
Highly Effective Educators
HB 2657 (Pritchard) – 2nd Reading in the House
Shared Accountability
SB 1506 (Bertino-Tarrant) – 3rd Reading in the Senate
HB 2683 (W. Davis) – 2nd Reading in the House
HB 3535 (Golar) – Assigned to the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee
Equitable and Adequate Funding
SB 1403 (Barickman) – Assigned to the Senate Executive Committee
HB 4022 (Welch) – Remains in the House Rules Committee
HB 2637 (Crespo) – 2nd Reading in the House

Bill Updates

Assessment & Opt-out bills
HJR 54 (Kay) IEA INITIATIVE – Pursuant to the directive of members at the 2014 IEA Representatives Assembly through New Business Item #1. HJR 54 encourages school districts to not use the results of the PARCC exam as a determining factor for making decisions about a student’s educational opportunities, the evaluation of educators and the allocation of resources based on education achievement for the 2014-2015 school year through the 2017-2018 school year. The HJR 54 fact sheet can be found here. This resolution is currently in committee.

HB 306 (Guzzardi) would allow a parent or guardian the ability to opt their student out of any state assessment. This bill passed out of committee and is on 2nd Reading. The IEA is neutral on this bill.

HB 131 (Flowers) would allow a parent or guardian the ability to opt out of any assessment including those created by the classroom teacher. This bill remains in committee. Since committee deadlines passed, this bill will most likely not be called this session. The IEA is neutral on this bill.

Pension Cost Shift
HR 187 (McSweeney) – IEA is opposed to shifting the State’s pension costs of TRS and SURS participants to suburban and downstate schools, colleges and universities. HR 187 illustrates the devastating impact shifting pension costs would have on public education, most likely resulting in the reduction of educational opportunities, laying off of school personnel, and/or eliminating programs for students. IEA supports this resolution and we are currently working hard to get as many cosponsors as possible. The fact sheet on this resolution can be found here. To view the resolution and current cosponsors, click here. This resolution is currently in committee.
Higher Education
HB 403 (Franks) – Current law states that university employees who have seven years or more working in the Illinois public university system are entitled to 50 percent tuition waivers for their children. The bill originally sought to totally eliminate these tuition waivers. The bill was amended and passed out of committee and currently provides that no such tuition waivers may be extended after the 2015-16 school year. However, any student who currently possesses such a waiver may continue to use that 50 percent tuition waiver for up to four years if he/she is in good academic standing. IEA is opposed to this bill. It is currently on 3rd reading in the House.

2015 Spring Waiver Report
SJR 16 – The Illinois State Board of Education submitted the 2015 spring waiver report to the General Assembly. The waiver report contains 58 waiver requests from school districts that are subject to action by the General Assembly. Six of the waiver requests are from school districts asking to waiver daily physical education and three are from school districts requesting to charge a driver’s education fee in excess of the $250 statutory maximum.

IEA opposes those nine waivers and asked the General Assembly to take action to deny the waiver requests.
The Senate passed SJR 16 but it does not contain language to deny the waivers that IEA advocated be denied. The House will take up the resolution when it returns from spring break.

School Discipline
SB 100 (Lightford) as amended makes changes to school discipline requirements for school districts. Some of the changes include requiring that districts have a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement that clearly defines their role in school districts and

requiring school districts provide, in writing, the reasoning why a student is being expelled. It also limits out of school suspensions and expulsions when the student’s continued presence in the school building does not pose a threat to the safety and security of other students or staff. This topic and legislation has been a discussion between Senator Lightford, advocates and school management for over a year. The amendment to SB 100 is the negotiated agreement that all parties signed on to, with the exception of the School Management Alliance, which opposes the measure. IEA has received numerous calls regarding this bill because the School Management Alliance sent out a call to action urging school officials to contact elected officials in opposition to the bill and many of you have been contacted by a superintendent or other school official. IEA is neutral on SB 100.

Student Course Access
SB 1679 (Lightford) – Senator Lightford filed legislation which creates the Course Access Act. The bill creates a mechanism for providers to be approved to offer courses to students in a setting different than the traditional school district. The courses may be offered through an online provider, community college, technical school, other school district, etc, and students can take up to two of these courses per year. IEA is opposed to this bill. One of the initial concerns of the bill is that it did not require courses to be taught by a licensed teacher. Senator Lightford has since added an amendment that will require course teachers to be licensed; however, we still have other concerns with how the program will be funded and how it interplays with the existing Illinois Virtual School, AP courses and Dual Credit Programs. The bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee, but Senator Lightford is committed to working with the IEA and other opponents on the bill.

Capitol Bill Watch
Keep up to date on bills for which IEA has a position by visiting Capitol Bill Watch.

Spring Break Lobbying
IEA is encouraging its members to participate in Educators Talking to Legislators, an opportunity for public school employees to meet with their legislators during the two-week legislative spring break (March 30 – April 13).

Every decision that impacts the professional life of IEA members is a decision made by an elected official. In this General Assembly, there are several legislative initiatives that would negatively impact your profession and others that would support your work. IEA believes that it is crucial that IEA members talk to their legislators about these issues.

More information about Educators Talking to Legislators including a planning and resource guide, talking points and a funding request form can be found on the IEA website.