The 2019 legislative session has come to an end. Few, if any, thought it would have ended on such a high note on so many levels. The majority of this update will focus on the IEA legislative priorities. We also think it is important to inform you about the state budget and other significant legislative initiatives that will greatly benefit IEA members.

We have a budget! Yes, a real functioning budget that is supported with revenue. This year, due in large part to an atmosphere of “let’s get stuff done,” there are many sources of revenue being used to support K-12 education, higher education, vertical and horizontal capital bills and many other projects.

And, we successfully repealed the 3 percent threshold on pensionable salaries for members of the Teachers’ Retirement System and State Universities Retirement System. Here’s a message from IEA President Kathi Griffin.

Fiscal year 2020 budget

SB 262 contains the budget for the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Community College Board, state universities and Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants. Unlike in most recent years when higher education faced cuts, this year community colleges received an increase in funding of $14.9 million, a 6.1% increase. Similarly, public universities received an increase of 5%. MAP funding was appropriated $451 million, a $50 million increase over 2019. PreK-12 also received about a 5 percent increase, including $375 million in evidence-based funding model dollars.

Teachers’ and universities’ to receive full pension contribution

The budget passed by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor includes the full certified pension contribution for the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) and for the State Universities Retirement System (SURS). For fiscal year 2020, TRS will receive $4.81 billion and SURS will receive $1.856 billion. It is important to note that the Governor unveiled his initial budget proposal in February, which contained an $800 million reduction in the TRS and SURS pension contributions. Fortunately, the state recently experienced higher than anticipated tax collections and it is expecting to receive increased revenue moving into the new fiscal year. This positive news allowed the Governor to make the right decision and fully fund our members’ TRS and SURS pension systems in the upcoming budget year.

Health insurance fully funded for retired teachers

In the upcoming budget year, the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) and the Total Retiree Access Illinois Program (TRAIL) will receive more than $132 million to maintain the high level of retiree health insurance coverage that our retired members expect. The IEA lobbying vigilantly ensures during every legislative session that TRIP/TRAIL is fully funded.

Capital projects

There had been a lot of discussion as to whether there was enough time to bring forth a complex capital bill with revenue and bipartisan support in the two weeks before session was scheduled to adjourn. Well, it turns out there is plenty of time when all of the caucuses and the Governor’s office are willing to get into a room and hammer out the details. With the passage of HB 62, the vertical construction portion, and HB 3096, the horizontal construction portion, we now have a $45 billion capital improvements program, which will be funded, in part, by the expansion of gaming (SB 690). There will be improvements to roads and bridges, and the vertical construction will provide much needed construction and maintenance funds for early childhood facilities, school districts, community colleges and universities. The balance of the capital project will address the needs of state facilities, environmental conservation projects, the deployment of broadband internet and healthcare and human services facilities.

Funding for the horizontal program will come from a combination of a 19-cent-per-gallon increase in the state gasoline tax, increases in vehicle registration fees and a variety of other fees.

The funding for the vertical infrastructure projects will be derived from legalized sports betting, the expansion of casino gambling, a $1 per pack increase in cigarette taxes, new taxes on parking fees and extending the state sales tax to purchases made remotely, including online purchases from out-of-state retailers that do not have a brick-and-mortar nexus in Illinois.

