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Legislative update 3.17.17

3/17/2017
The House and Senate were busy moving bills out of committee and on to their respective floors this week. The Senate deadline for committee action has now passed; the House deadline is March 31.

A few highlights of this week’s action include:
IFT higher education initiatives advance
The House Higher Education committee passed two bills that are part of the IFT legislative agenda. The initiatives are brought by the University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100, and the Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600.

HB 3447 establishes the Tuition Reduction Act of 2017. Under the proposal, students in Illinois public universities will receive a tuition reduction once the state reaches a certain level of higher education funding contributions. The legislation is designed to incentivize members of the General Assembly to increase higher education funding by allocating 50% of all monies that exceed 2015 contribution levels.

HB 1776 will provide for a 20-member elected City Colleges of Chicago board of trustees. The city colleges board is the only Illinois community college board not elected by its constituents. 
Senators resurrect “grand bargain” pension proposal
Sens. Jil Tracy and Michael Connelly introduced pension reform bills this week (SB 2172 and SB 2173) that mirror proposals in the “grand bargain.” In part, the proposals will force members in public pension systems to choose between freezing the amount of money that can be used for calculating their pension or reducing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) to the amount currently in place for those employees hired after January 1, 2011 (Tier 2). Neither measure has been brought before a Senate committee. 
Bill prohibiting local “right to work” zones advances
The Senate Labor committee passed SB 1905, legislation that will require any law affecting collective bargaining to be enacted only by the General Assembly, not school boards or local governments. In 2015, Governor Rauner tried to harm local unions by creating “empowerment zones” where local government officials could take away union rights. SB 1905 will make it “the policy of the State that employers, employees, and their labor organizations are free to bargain collectively.” All Republican members of the committee voted against the bill.
Ensuring educator voice on ISBE
The Senate Education committee approved SB 863, a bill mandating that three members of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) must represent the educator community. SB 863, sponsored by Sen. Bertino-Tarrant, will be voted on by the full Senate in the coming weeks. IFT supports the measure.
IFT opposes bill requiring more testing
The Senate Education committee also heard testimony on SB 445, sponsored by Sen. Dave Koehler. The measure would require the state to add the NWEA test to its long list of mandated exams. A subject matter hearing was held on the proposal, but no vote was taken. The IFT opposes the bill because we believe additional mandated testing is unnecessary. The future of the bill is unknown. Stay tuned.
Senate committee rejects Governor’s request for more power
The Senate Executive committee called on the Governor’s agency directors to testify on SB 2063, a measure that would give the Governor unilateral power to make cuts if a budget passes. The measure failed in Senate Executive committee after the Office of Management and Budget wouldn’t identify a single cut the Governor could make to correct the budget he proposed in February, which is $5 billion out of balance.
Gifted program information on school report cards
HB 2461, as amended, passed the House Licensure committee this week. The bill, sponsored by Rep. McAsey, requires school report cards to include ISBE data concerning gifted education and advanced academic programs, as well as information about the number of teachers holding gifted education endorsements at each school.
Changes to CTE licensure
HB 2470, sponsored by Rep. Walsh, amends the licensure law to allow those holding an Educator License with Stipulations to earn a Career and Technical Educator (CTE) endorsement by completing a minimum of 60 hours of coursework from an accredited trade and technical school, as well as an accredited institution of higher education (which is current law). The candidate must have 2,000 hours of experience outside of education in the desired area of instruction. For license renewal, the candidate must complete a minimum of 15 hours of coursework, also at an accredited trade or technical school or an institution of higher education. The candidate must pass either a basic skills or work proficiency test. HB 2470 passed out of House Education Licensure committee.
Elected school board bill passes first hurdle
Rep. Martwick sponsored HB 1774, a measure that creates an elected representative school board for the City of Chicago. Currently, the city's board members are appointed by the mayor; every other Illinois school district is served by an elected board. This bill is identical to HB 557, which overwhelmingly passed the House last session but was never voted on in the Senate. HB 1774 passed the House Education Curriculum committee and now heads to the House.
Early childhood program expulsions addressed
HB 2663, sponsored by Rep. Stratton, requires early childhood programs receiving ISBE grants to prohibit the expulsion of children. Instead, the measure provides that when persistent and serious challenging behaviors emerge, the program shall document the steps taken to ensure that the child can participate safely and utilize a range of community resources. It also sets forth provisions concerning transition plans, temporary removal of a child, staff training and support, and annual reporting to ISBE. This measure unanimously passed the House Education Curriculum committee. IFT has concerns about the measure and has reached out to the sponsor to address them.

A look ahead
The House will reconvene on Tuesday, March 21; Senators will be in their district offices next week. In addition to moving bills to the floor, many House committees will hold subject matter discussions, including:

- The House Education Funding task force will meet on March 21 at 10 a.m. to continue discussions on a new school funding formula.
- The House Revenue committee will meet on March 21 at 10 a.m. to hear testimony about revenue estimates.
- The House Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education committee will meet on March 21 at 2 p.m. to discuss the FY18 ISBE budget.

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