The Illinois General Assembly returned this week to a packed legislative agenda. Today, Friday, April 8, is the deadline for legislators to pass their bills out of committee so they can be heard on the floor. However, numerous extensions were granted to bills that remain in committee that may still be acted upon in the coming weeks. There are also several larger topics, like school funding, that are still being discussed and have not yet gone through a formal committee.

Call to Action

Contact your State Representative and ask them to vote NO on HB 5918.

HB 5918 would allow charter schools to be renewed up to 10 years instead of the current 5 years.  While public schools are being held more accountable, 10 years is entirely too long for a charter school to operate unfettered.  This bill is a priority of Stand for Children and also a part of Governor Rauner’s vision for public education reform in the state of Illinois. View the fact sheet for this bill below.

HB 5918 Fact Sheet

Senate Education Committee Bills

SB 2144 (Lightford, D-Maywood) would amend the charter school law and allow a four-year university to serve as an authorizer for a multi-site charter school devoted to re-enrolled high school dropouts. IEA is opposed to this bill because it would allow another entity outside of a school district to authorize the establishment of a charter school. This bill was assigned to a subcommittee on charter schools and is scheduled to be heard next week.

SB 2440 (Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood) would provide that four years of working in the capacity of a school support personnel shall be counted towards a principal endorsement for a Professional Educator License until June 30, 2021 (previously June 30, 2019). IEA opposed this legislation which passed out of the Senate Education Committee on March 16.

SB 2912 (Luechtefeld, R-Okawville) is an initiative of the State Board of Education that makes various changes concerning educator licensure with respect to requirements for individuals with teaching credentials from other states, creates a provisional in-state endorsement and makes various changes regarding substitute teaching licenses. One change regarding substitute teaching licenses is the creation of a short-term substitute license that would allow individuals with 60 hours of college coursework to substitute teach (current requirement is 120 hours).  IEA is opposed to the bill, specifically with respect to the change in the number of hours for the short-term substitute teaching license. This bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee this week, but the sponsor agreed to hold the bill on second reading until an agreement is reached.

SB 3304 (Rose, R-Mahomet) would allow a licensed physician to teach one high school class per year in a public school district if the course is approved by the State Board of Education. IEA is opposed to this bill. It is currently assigned to the Senate Education Committee.

House Education Committee Bills

HB 825 (Yingling, D- Grayslake) allows Round Lake Elementary School District to participate in physical education only twice a week as opposed to the state mandated daily physical education. Round Lake exhausted its prescribed number of waivers as they were transitioning out of financial remediation. The IEA is opposed to this legislation. This bill was granted an extension and will be heard in the House Education Curriculum Committee next week.

HB 4227 (Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake) extends instructional time by five school days, by replacing five institute days. The IEA opposed the original legislation as an unfunded mandate. The sponsor of the bill agreed to amend the bill to make it subject to appropriation of funds. That amendment would change our position to neutral. The bill passed out of the House Education Curriculum Committee but will need to be heard again to approve any amendments.

HB 4592 (Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora) proposed that, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, no school waivers would be permitted that pertained to physical education. The IEA supports this legislation. The bill was not called in House Education Curriculum Committee, however, it may be granted an extension.

HB 6144 (Anthony, R-Morris) is known as a “Parent Trigger” bill. If 50 percent plus one of parents in a failing school district sign a petition, that could “trigger” a number of possible actions including, but not limited to, turning the school into a state authorized charter school. The IEA opposes this legislation. This bill was held in House Education Curriculum Committee and will not be heard.

HB 6164 (Sandack, R-Downers Grove) allows for school districts to participate in third party sub-contracting for driver’s education. The bill also creates additional reasons a student does not have to participate in daily physical education, which is required by state law. These proposals were part of Lt. Governor Sanguinetti’s task force on unfunded mandates. The IEA opposes this legislation. The bill did not receive enough votes to pass out of House Education Curriculum Committee, but may receive an extension and be heard for a vote, a second and final time.