Bills that passed both chambers this week

SB 1814 is the Budget Implementation Bill, or BIMP, which contained the 3% repeal language, restoring the threshold on pensionable salary to 6 percent for members of the Teachers’ Retirement System and the State Universities Retirement System. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 0247 provides that a school district that contracts with a third party to teach a driver education course must ensure the teacher meets the educator licensure and endorsement requirements under the school code and must follow the same evaluation and observation requirements that apply to non-tenured teachers. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 0254 requires each school district to report the information required for the state board’s report no later than Nov. 16, 2021, and annually thereafter, and also make that information available on its website. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 0921 provides that if an educational support personnel employee is removed or dismissed as a result of a decision of the school board to decrease the number of educational support personnel employed by the board, or to discontinue some particular type of educational support service, and he or she accepts the tender of a vacancy within one calendar year from the beginning of the following school term, then that employee shall maintain any rights accrued during his or her previous service with the school district. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 1561 directs districts to develop a threat assessment team that shall include specified personnel and other members and expands the countywide 1-cent sales tax dollars raised to pay for building projects to pay for team members and safety improvements. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 2078 provides that in fixing the salaries of teachers, a school board shall pay those who serve on a full-time basis a rate not less than $32,076 for the 2020-2021 school year, $34,576 for the 2021-2022 school year, $37,076 for the 2022-2023 school year, and $40,000 for the 2023-2024 school year. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 2087 provides that a school district’s decision to allow a student to take a portion of a driver education course through a distance learning program must be approved by the school’s administration, including the student’s driver education teacher and the student’s parent or guardian. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 2152 creates the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act. Provides for intent, legislative findings, purposes of the Act, and definitions. Provides that to raise mental health awareness on college campuses, each public college or university in this State must complete specified tasks. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 2700 provides that a TRS benefit recipient who has overpaid shall be entitled to a refund of overpayments for up to seven years of past payments. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 2884 provides that if an employee was in the service of more than one employer described in provisions concerning certain educational employers, then the sick leave days from all such employers, except for employers from which the employee terminated service before the effective date of the amendatory act, shall be credited, as long as the creditable service attributed to those sick leave days does not exceed 12 months. Corrects a cross-reference. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement by the state. The IEA supported this bill.

HB 3213 Amends the Downstate Teacher Article of the Illinois Pension Code. In the definition of “teacher”, removes a provision specifying that an annuitant receiving a retirement annuity under the Chicago Teacher Article who is employed by a board of education or other employer as permitted under specified provisions is not a “teacher” for purposes of the Downstate Teacher Article. The IEA supported this bill.

SB 0456 provides that a check of the Statewide Sex Offender Database and Statewide Murderer and Violent Offender against Youth Database must be conducted by the school district or regional superintendent, as applicable, once for every five years an applicant remains employed by a school district. The IEA was neutral on this bill.

SB 1167 funds appropriated for the adult vocational community college scholarship program are insufficient to provide grants to each eligible applicant, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission may prioritize the distribution of grants based on factors that include an applicant’s financial need, duration of unemployment, prior level of educational attainment, or date of application. The IEA supported this bill.

SB 1213 provides that the panel of qualified evaluators has the power to revoke the “unsatisfactory” rating it deems to be erroneous. Provides that the issuance of a rating to replace an “unsatisfactory” rating must be determined through bargaining between the exclusive bargaining representative and the school district. The IEA supported this bill.

SB 1226 the State Charter School Commission is abolished and the terms of all members end. Provides for transfer of authorization to a local school board or boards. Makes related changes. Removes the appeal process, and provides that final decisions of a local school board are subject to judicial review under the Administrative Review Law. The IEA supported this bill.

SB 1731 provides that if licensed school personnel or an administrator obtains mental health first aid training outside of an in-service training program, he or she may present a certificate of successful completion of the training to the school district to satisfy the training requirements. The IEA supports this bill.

SB 1952 Allows districts to pay for student teachers. It also removes the requirement of the passage of a test of basic skills for obtaining certain Professional Educator Licenses and Educator Licenses with Stipulations. The IEA supported this bill.

SB 2096 provides that if more school districts apply for relief than there are funds available, the State Board of Education must distribute the grants and prorate any remaining funds to the final school district that qualifies for grant relief. The IEA supported this bill.

SJRCA 0001 Removes a provision that provides that a tax on income shall be measured at a non-graduated rate. Provides that the General Assembly shall provide by law for the rate or rates of any tax on or measured by income imposed by the State. Provides that the highest rate imposed on corporations may not exceed the highest rate imposed on individuals by more than a ratio of 8 to 5. The IEA supported this joint resolution.