This week both chambers wrapped up a bulk of their committee work. They will now move to final action on bills, hear additional amendments to bills and appropriation committees will continue working on the budget. Both chambers are back in session Monday, May 18, and are scheduled to be in session for the next 14 days, including two weekends, and adjourn on May 31. We will continue to provide updates though the end of the legislative session.
Right-to-Work Voted Down
The House of Representatives considered HB 1286, amendment 2, which mirrors the local empowerment zone language that Governor Rauner has been talking about throughout the state. The vote tally was 0 yes votes, 72 no votes and 37 voting present. View the roll call here.
SB 1 Ruled Unconstitutional, Cost Shift Coming?
As you are aware, on Friday, May 8, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled that SB 1 (Pension Cutting Bill) was unconstitutional and struck down the entire bill. This was a huge victory for active and retired IEA members. Read the opinion here.
With the recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court reaffirming that pension benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired” comes a renewed effort by some members in the General Assembly to shift pension costs of downstate and suburban teachers onto local school districts. This proposal is strongly opposed by the IEA. To show strong opposition to this cost shift proposal we continue to add cosponsors to House Resolution 187 (McSweeney). Currently, we have 58 cosponsors on the resolution, which has strong bipartisan support with 16 House Democrats and 42 House Republicans. If your State Representative is not yet a cosponsor, please ask him or her to cosponsor HR 187. View the cosponsor list here.
Property Tax Freeze Bills
The IEA is opposed to the property tax freeze amendments on House Bills 677, 695, 696 and 699 because each of these bills would prevent tax-capped local governments from collecting revenue that is sufficient to cover their costs. This would affect not only schools, but also counties, townships, municipalities and other units of government that are subject to the tax-cap statute (PTELL). The amendment to HB 695 was debated and adopted, with 37 yes votes, 23 no votes and 38 members voting present (20 members did not vote). The bill remains on second reading and we will report any future action. The other three amendments were not debated before they adjourned for the day. View the fact sheet for these bills.
Charter School Local Control
HB 397 (Rep. Welch & Sen. Holmes) passed the House and is now in the Senate awaiting a sub-committee hearing. Senator Linda Holmes is the new senate sponsor after the original bill sponsor, Senator Melinda Bush, received a number of angry phone calls from parents of charter school students in her district. Senator Bush has a state mandated charter school in her district that siphons off nearly 90 percent of the state funding intended for her local school district.
HB 397 is an IEA INITIATIVE and 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. View the HB 397 fact sheet.
School Funding Formula House Working Group
The House Education Task Force continues to meet to hear testimony on potential changes to the school funding formula. On May 6, the Task Force heard testimony from Kane County superintendents from CUSD 300 and St. Charles CUSD 303 regarding evidence-based school funding. This past Wednesday members heard testimony from Robin Steans of Advance Illinois and Andrea Zopp from the Chicago Urban League. Steans advocated for the passage of SB 1 but also spoke about possible actions the General Assembly could take to deal with General State Aid shortfalls in FY16 other than proration, including the per pupil cut that was discussed by the State Board of Education at the May 14 Board meeting. The next meeting of the task force will be on Wednesday, May 20, and members will be hearing from Stand for Children and Raise Your Hand Illinois.
ISBE Proration to General State Aid (GSA)
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) held a board meeting this week and swore in the new State Superintendent Tony Smith. Also on the board agenda was an item to discuss changing the current policy to prorate shortfalls to GSA when the General Assembly underfunds the statutory foundation level and instead, apply a per pupil reduction, which would impact districts differently. The board was going to consider a recommendation by Smith to vote on this change, but it was ultimately only discussed this month. Board Chair James Meeks stated this matter would be reconsidered at the June meeting.
While IEA considers this topic important and worthy of discussion, we think it should continue to be part of the broader discussion regarding changes to the current school funding formula. And whether this is a legislative proposal or an ISBE policy change also merits further consideration.
With two weeks left in the spring session, there has been very little movement on the FY16 budget. Members of the General Assembly have yet to publicly agree on revenue numbers, though the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) estimates revenue for FY16 to be at approximately $32.139 billion. Nor has the General Assembly set expenditure numbers for major areas of state government, including education. The General Assembly is facing reduced revenue because of the expiration of the temporary income tax increase this past January resulting in an estimated FY16 deficit of around $6 billion.
Compounding these issues is a demand from the governor that the General Assembly address the issues outlined in his Turnaround Agenda at the same time as passing a budget. Private legislative working groups have been meeting to discuss topics including pension reform, unemployment insurance, economic growth, taxpayer protection, and transforming government and capital (infrastructure) construction. Many of the items being addressed by these working groups are highly contentious.