Last Friday was the Third Reading deadline for bills to pass the chamber of origin before moving to the opposite chamber for consideration. The Senate and House are both adjourned this week for Passover break. Below is a list of bills and issues we are tracking.

1Charter Schools

HB 5918 (Thapedi, D-Chicago) attempted to change the renewal period for charter schools to a range of 5 to 10 years and capped the initial authorizing period for a new charter school to 5 years. The IEA negotiated an amendment that would prohibit charter schools authorized by the State Charter School Commission from being authorized for more than 5 years. The IEA originally opposed this bill but is now neutral with the amendment. The bill as amended passed out of the House and will now be assigned to a committee in the Senate.

2Higher Education Funding

The Legislature passed a bill designating $600 million for Illinois universities and community colleges.  Governor Rauner signed the bill, SB 2059, which will provide the first funding for Illinois public higher education this fiscal year.

The bill provides $356 million for universities.  Chicago State University, which previously announced it would have to close the doors at the end of April, will receive enough funding to continue operations in the near future.

Another $74 million was designated for community colleges and $170 million was included for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants.

While this appropriation does provide much needed funding, it is at a significantly reduced level for both institutions and MAP grants.

3Higher Education

HB 5729 (Burke, D-Evergreen Park) passed the House with unanimous support. The IEA supports the initiative and was involved in the creation of the bill which began as HR 477. The genesis of the bill was to address the concern that approximately half of Illinois high school graduates enrolling as full-time freshmen in Illinois public community colleges require remedial education.

There are four key components of the bill: 1) Student readiness for postsecondary education and careers cannot be reduced to a single metric, but must instead be understood as a multi-faceted set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that allow students to successfully meet the challenges of postsecondary education and career. 2) Enabling high school students to engage in career and postsecondary education development activities and incentivizing achievement in career-oriented education. 3) Create strategies to prepare more students for meaningful career opportunities by supporting postsecondary and career planning, promoting and incentivizing competency-based learning programs, reducing remedial education rates, increasing alignment between K-12 and postsecondary education systems, and implementing college and career pathway systems. 4) Aligning support from state agencies, school districts, postsecondary education providers, employers, and other public and private organizations to develop and implement and more robust and coordinated postsecondary education and career readiness system in Illinois.

4Constitutional Amendments

SJRCA 1 (Harmon, D-Oak Park) and HJRCA 57 (Mitchell, D-Chicago) would allow voters to amend the Illinois Constitution on the November ballot to enable Illinois to have a graduated income tax. The graduated income tax is estimated to raise $1.9 billion in new revenue while ensuring that 99 percent of Illinois tax filers would see a reduction in the amount of income taxes they owe.

In order for the proposal to appear on the ballot in November, both chambers of the General Assembly will need to pass the bill with a 3/5 majority by the May 5 deadline. The constitutional amendment does not need the signature of the governor to appear on the ballot.

In addition to the ballot initiatives, there are several companion bills that provide the specifics of the graduated income tax proposal. HB 698 (Lang, D-Skokie) and SB 518 (Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields) would provide the rates that would be imposed on taxpayers, based on their income levels. The rates structure has been created so that no individual or married couple earning less than $764,300 annually would see an increase in income taxes.

HJRCA 26 (Madigan, D-Chicago), also known as the millionaire’s surcharge amendment, failed to get enough votes to be on the November ballot. The proposal, which would generate nearly $1 billion for education to be allocated on a per pupil basis, would impose a 3 percent surcharge on individual earnings in excess of $1 million. The amendment received 68 votes, three short of the 71 needed for consideration in the Senate.

5Property Tax Freeze

The House approved a bill that would place all units of local government, school districts, and community college districts under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) and freeze the property tax rate at the 2015 level. IEA Opposed HB 696 (Franks, D-Woodstock) which passed the House and was sent to the Senate for consideration.

Numerous votes were taken on tax freeze bills over the past year, but they were defeated due to the gridlock at the Capitol. Governor Bruce Rauner promoted a property tax freeze as part of his legislative agenda but combined it with other reforms for units of local government, school districts, and community colleges to have increased flexibility with regards to collective bargaining, state mandates, and other items of local administration. When those additional provisions were not a part of the previous property tax freeze bills, many Republicans voted no. This time, however, Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the bill even without any other reforms included.

This legislation does not have an expiration on how long the freeze will be in effect.  Thus, the freeze would be permanent.  Additionally, the bill removed the current provision that would allow a county to hold a referendum to be exempt from the scope of PTELL. The PTELL law does allow units of local government to go above the cap with referendum approval. HB 696 exempts those units of local government that are home rule (including the City of Chicago) from the freeze.

HB 695 (Franks, D-Woodstock) would place all units of local government, including home rule units, under the property tax freeze. That bill failed on the House floor.

6Pension Legislation

SB 235 (Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood) would allow a retired teacher to return to work for 120 days without penalizing his/her retirement status. This bill extends a sunset provision and attempts to address substitute teacher issues. IEA requested another sunset provision be added to the bill and expects one to be adopted in the House. IEA will be neutral with this amendment.

HB 5684 (Breen, R-Lombard) creates the Local Government Wage Increase Transparency Act. The legislation applies to employees under the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) who began participation before January 1, 2011, and who are not subject to a collective bargaining agreement. The intent of the legislation is to ensure that local units of government that make significant compensatory payments to individuals that are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement must hold a public meeting when an employee has expressed to the employer an intent to retire or withdraw from service. The legislation passed the House and is now in the Senate.  The IEA took no position on this legislation.

7Pension 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 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.

8Education Bills

HB 4227 (B. Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake) extends instructional time by five school days, by replacing five institute days. The IEA opposed the legislation as an unfunded mandate. The bill was defeated in a House Education Committee hearing.

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 the Senate and is now in the House.
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 and creates a provisional in-state endorsement. There was an amendment added to the bill removing the language that would allow individuals with 60 hours of college coursework to substitute teach (current requirement is 120 hours).  IEA is supportive of this bill as amended.

9General Assembly Schedule

The Senate and House reconvene Tuesday, May 3, and are scheduled 21 days that month approaching the May 31 adjournment date.