HB 6299 (Andrade, D-Chicago) maintains the standing and seniority of a district’s support personnel if the employee is RIF’d and hired back within a calendar year. The IEA supports this legislation. This bill passed out of House Education Curriculum Committee and resides on the House floor.

School Code Waivers

The Illinois State Board of Education submitted the 2016 Spring Waiver Report containing 83 waiver requests from school districts that are subject to action by the General Assembly.  Ten of the waiver requests are from school districts asking to waive daily physical education and six are from school districts requesting to charge a driver’s education fee in excess of the $250 statutory maximum.  IEA opposes these sixteen waivers and asked the General Assembly to take action to deny the waiver requests. The waiver requests will be taken up by both chambers in the coming weeks.

School Funding

Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) introduced amendatory language to SB 231 on Wednesday which creates the Better Funding for Better Schools Act to make fundamental changes to school funding.  This bill is a continuation of his previous efforts in 2014 (SB 16) and 2015 (SB 1) to restructure General State Aid, collapse multiple line items and redistribute education funding. This bill makes changes in various Illinois statutes, including School Code, State Finance Act, Property Tax Code and Illinois Pension Code. Because this legislation was only filed Wednesday afternoon and is more than 500 pages long, we have not yet completed a comprehensive analysis of the changes. We will provide further details of the bill in future legislative updates.  At this time, there is also no fiscal analysis on a district-by-district level from the State Board of Education. We will provide that information as soon as it becomes available. We anticipate that this bill and the issue of changing the school funding formula will continue to be discussed during this legislative session.

Pension and Insurance Funding

While much of the state budget is at an impasse, both Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) and State Universities Retirement System (SURS) are still receiving state pension payments as required by law.  The state pension systems and the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) are required to be funded even when and if the state does not have a budget.  The IEA is in constant contact with Comptroller Munger to ensure that there is not a missed pension or insurance payment.

Pension Legislation

Even though the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled the pension-cutting Senate Bill 1 unconstitutional in May of 2015, some members of the Legislature continue to look for creative ways to reduce the pension liability of the state. While most pieces of legislation that were introduced now make an attempt to be constitutional, there are still public policy issues that need to be fully digested before they are acted upon.

Two specific pieces of legislation that received hearings and some coverage in the press are HB 4427 (Batnick, R-Plainfield) and HB 5625 (Fortner, R-West Chicago).  Both pieces of legislation offer the ability for participants in the state retirement systems to receive a lump-sum or buyout payment to forgo their constitutionally protected pension.  These pieces of legislation make it purely voluntary and do not coerce the members of the state retirement systems into making a choice.  This is a new approach that has not been used in previous pieces of legislation.  The public policy issues that still need to be thought through include (but are not limited to) whether those that do not receive Social Security for their years of service as an educator (TRS and SURS members) should be able to receive a lump-sum since they have no safety net, and if the retirement systems can withstand the loss of assets to make these types of lump-sum payments (the two bills attempt to mitigate this issue).

The IEA is opposed to these pieces of legislation but appreciates that both Representatives Batnick and Fortner have reached out to our Association to find ways to propose pension changes and ideas without unilaterally attacking our members’ constitutionally protected pension benefits.  Both bills were not moved out of the Personnel and Pensions Committee and likely will not come before the Illinois House for a vote during this legislative session.

Higher Education

On Wednesday, April 20, the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education will conduct a rally to get the attention of the governor and legislators for a funding solution for Illinois colleges and universities. The rally will begin at the IEA Headquarters (under the tent) at 12:30 pm. The coalition is inviting students and their families, alumni, faculty and staff, business and local chambers of commerce and legislators to attend. After the rally, participants will be asked to walk to the Capitol to talk with their respective legislators about a funding solution. View the rally flyer below for more information.

Save Higher Education Rally

The Senate returns April 12 – 14 and the House is scheduled for April 12 – 15. Due to the IEA Representative Assembly, there will not be a Legislative Update next week.