The spring session of the 100th General Assembly was very similar to last year’s version, in that both sessions ended without a budget being approved and sent to the governor.  Instead, the House announced that the chamber would move into “continuous session.”

While we are not sure exactly what that means, we anticipate that there will be significant discussions during the month of June.

Three bills we have reported on over the past few weeks, SB 6 (contains supplemental appropriations for some state agencies for FY 17 and a full year budget for FY 18, including Pre-K through 12 and higher education), SB 9 (a revenue bill designed to raise $5.4 billion by raising the personal tax rate to 4.95 percent and the corporate tax rate to 7 percent, closing corporate tax loopholes and taxing new services) and SB 42 (the budget implementation bill), remained in the House with no action taken.

Although the governor’s Turnaround Agenda has not been mentioned specifically, there are still many components of it that are part of the budget discussion. It should be noted that the House and Senate did take up some issues raised by the Governor and passed their own versions of those bills. Most notably, a property tax relief bill, a modified worker’s compensation bill, streamlined procurement procedures and a bill regarding revenue through the sale of the Thompson Center.

While the General Assembly did not pass a budget bill, it is important to note that other legal provisions will allow Comptroller Mendoza to meet some FY 18 obligations including, but not limited to, pensions, retiree health insurance and bond obligations of the State. Annuitants of TRS, IMRF or SURS will receive their monthly annuities regardless of whether a budget is in place on or after July 1.

We now will move forward into an overtime session with an emphasis on passing a budget that funds public education and higher education before the end of the fiscal year. Any future budget will require a supermajority and need bipartisan support.

Education Funding Reform

Of the three school funding bills we have reported on in previous Legislative Updates, SB 1, sponsored by Senator Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Representative Davis (D-Hazel Crest), was the final version passed by the General Assembly. The bill makes significant changes to primary school funding in Illinois by combining several current funding streams (General State Aid, bilingual education and several special education mandated categoricals) into one source of funds. The bill uses the evidence-based funding model (EBM) to determine funding and a new Illinois distribution model to allocate funds to individual school districts. The EBM is designed to identify the level of funding needed to deliver adequate education to every student using “researched best practices.”

The new distribution model creates an adequacy target based on the demographic needs of each school district and the best educational practices identified through evidence-based research. The distribution model subtracts the amount of local resources available from the adequacy target to calculate the state grant. District state grants will not be fully funded until the model is fully funded.  Funding will depend on the passage of a budget bill.

Under the proposal, districts are placed in one of four tiers based on the percentage of the adequacy target the district produces with local revenue. Districts in the lowest tiers (those with the lowest local revenue) would receive the bulk of new money available to bring them up to their adequacy target over a number of years. There have been several amendments to this bill to fine tune the formula but the main concept is still intact.

The final version of the bill also contains, subject to appropriation, property tax relief grants designed to offer the greatest benefit to low wealth, high tax rate district taxpayers.  The Illinois State Board of Education just released a financial analysis of the bill, which can be found here. SB 1 passed both chambers of the General Assembly May 31 and will go to the Governor for action.

In order to address some desire amongst members, Representative Davis introduced three companion bills to SB 1 which are designed to provide mandate relief for school districts (HB 1259 and HB 1261) and a temporary property tax freeze (HB 1126) to address concerns over property tax rates. All three of these bills contain a provision that provides that the bill is not effective unless SB 1 becomes law.  However, the House adjourned Wednesday evening without passing any of the three companion bills. IEA is opposed to all three of the companion bills.

