Legislative Update 4.3.17

by Beth Camplain | Apr 04, 2017
It was a busy week in Springfield. House committees worked to consider bills before last week’s deadline, while the so-called “grand bargain” package of legislation resurfaced in the Senate.
It was a busy week in Springfield. House committees worked to consider bills before last week’s deadline, while the so-called “grand bargain” package of legislation resurfaced in the Senate.

Here are a few highlights of last week’s action:

“Grand bargain” still stalled – Democrats introduce Illinois “comeback agenda”
It seemed the Illinois Senate was prepared to take more votes on the “grand bargain” to end the budget stalemate last week. Instead, Democratic lawmakers in both chambers introduced their “comeback agenda,” which is designed to move the state forward. The plan has five central components — budget fix, government reform, job investment, building great schools for all students, and safe, healthy communities. Read more about the “comeback agenda” here.

No votes were taken on the “grand bargain,” and its future is in doubt. Thank you for reaching out to your lawmaker to tell them not to give in to Rauner and to vote NO on the “grand bargain.” Here is the status of the various legislative measures included in that package:
  • SB 1 Education funding reform – Legislative language has not been filed
  • SB 2 Minimum wage increase – Not called for a vote
  • SB 3 Local government consolidation – Passed Senate
  • SB 4 $7 billion in state bonds to pay bill backlog – Not called for a vote
  • SB 5 Pension parity for Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) – Passed Senate
  • SB 6 FY17 Appropriations – Passed Senate
  • SB 7 Gaming expansion – Passed Senate
  • SB 8 Procurement reform – Passed Senate
  • SB 9 Tax increases – Not called for a vote
  • SB 10 Local government debt consolidation – Senate debated bill but did not vote
  • SB 11 Pension reform – Failed in Senate
  • SB 12 Workers’ compensation reform – Not called for a vote
  • SB 13 Property tax freeze, mandate relief, and privatization – Not called for a vote
  • SB 16 Pension reform – Failed in Senate

CTU bargaining rights bill passes committee

The House Labor and Commerce committee passed HB 1253, legislation that would restore collective bargaining rights to members of the Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1. In 1995, a Republican controlled General Assembly passed legislation that took away the CTU’s right to bargain over class size, third party contracts, layoffs, and staffing levels. The 1995 legislation has contributed greatly to the loss of experienced teachers and the decline of minority teachers. Even though this experiment has been a disaster for the Chicago Public Schools, some lawmakers have expressed a desire to make the 1995 law apply to every school district in the state.

IFT locals expressed strong support for this bill to give CTU members the same collective bargaining rights that exist in every school district across the state. The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration.


Pension legislation voted down in Senate Committee

SB 2172 and SB 2173, (Sen. Connelly, R-Naperville), were defeated in the Senate Executive committee. The legislation represents Governor Rauner’s attempt to pass unconstitutional pension reform for members of the state’s retirement systems. Among the provisions is the “consideration” proposal that forces members to choose between two unconstitutional choices of either freezing one’s salary for purposes of calculating a pension, or taking a lower cost of living adjustment (COLA) during retirement. The legislation was voted down, and Democratic Senators indicated that the bill only provided temporary support for Chicago Public Schools but did not ensure permanent state funding for the Chicago Teacher’s Pension Fund.


School funding bills filed, little movement

An amendment was filed to SB 1, the placeholder legislation for school funding reform in the Senate and part of the “grand bargain” package. Some thought this action signaled movement on the “grand bargain,” but Senators on the education committee did not even discuss the legislation last week. The language of SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Manar (D-Bunker Hill), is similar to that of HB 2808 (Rep. Davis, D-East Hazel Crest), which is also an evidence based-funding model. Although the bills are similar, differences include the amount of per pupil funding for technology, hold harmless, and class size adjustments for low-income students.

Rep. Davis moved HB 2808 out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations committee this week on a bipartisan vote, but he indicated that the bill needs more work and was positioning it for further action this spring.


Labor-opposed charter legislation goes to House floor

Three bills of concern passed the House Elementary & Secondary Education: Charter School Policy committee this week: HB 3257, (Rep. Wheeler, R-Woodstock), would remove the current provisions in state law that cap at 120 the number of charter schools in Illinois at any given time. The bill also removes the provision which caps charter schools in the city of Chicago at 70.

