With less than two weeks remaining in the spring legislative session, the political atmosphere at the Statehouse is highly charged. There has been a significant uptick in legislative activity that could result in a budget.
This week, the Senate sought to pass bills addressing revenue, severe budget cuts to programs and property tax modifications that were part of their “grand bargain” package.
Meetings involving Senators from both sides of the aisle, appear to have resulted in agreement on a number of issues including: increasing the current personal income tax rate to 4.95 percent, cutting state pension benefits or reducing Medicaid spending by 5 percent, reducing the amount of state revenue shared with local governments, increasing P-12 spending by $350 million, reducing state agency spending by 5 percent and cost reductions for group health insurance.
As part of a budget package, the Senate also introduced an amendment to SB 478, which contains a number of provisions that had previously been in the education funding reform bills, including a property tax freeze and “mandate relief” for districts.
IEA has consistently and vigorously opposed the two-year property tax freeze, relaxation of the requirements for third party subcontracting of school services, a reduction in the state requirement of daily physical education for students and the commercialization of driver’s education. The bill required a supermajority (36 votes) to pass because the bill preempts home rule and failed on a vote of 32-11-13.
IEA has taken strong opposing positions on a number of bills which will help make it a challenge for lawmakers to pass the measures in both chambers before the scheduled adjournment of May 31. After that date, a super-majority will be needed in both chambers to pass any legislation with an immediate effective date.
Pension Bills – YOUR ACTION NEEDED
There are currently three pension bills in the House of Representatives that require IEA members action. All three bills – HB 4027 (Durkin, R-Burr Ridge), HB 4045 (Currie, D-Chicago) and SB 16 (J. Cullerton, D-Chicago) – cut constitutionally protected pension benefits by unilaterally forcing active educators in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) and State Universities Retirement System (SURS) to choose between giving up the 3 percent compounded retirement cost of living adjustment (COLA) to allow for future salary increases to continue to be pensionable, or keeping the COLA in retirement while future salary increases would not be used to calculate the future pension annuity.
These bills also include a TRS and SURS pension cost shift that will take the responsibility for pension costs from the state and place it on downstate/suburban school districts, community colleges and universities statewide. A comprehensive fact sheet on these bills can be found here.
IEA and the We Are One Illinois Coalition strongly oppose these unconstitutional proposals. The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) also opposes this legislation.
HB 4027 (Durkin, J., R-Burr Ridge) and HB 4045 (Currie, D-Chicago) passed out of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee Tuesday and are on third reading in the House. SB 16 (Cullerton, D-Chicago) passed the Senate on Wednesday on a vote of 31-21. The bill now goes to the House for action. Please contact your State Representative and urge him or her to oppose HB 4027, HB 4045 and SB 16. Contact information for your legislators can be found here.
TRIP/TRAIL Funding Under Attack – ACTION NEEDED
On Wednesday, the Illinois Senate voted on legislation that would dramatically reduce the state’s contribution to fund the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP)/Total Retiree Access Illinois (TRAIL) health insurance plans for retired teachers in suburban and downstate Illinois. SB 42 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill) failed 27-24-5. We anticipate continued attacks on the funding of this very important health insurance program for our retired teachers. The loss of over $110 million to this program would be catastrophic. Currently, TRIP/TRAIL is funded by active teacher contributions, school district contributions, premiums paid by retirees and a state contribution that matches the active teachers’ contribution. IEA opposes this bill and we are asking our retired members to contact their State Senator and State Representative to ask them to protect state funding for TRIP/TRAIL.
Charter Schools – ACTION NEEDED
HB 768 (Welch, D-Hillside) removes a provision allowing the State Charter School Commission to reverse a school board’s decision to deny, revoke or not renew a charter. This bill is an IEA initiative that passed out of the Senate Executive Committee on Thursday. Thank you to all members who filled out a witness slip in support of the bill. Please contact your State Senator and ask him or her to SUPPORT HB 768 when it comes to the floor for a vote.
School Funding Proposals
Two bills to reform the school funding formula, SB 1 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill) and HB 2808 (Davis, D-Homewood), saw movement this week. As reported in last week’s Legislative Update, the bills are somewhat similar as they combine multiple existing funding line items into a single funding stream and use an evidence-based funding model to determine what a school district needs to provide a quality education to all students. Differences between the bills include how the funds are distributed, accountability measures and whether or not the bills are tied to other requirements.
This week, the Senate adopted Senate Amendment 5 to SB 1, which becomes the bill. The amendment is designed to mirror House Amendment 1 to HB 2808 that was adopted earlier this week in the House Appropriations-Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. There remain differences between the two bills. The amendments make a number of significant changes to hold harmless provisions, poverty concentration weights, accountability provisions, etc. The Senate passed SB 1 on Wednesday on a vote of 35-18-3. Representative Will Davis (D-Homewood) has picked up sponsorship of the bill in the House and it is scheduled to be heard in the House Appropriations-Elementary and Secondary Education Committee next week. HB 2808 passed out of the same committee that will be hearing SB 1 on a vote of 13-7 on Thursday. It now goes to the full House for action. At this time, we still have not seen a financial analysis of the impact of the bills on school districts and we are still analyzing these amendments.
There was no action on a third funding proposal SB 1124 (Barickman, R-Bloomington), which we reported on last week.
HB261 (Mussman, D-Schaumburg) allows, under the Education for Homeless Children Act, a school district to provide rental or mortgage assistance to a homeless family in order for the family to live in-district. It also allows a district to claim housing assistance expenditures for such students under transportation reimbursement if the costs of the housing assistance are not in excess of the school districts actual costs for providing transportation services. With IEA support, this bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
HB 3298 (Scherer, D-Decatur) seeks to address the substitute teacher shortage. The bill allows a substitute teacher licensee to apply for a refund on the application fee if he or she substitutes a minimum number of days within one year of the issuance of the license. This bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and is supported by IEA.
HR 304 (Riley, D-Hazel Crest), an IEA initiative, passed out of the House Mental Health Committee with unanimous support. The resolution encourages officers and employees at some of the key agencies that develop policy that impact students and their families – the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Illinois Department of Corrections – to become more informed about the impact of toxic stress and serious traumatic childhood experiences. The resolution encourages these agencies to implement evidence-based interventions and practices that are proven to be successful in developing resiliency in children and adults. A similar resolution, SR 489, has been introduced by Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester).
- May 26 – Final 3rd Reading deadline (both chambers)
- May 31 – Adjournment
A schedule for each chamber can be found on the General Assembly website.
The Senate and House will be back on Monday, May 22, and are scheduled to remain in session through May 31. To be connected to the latest information, “like” IEA on Facebook, follow IEANEA on Twitter and bookmark the IEA website.