  • HB 1126 (Davis, D-East Hazel Crest) is designed to allow authorities of a taxing district to submit a referendum question to allow the taxing district to temporarily freeze taxes for a period of three years. If the referendum fails to gain the necessary approval required, the taxing district will be prohibited from submitting another petition for a freeze under this provision for a minimum of ten years.  This bill was heard in the Revenue committee and passed out on a vote of 6-1, but was not taken up on the House floor prior to adjournment.
  • HB 1259 (Davis, D-East Hazel Crest) removes the requirement that school districts provide daily physical education and instead allows districts to offer physical education only three days a week. The bill also allows for the privatization of driver’s education without going through the waiver process currently required in the Illinois School Code.  The bill was assigned to the Labor committee but no action was taken prior to adjournment.
  • HB 1261 (Davis, D-East Hazel Crest) eliminates the requirement that vendors who contract with a school district for non-instructional services must offer a similar benefit package to employees who perform the privatized services. This incentivizes third-party contracting and privatization of services students rely on. The bill also contains a provision that allows (with only a few specified exceptions) school districts to discharge any other unfunded mandate established in the Illinois School Code or administrative rules if approved via referendum. It is our contention that this may apply to, among other things, student services (caseloads and the provision of special education services), working conditions (duty free lunch and sick leave), and member protections (RIF / recall language and tenured teacher dismissal).  The bill was assigned to the Labor committee but no action was taken prior to adjournment.

For more information, please see the fact sheet.

Pensions

HB 4027 (Durkin, R-Burr Ridge), HB 4045 (Currie, D-Chicago) and SB 16 (J. Cullerton, D-Chicago/Durkin, R-Burr Ridge) all contain provisions that cut constitutionally protected pension benefits for active educators in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) and State Universities Retirement System (SURS).  A comprehensive fact sheet on these bills can be found here IEA and the We Are One Illinois Coalition strongly oppose these proposals and consider them to be unconstitutional. As of adjournment on May 31, all three bills remain in the House of Representatives. We will continue to monitor the bills.

HB 2966 (Andrade, D-Chicago/Althoff, R-Crystal Lake) amends the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) Article of the Illinois Pension Code. In a provision that requires an additional contribution from a participating municipality or participating instrumentality for certain increases in reported earnings, changes a reference from “salary” to “reported earnings” and provides that the change is a clarification of existing law and is intended to be retroactive to January 1, 2012. IEA supports the legislation, which passed both Houses.

Charter Schools

HB 768 (Welch, D-Hillside/Holmes, D-Aurora) removes a provision allowing the Illinois Charter School Commission to reverse a school board’s decision to deny, revoke or not renew a charter. This bill was an IEA supported initiative that passed the Senate on a vote of 33-17-2 and will now be sent to the Governor for action.

Substitute Teacher Shortage

IEA supported several initiatives to help address substitute teacher shortage problems throughout the state:

HB 751 (Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville) allows a retired teacher to substitute in subject shortage areas without impairing his or her retirement status or retirement annuity and changes the ending date of the employment to no later than June 30, 2020. This bill is pending in the House of Representatives.

HB 3080 (Reis, R-Willow Hill) would increase the number of days a retired teacher could substitute in a classroom to 120 days or 600 hours in a school year, but not more than 100 days in the same classroom in a school year. This legislation would not impair a retirees’ status for the period beginning July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2019. This bill is pending in the House of Representatives.

HB 3298 (Scherer, D-Decatur/Manar, D-Bunker Hill) 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 the Senate on a vote of 56-0-0 on May 31 and will now be sent to the Governor for action.

Education Policy Bills

HB 261 (Mussman, D-Schaumburg/Bennett, D-Champaign) 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. IEA supports this legislation, which passed both Houses.

SB 449 (Lightford, D-Maywood/Chapa La Via, D-Aurora) provides that the State Superintendent of Education shall convene a performance evaluation advisory council, which shall be staffed by the Illinois State Board of Education. IEA supports the legislation, which passed both Houses.

HR 304 (Riley, D-Hazel Crest) / SR 489 (Lightford, D-Westchester) are resolutions that encourage 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 resolutions encourage these agencies to implement evidence-based interventions and practices that have proven successful in developing resiliency in children and adults. The senate was approved and the House bill is pending a vote.

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