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Under the Dome: Legislative Update from Springfield

4/08/2013
The spring session of the Illinois General Assembly is fully underway. The Illinois Senate has filed more than 2,500 bills and Illinois House members have introduced nearly 4,000. The Committee deadline in both the House and the Senate has passed, and so the General Assembly will be focused on floor action and budget in the remaining session weeks. To help make sense of where things stand, the IFT Department of Political Activities has provided an overview of some of the important issues currently being considered by the General Assembly.  

Below is an expanded rundown of current legislation. For quick updates on pensions, please visit our Pension Watch blog here

Pensions

In the House 
The House of Representatives passed three bills that reduce current benefits for active and retired members. These bills do not contain the Judges Retirement System.)The bills have been sent to the Senate where Sen. President Cullerton is now chief sponsor.  Here is a brief description of each. 

House Bill 1154 (Madigan)   
The legislation limits the amount of compensation that can be used to calculate a pension benefit to either the Social Security wage base (currently $113,700) or the amount of a member’s current employment contract or collective bargaining agreement in effect at the time the bill becomes law.  After the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, that amount will be frozen.

House Bill 1165 (Madigan) 
The legislation limits the application of the 3% compounded COLA to the first $25,000 for members not covered by Social Security and to $20,000 for members covered by Social Security in Illinois pension systems.  Once the threshold is reached, the COLA is capped at $750 for non-covered personnel and $600 for covered personnel.

House Bill 1166
 (Madigan)   
The legislation increases retirement age based upon the current age of members of the systems.  Members 45  and older  will not be affected.  The retirement age for members age  40- 45 will  increase by 1 year.  For members from 35-40, the retirement age will increase by 3 years.  For those 35 and younger it will increase by 5 years.

We could see these provisions combined into a “mega-bill” and called for a vote this week (April 8). Stay tuned and vigilant!

In the Senate 
Senate Bill 35 was defeated on the Senate floor. Commonly referred to as the Nekritz/Biss/Cross proposal, the bill contains several provisions that reduce benefits for current members and retirees similar to the bills passed by the House. 

Senate Bill 35
 (Biss) 
The legislation increases retirement age. Members 45  and older  will not be affected. The retirement age for members age 40-45 will increase by 1 year.  For members from 35-40, the retirement age will increase by 3 years. For those 35 and younger it will increase by 5 years. The COLA provision limits the application of the 3% compounded COLA to the first $25,000 for members not covered by Social Security and to $20,000 for members covered by Social Security in Illinois pension systems.  Once the threshold is reached the COLA is capped at $750 for non-covered personnel and $600 for covered personnel. The pensionable salary is limited to either the Social Security wage base (currently $113,700) or- if that amount is currently in excess of the Social Security wage base - the amount in a member’s current employment contract or collective bargaining agreement in effect at the time the bill becomes law.  After the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, that amount will be frozen.

The legislation also increases member contributions by 2%, establishes a cash balance plan for Tier 2 members and new hires, creates a pension stabilization fund and provides a guarantee of state funding that must be initiated by the systems.  

Senate Bill 1 (Cullerton)
The Senate passed SB1, which impacts only current workers participating in the Teachers Retirement System who began their service before January 1, 2011. Retirees and those who have legally filed their intent to retire are not impacted. SB1 also establishes a “choice” for workers:  

  • Option #1:  Accept a change in the Cost of Living Adjustment from 3% compounded annually, to a simple COLA of one-half of the Consumer Price Index, not to exceed 3%.  In exchange, the member retains access to state-supported health insurance in retirement.  Members will also gain access to a cash balance plan which allows the worker to invest 2% of their current salary into the retirement system, garnering investment returns of no less than 4% up to 8%. The money and interest will be annuitized throughout retirement.  Additionally, those making this choice gain access to the Early Retirement Option.
  • Option #2: Reject the change in COLA, keeping it at 3% compounded annually.  The member will then lose access to state-supported health insurance in retirement.  All salary increases will not be calculated for pension benefits.

This legislation passed the Illinois Senate and has not yet been considered in the House.

SB 1225 (Murphy)
Despite active opposition from the IFT and other labor organizations, SB 1225 passed 53-0.  This bill prohibits: payments for unused sick or vacation time from being used to calculate pensionable earnings and salary; and unused sick or vacation time from being used to establish service credit for individuals hired after the effective date of the law. 

Education 

Senator William Delgado, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, joined forces with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), parents, and community leaders to successfully push SB1571, a bill that would impose a moratorium on Chicago Public School closings for the current and upcoming school years.  SB1571 was heard in the Senate Education Committee on March 19. Legislators heard testimony from a several individuals and organizations, including State Representative Cynthia Soto and six Chicago aldermen. Concerns heard in committee included issues like forcing children to walk through different gang boundaries, passing abandoned buildings and crossing busy intersections.  

