With the passing of 3rd Reading deadline last Friday, this Legislative Update recaps the first half of the legislative session. At this point, any bill that passed the House moves to the Senate and vice versa. There are many big issues that have yet to be drafted in bill form, or are still being negotiated, such as the FY16 state budget. The legislature is scheduled through the end of May and we will continue to provide periodic updates to keep you informed.

In the upcoming Legislative Updates we will report on some legislative resolutions we are working on and committee action on education bills on which we have taken a position.

Charter School Local Control
HB 397 (Rep. Welch & Sen. Bush) passed the House 60-40-2, 9 members not voting and 7 members excused for the day. The bill will now head to the Senate with Senator Melinda Bush (D -Grayslake) as the chief sponsor.

This IEA INITIATIVE 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. A fact sheet on the bill can be found on the IEA website.

FY 15 Budget
In the last Legislative Update, we reported on action taken by the General Assembly and governor in Public Act (PA) 99-0001 to fill the $1.6 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year’s budget, which included cuts to both P-12 and higher education.  The cut to P-12 education was approximately $148 million, which was more than a 2 percent cut to every line item. This computes to a reduction of $97.2 million in General State Aid (GSA) resulting in a revised proration of 87.1 percent.  However, at the same time, the General Assembly appropriated the same amount back to the State Board of Education (ISBE) to be used “for school districts in financial distress.”

The bill did not include a specific definition of financial distress, but instead gave ISBE flexibility in making that determination within certain parameters. Last Wednesday, the State Board voted on a methodology to distribute the $97 million appropriation to districts that have a higher probability of experiencing financial crisis as a result of the additional reductions.

Information about how the State Board made the determination to distribute funding, as well as a chart indicating the amount of loss and a district’s eligibility for partial funding restoration, can be found in ISBE April Board packet on pages 5-66.

School Funding Formula
SB 1 (Sen. Manar) As reported in the previous Legislative Update, Senator Manar filed legislation again this year to make changes to the school funding formula.  SB 1 is still sitting in the Senate Executive Committee and has not yet moved at this time. ISBE completed a model of these changes using FY13 and FY14 data. You can review the impact to your local district on the ISBE website.

The House Education Funding Task Force referenced in the previous Legislative Update has now met three times. The first meeting on March 11 featured comments about the nuts and bolts of Senator Manar’s proposed changes, as well as testimony from school groups about various funding proposals from a school district perspective as well as thoughts on short-and long-term funding needs. Committee members heard from the Education Trust on April 15 and from the Vision 20/20 group on April 22.  The next hearing will be Wednesday, April 28, and committee members will hear from Mike Griffith, Senior Policy Analyst for the Education Commission of the States.