This week both chambers of the General Assembly were in town. This was a deadline week, which means all bills must pass from the chamber of origin to the second chamber in order to continue to be active. It’s hard to believe that there is only about a month left in the spring legislative session. That doesn’t mean it won’t be busy, but it does mean there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

For the IEA, it was a very productive week. We were able to move almost all of the bills we initiated while at the same time assuring that those bills to which we objected were stalled. Most notably, HB 5175 (Hoffman, D-Collinsville, Scherer, D-Decatur) narrowly passed the House. The proposal sets the minimum salary for our public school teachers to be raised to $40,000. The current standard is 30 years old and completely archaic. Each and every day, our teachers are being asked to do more with less. It’s no surprise Illinois is in the midst of a teacher shortage. We need to put students first and can do that by valuing the teachers and staff members who dedicate their lives to their students.

The rest of the IEA-initiated bills are highlighted below.

IEA-initiated bills

SB 2545 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill) excludes meetings of a joint negotiating team strategy session from being subject to the Open Meetings Act. This bill passed out of committee on Feb. 28 and is on third reading in the Senate.

SB 2838 (Link, D-Waukegan) empowers the Illinois State Board of Education to implement a program and adopt rules to allow school districts to supplement their substitute teacher recruitment for elementary and secondary schools with the use of recruiting firms. The legislation prohibits school districts from using recruiting firms to circumvent collective bargaining agreements or laws. This bill passed the Senate on a vote of 50-3 and is in the House for further action.

SB 3157 (Aquino, D-Chicago) provides that each qualified teacher is entitled to an income tax credit in an aggregate amount equal to 50 percent of the tuition costs incurred by that teacher at a public university in the state. This individual must be a current teacher who graduated from an Illinois public university and be employed in Illinois as a teacher for at least five consecutive years. This bill is assigned to Senate Revenue committee and no action has been taken on this bill.

SB 3181 (Schimpf, R-Waterloo) would allow an active member to establish TRS credit for up to two years of service as a teacher or administrator employed by a private school recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). This bill was assigned to a subcommittee of the Licensed Activities and Pensions committee and no further action has been taken.

HB 4755 (Hoffman, D-Collinsville) provides that no less than 50 percent of the custodial employees employed by a school board shall be certified as structural pest control technicians by the Department of Public Health. This bill is currently on second reading in the Illinois House.

HB 4768 (Wheeler, R-Chrystal Lake) amends the school board member oath to include a commitment to be morally and legally responsible for the equitable and quality education of every student in the school district. This bill passed the House on a vote of 97-4-1 on Apr. 27.

HB 5175 (Hoffman, D-Collinsville, Scherer, D-Decatur)/ SB 2892 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill) are identical bills that set the minimum starting salary for a teacher in Illinois at $40,000. HB 5175 passed the Illinois House on a vote of 61-38 on Apr. 26. SB 2892 is on third reading in the Senate.

Committee action bills

HB 751 (Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville/Holmes, D-Aurora) amends the Pension Code to change the definition of “eligible employment” for the purpose of allowing a teacher to return to teaching in subject shortage areas without impairing his or her retirement status or retirement annuity, through June 30, 2019. IEA supports this initiative, which passed the Illinois House on a vote of 111-0-1 and is currently assigned to the Senate Licensed Activities and Pensions committee.

HB 3080 (Ries, R-Olney/Manar, D-Bunker Hill) allows, through June 30, 2019, a retired teacher to return to employment, without impairing retirement status, up to 120 paid days or 600 paid hours. IEA supports this initiative, which passed the Illinois House on a vote of 104-0 and is currently assigned to the Senate Licensed Activities and Pensions committee.

HB 4308 (Reick, R-Woodstock) changes the amount of time by which a school district must notify a teacher that he or she is being removed or dismissed as a result of the district decreasing positions from 45 days before the end of the school term to ten business days following the passage of the Illinois state budget. IEA opposed this initiative which passed out of committee and is currently on second reading in the Illinois House.

HB 5137 (Martwick, D-Chicago) creates an optional and supplemental 403b-like deferred compensation savings plan option for active participants in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). This bill passed the House by a vote of 94-0, though its fate remains uncertain in the Senate. The IEA supports this legislation.

HB 5144 (Mayfield, D-Waukegan) has been amended to change the requirements for Alternative Licensure programs to remove a requirement that an individual have a major in a content area prior to receiving licensure. Instead, the individual can show proficiency by passing a content area test. This applies only to teacher shortage areas as identified by the U.S. Department of Education. IEA opposed this amendment which passed out of the House Elementary & Secondary Education: Licensing, Administration & Oversight committee on Apr. 25 and is currently on second reading in the House.

HB 5572 (Ives, R-Wheaton) puts limitations on a school districts ability to refinance debt and limits the types of bonds that districts may issue. IEA opposed this issue, along with numerous other education organizations. The bill did not pass on a vote of 13-77-1.

HB 5627 (Bennett, R-Pontiac/Weaver, R-Peoria) is an initiative of ISBE and makes several changes to the Educator Licensure Article of the School Code. Highlights include: increasing his or her retirement status up to 120 paid days or 600 paid hours in a school year, changing the requirements for out-of-state applicants who are licensed educators in another state, and allowing a short-term substitute teaching license to be issued until June 30, 2023. Under this bill, an individual who has a minimum of 60 credit hours is eligible for a short-term substitute license and may teach no more than five consecutive days in a single classroom. IEA was originally opposed to this bill as introduced, but after subsequent amendments, we are neutral. This bill passed out of the House 111-0.

HB 5696 (Welch, D-Hillsdale) creates the Bridge Program for Underrepresented Students Act which provides that each public university in this state may establish a bridge program for underrepresented students. The program is designed to support underrepresented students at public universities. IEA supported the initiative which passed the House 111-0.

SB 2546 (Biss, D-Skokie) amends the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act to provide that the term “student” within the definition of “educational employee” or “employee” as used in the act excludes (rather than includes) graduate students who are research assistants primarily performing duties that involve research, graduate assistants primarily performing duties that are pre-professional, graduate students who are teaching assistants primarily performing duties that involve the delivery and support of instruction, or any other graduate assistants. This bill, which IEA supports, passed out of the Senate on a vote of 34-19.

SB 3045 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill/Reis, R/Olney) allows, through June 30, 2020 a retired teacher to return to employment, without impairing retirement status, up to 120 paid days or 600 paid hours. IEA supports this initiative, which passed the Illinois Senate on a vote of 55-0.

Important dates

A schedule for each chamber can be found on the General Assembly website.

Next week:

  • The Senate is in session next week and House is in recess.

  • The Senate and House are scheduled to remain in session through May 31.