The Illinois House met this week, while Senate was not in session. Lawmakers are working to meet important deadlines; to remain active in the legislative process this session, bills must be approved in their chamber of origin by April 28. Next week marks the deadline for bills to move from committee to the floor for consideration in the full House. The committee deadline has already passed in the Senate.
Here are a few highlights from this week:
Rauner’s budget impasse proves life-threatening
A state employee told the House General Services Appropriations committee this week her heart wrenching story
of how her infant son almost lost the oxygen supply he needs to survive as a result of the Governor’s refusal to pass a budget. Although employees continue to pay monthly premiums from their paychecks, the state has accumulated $4 billion in unpaid insurance bills to providers during the impasse, forcing many to discontinue or refuse service to customers.
Proposals address substitute teacher shortage
Illinois has a serious problem with attracting and retaining substitute teachers. House lawmakers have put forward various measures in search of a solution, including: (Click on each bill to view its status.) HB 3021
(Martwick) requires the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to implement a program to allow temporary staffing firms to contract with school districts to provide substitute teachers. HB 751
and HB 2547
(Davidsmeyer) would affect the definition of "eligible employment" for the purpose of allowing a retired teacher to return to teaching in subject shortage areas without impairing his or her retirement status or retirement annuity by changing the ending date of the employment from no later than June 30, 2013 to no later than June 30, 2020. HB 2898
(Crespo) removes the sunset date of June 30, 2021 to allow individuals with four years of experience as school support personnel to obtain a principal endorsement. HB 3298
(Scherer) waives the Substitute Teaching License fee for individuals who prove they were previously employed as a full-time teacher. If a Substitute Teaching License application is from someone who doesn’t currently hold one, if granted a license, they can receive a full refund by proving they taught 10 full school days within a year of receiving their license. Status: Passed the House Elementary & Secondary Education: Licensing, Administration and Oversight Committee. HB 3080
(Reis) increases the amount of time a retired educator may work as a teacher without impairing retirement status; allows 130 paid days or 700 paid hours in a school year. Effective immediately.
House Education committees update
The House Education Curriculum and Policy and Licensing committees discussed numerous proposals this week, including: HB 3869
(Wallace) requires in-service training to develop cultural competency (rather than training on civil rights and in cultural diversity), including understanding and reducing implicit racial bias. This bill passed committee and is headed to the House floor. IFT supported this measure. HB 3394
(Walsh) provides that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) may recommend that a school district remove an employee who is the subject of an investigation from his or her employment position pending the outcome of an investigation; however, all employment decisions regarding school personnel shall be the sole responsibility of the school district or employer. This bill passed committee and now heads to the House. HB 459
(Ives) provides that school districts may not be indebted in an amount greater than that indicated in current statute. If a district does exceed the debt limitation, it may not incur any new debt until the debt is lower than the debt limitation. This bill passed committee and is headed to the House floor. IFT opposed this legislation. HB 266
(Flowers) allows parents to opt-out of standardized testing. The measure prevents the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) from assessing (testing) any student whose parent or guardian informed ISBE, in writing, that they do not wish the student be assessed. The bill requires ISBE to develop an opt-out form for parents to submit, and requires districts to distribute the forms. The bill did not pass out of committee, but the issue is likely to resurface. IFT supported this legislation.
IFT educates lawmakers about harms of mandate relief proposals
Due to the Governor’s budget impasse, a high volume of mandate relief bills have been introduced this session. With just one week remaining before the House committee deadline, IFT legislative staff continue to educate lawmakers about the harmful effects these changes would have on schools. To date, the House and Senate Education committees have not approved any of the following measures: HB 440
(Ives) provides that physical education (PE) may (rather than shall) be provided to pupils. Because class sizes for PE are often larger than other classes, this bill may increase school district costs. HB 663
(Morrison) provides that if any payments from the state to a school district are delayed for at least one payment cycle, the school board may discontinue, by a publicly adopted resolution, any instructional mandate in the Courses of Study Article of the school code during that time (with exceptions). HB 670
(Morrison) provides that a school district may offer a driver education course by contracting with a commercial driver training school to provide both either or both the classroom instruction and driving practice components without requesting a modification or waiver of administrative rules. HB 788
(Demmer) provides that all units of local government, school districts, and public colleges and universities may, by a majority vote of the governing body, exempt themselves from specified unfunded mandates if it is determined that it is not economically feasible to comply. HB 793
(Demmer) provides that school districts need not comply with - and may discharge - any unfunded mandate or requirement placed on school districts by the school code or administrative rules. The IFT opposes this measure. HB 2443
(Bennett) provides that a school district may offer a driver education course by contracting with a commercial driver training school to provide both the classroom instruction part and the practice driving part or either one without having to request a modification or waiver of administrative rules of the State Board of Education. HB 2569
(Harris) provides that a school board may excuse pupils enrolled in grades 9 - 12 from engaging in physical education courses if those pupils request to be excused for any of certain listed reasons. HB 3205
(Davidsmeyer) prohibits unfunded mandates, among other changes. SB 13
(Cullerton) establishes a temporary property tax freeze and provides mandate relief for school districts, including greater flexibility in scheduling physical education, using commercial driving schools for driver education, and contracting with third parties for non-instructional services. SB 13 was part of the grand bargain
, but did not receive a floor vote and has been referred back to the Senate Assignments committee. SB 756
(Morrison) authorizes a school board to excuse students in grades 9-12 from engaging in physical education courses if those pupils request to be excused for any of certain listed reasons. SB 1712
(Barickman) mirrors language in SB 13 that would allow for 3rd party contracting and physical and driver education changes without the referendum procedure for discharging mandates. SB 1862
(Rooney) provides that the corporate authorities of a municipality may, by ordinance with a three-fifths vote, exempt the municipality from one unfunded mandate per year if it determines that compliance with the unfunded mandate creates an undue burden. SB 2064
(Righter) provides that all units of local government, school districts, and public colleges and universities may, by a majority vote of the governing body, exempt themselves from specified unfunded mandates.