IEA Member Colleagues,
I hope this message continues to find you and your loved ones in good health. I wrote to you last week to tell you about our three goals for last week’s legislative session:
- Protecting and maintaining state support for public education at all levels so our students will receive the education they need and deserve.
- Ensuring TRS and SURS receive the proper funding needed to maintain stability during turbulent economic times.
- Maintaining state support for TRIP and TRAIL for our retired members.
You may recall I said this: “If we are successful with these three priorities, we will have achieved a legislative victory during some of our darkest times. Our country and our state are hurting, and the IEA must continue to advocate that public education in Illinois continues to respect educators and prioritizes the importance of success for all our children.”
I’m so happy to tell you we were successful in achieving those three goals. This was a very brief legislative session and there were very few topics addressed, but we were able to achieve several other items, as well. Those include the following:
- Special Education – Calls for ISBE to work with the federal government to acquire waivers from certain provisions of individualized education plans, also known as IEPs, that cannot be fulfilled during stay-at-home orders. It also lays out ways to measure a school district’s capabilities to provide special education services during the pandemic.
- Remote learning – Provides districts the ability to create and implement both e-learning and blended remote learning days.
- Educator licensure extension – Provides a year-long licensure extension for those teaching and education support professional licenses set to expire on June 30, 2020.
- Teacher performance evaluations – Outlines procedures and protections for performance evaluations, including a carryover of an “Excellent” rating from the previous evaluation period.
- Teacher dismissal and remediation plans – Provides procedures and protections for teacher dismissal hearings and remediation plans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Unemployment eligibility expansion — ensures Illinois continues to qualify for federal relief packages by extending unemployment benefits, waiving the one-week unemployment insurance waiting period, and expanding eligibility for unemployment to non-instructional education employees, such as lunch workers and teachers’ aides.
This is all great news and we thank members of the General Assembly for their work on behalf of our students, educators and public education. But, it’s important to remember that Illinois is not out of the woods yet. We have yet to learn the true economic impact the pandemic will have on our state. The budget plan that was agreed upon by the state legislature relies heavily on borrowing in hopes the federal government will, again, provide financial assistance to states. The U.S. House has already passed the HEROES Act. It’s currently sitting in the U.S. Senate. You can take action to sign a petition and ask Illinois’ Senators to vote on the measure that includes funding for education, help for bridging the digital divide and money to outfit educators with personal protective gear.
Another thing that would help the state and continue to fund our schools would be to pass the Fair Tax in November. Illinois would join 34 other states and the federal government in developing a tax structure that would generate an estimated $3 billion in additional revenue for the state, allow 97 percent of the state’s residents to pay the same, or less, in taxes and would only increase taxes on incomes more than $250,000.
In the meantime, thank you. Thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do to care for the students of Illinois and for your own families. This unprecedented time in history has been hard. And you have been strong. I’ve never been so proud of our members as I have during this time period – seeing you all rebuild our education system from scratch and on the fly. Caring for your students from a distance. Celebrating your graduating students in the most creative ways. And, if you are an educator in the final year of your career, a special thank you to you. I’m sure you could never have imagined an end quite like this, but your years on the job are certainly still worth celebrating. Thank you for all the careers you shaped and lives you changed. Enjoy your retirement! And to everyone else, enjoy your summer!
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.