The IFT opposes this measure because Illinois is currently not close to the cap. Eliminating the cap on charters also provides additional incentives to expand without local approval. Finally, a Chicago charter schools cap is meaningless because of a loophole in state law that allows networks to replicate multi-campus charters at will. (Despite a "cap" of 70, there are actually more than 130 charter campuses in the city.)

HB 3769 (Rep. Mayfield, D-Waukegan) allows institutions of higher education to apply to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to authorize “Opportunity Schools.” These schools would prioritize high school dropouts. The IFT opposes this measure because we feel that “Opportunity Schools” already exist in the form of alternative schools.

HB 3780 (Rep. Burke, D-Chicago) allows charter schools to capture more school district funding. The IFT opposes this measure because it further reduces funding to public schools.

Please reach out to your representative in the Illinois House about these three harmful measures. Lookup your lawmaker here.


No new charters for financially strapped districts

Rep. Guzzardi (D-Chicago) introduced HB 3567, which creates a moratorium on new charter schools in financially distressed school districts, including new campuses of existing charter schools. Currently, 93 school districts are designated by ISBE as either Early Warning or Watch districts. This bill passed out of the Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education committee 11-8 and now moves to the House for a vote. IFT supports this measure.


Local school boards would prevail on charters

HB 768 (Rep. Welch, D-Westchester) would remove the ability of any state entity - including the Illinois Charter School Commission - to overturn the decision of a local school board to deny a charter school application. Applicants denied a charter by a local school district would have the right to appeal the decision via a successful referendum of 5 percent of that district’s voters, or by appeal to the Circuit Court. This IFT-supported bill passed out of the Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education committee and moves to the full House.


Local School Councils for charter schools?

Rep. Harper (D-Chicago) sponsored HB 3786, which would require charter schools in Chicago to mirror neighborhood public schools by establishing Local School Councils (LSCs). LSCs are advisory committees comprised of parents, community members, and school staff. LSCs are responsible for:

  1. Approving how school funds and resources are allocated.
  2. Developing and monitoring the annual School Improvement Plan.
  3. Evaluating and selecting the school's principal.

LSCs are intended to bring greater transparency, accountability, and local decision making to taxpayers in neighborhood schools, but they do not exist at charter schools. A subject matter hearing on the issue was held last week in the House Education Licensure committee. Opponents included the Chicago Board of Education and lobbyists for the charter school industry. IFT supports this measure.


Mandates bills fail to gain traction

Over a dozen “mandate relief” bills have been filed this session. Thanks to strong advocacy from IFT members, only one mandate bill, SB 13, remains active. SB 13 would eliminate physical and drivers' education mandates and freeze property taxes. However, the language of SB 13 ties it to the other “grand bargain” bills; all the bills in the package must pass for any of them to take effect.

Please continue to remind legislators about why mandates are so important for all students and teachers. Lookup your lawmaker here.


Illinois Board of Higher Education member to attend Senate Executive Appointments committee

The Senate Executive Appointments committee has posted a hearing for Tuesday, April 4 at 5:15 p.m. to discuss Mr. John Bambenek, IBHE board member. Many IFT members have expressed concerns that Mr. Bambenek is appointed to a faculty position but does not have the experience or expertise to fill that position. In addition, Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) has filed SB 440, which would add two additional full-time faculty positions to the IBHE.


Tuition vouchers bill fails

HB 443 (Rep. Ives, R-Wheaton) would have created the Illinois School Choice Program, but it failed on a bipartisan 6-11 vote. If passed and signed into law, HB 443 would have allowed any state-recognized, non-public school wishing to enroll eligible students to be reimbursed for vouchers. Proponents argued that it would offer parents education options for their children, including parochial schools. Opponents presented research demonstrating that voucher systems established in other U.S. cities and states “cherry pick” the best students and undermine the integrity of public education funding. IFT opposed this measure.


School shooting drill requirements adjusted

Rep. Moylan (D-Des Plaines) sponsored HB 3907, which requires that school staff and personnel participate in a school shooting drill. The bill’s language was modified to require students to be present during the training. This is intended to implement, communicate, and clarify a plan for staff in the event of a shooting situation. This bill passed with unanimous, bipartisan support with an effective date of July 1, 2017.


The week ahead

Now that the committee deadlines have passed in both chambers, lawmakers will focus on moving bills off the House and Senate floors. Legislators will be on break during the weeks of April 10 and April 17, so it’s a great time to schedule in-district meetings with your legislators. Lookup your legislator up here.