Representative LaShawn Ford passed HB310, which requires the Department of Lottery to establish a scratch-off game for the funding of School Choice Scholarships under the School Choice Act. The School Choice Fund is created and all net revenue from the School Choice Scholarship scratch-off game is to be deposited into this fund to be appropriated to ISBE for the issuance of School Choice Scholarships. The IFT and CTU oppose voucher legislation contained in this bill.

HB980 and HB1223 (Burke) change the funding formula for all charter schools in Illinois. Current law allows districts to fund charters at 75 to 125%of the per capita tuition level. These bills change the funding range to 95 – 100%. HB980 adds additional reporting requirements for charter operators to receive the funds. Effective lobbying by IFT and CTU stopped both HB980 and HB1223 in Committee. 

Several bills impacting physical education (PE) have been introduced this session. HB161 (Osmond) attempts to extend physical education activities beyond the normal school day.  As a result of strong opposition from the IFT, Lake County Federation of Teachers, IEA, IAHPERD and other PE advocates, this legislation is being held in the House allowing time for concerns to be addressed at the local (Zion Benton/New Tech High) level. HB2242 (Cabello), legislation attempting to eliminate the PE mandate, was not called for a vote in committee. Despite strong opposition, SB2321 (Bertino-Tarant), which allows show choir to qualify as a physical education credit, is now on the floor of the Senate. HB3053 (McAsey)/SB2157 (Cunningham) addresses an inequity for students with IEP’s. As amended, it will now proceed as an agreed bill.  The IFT has long been an advocate for physical education and supports every student at all grade levels taking part in physical education.  

SB2213 (Sullivan) failed in Senate Education committee. The bill would have provided school districts an easier opportunity to contract out driver education programs. The IFT strongly opposes all attempts to contract out programs vital to our schools and changes to programs that would hamper student participation.  
 
SB2340 (Steans) allows the ISBE to remove elected school board members, suspend local school board elections, and appoint an independent authority when a school district fails to make sufficient academic progress.


Collective Bargaining 

HB1264 (Sosnowski) would require a 75% vote of members of a teachers’ union to approve a teacher’s strike. The IFT was strongly opposed to the bill, which was defeated in the House Labor and Commerce Committee. 

HB2689 (Ives) requires school districts to place in writing and publish on their website the terms of a tentative agreement between the school district and the teachers’ union for 14 days prior to ratification of a collective bargaining agreement. The bill was defeated in the House State Government and Administration Committee with IFT expressing firm opposition. 

In addition, the following bills were posted for committee but not heard: HB182 (Ives) No open meeting exemption for collective bargaining,HB3160 (Ives) Workers Right Act, HB3289 (Ives) Tentative agreements posted for 21 days prior to ratification, HB3290 (Ives) Refund of Fair Share fees, HB3310 (Ives) No exemption to opening meeting or FOIA laws for collective bargaining. The IFT opposes any attempt to alter or eliminate our members’ right to a voice in the workplace. We support the established procedures of the IPLRA and IELRA that provide for the protection of the rights of the employee, the employer and the public.  

Revenue and Budget 

House Bills 89 and 3041 would have far-reaching negative impact upon already revenue-challenged school districts. HB89 and HB3041 require that for districts in PTELL (tax-capped) communities for which the total taxable Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) is less than the previous year, the allowable increase in a district’s extension would be 0% or the rate approved by voters. Currently, districts subject to PTELL are limited in their ability to increase local revenue – defined by the lesser of CPI or 5%. These proposals eliminate the authority of school boards to increase local revenue by inflationary costs. Members of the House Revenue Committee moved these bills out of Committee without discussion and on an agreed roll call; IFT lobbyists and other stakeholders continue to educate legislators of this bill’s negative consequences. 

Below are summaries of the Governor’s and Illinois State Board of Education budget recommendations for FY14. In addition to these budget recommendations, the House took action on two bills - HR83and HJR17 that set a $35.1 billion spending cap on the FY14 budget. These amounts are up from $33.7 billion from last year. HR83 and HJR17 passed the House 100-15. The House Elementary and Secondary Appropriations Committee and Senate Appropriations Committees have held preliminary budget hearings; further budget work is expected both in and out of the Committee process this spring. 

Governor’s ISBE Budget Recommendation
•    4.7% ($309 million ) GRF decrease from FY13
•    Overall funding decrease of 2.9% from FY13
•    GSA recommended funding at $4,139,595,400(FY13 funding was $4,286,752,500),meaning a 82% proration for FY14. Flat funding of GSA would have meant a proration of 85%. 
•    ISBE agency personnel increase of $200,000
•    Early Childhood Education is flat-funded
•    Parent Mentor Grant (ICIRR) eliminated (this was a FY13 new initiative funded at $1M)
•    Special Education Mandated Categoricals are generally flat funded except for Private tuition, which is increased by $13M. ISBE reports these funding levels will maintain state maintenance of effort, meaning federal funding will be preserved.Transportation reimbursements are funded $10M over FY13 but are estimated to sustain a 19% proration
•    Free and Reduced lunches (state funding) is funded at $9M, the bare minimum to capture federal reimbursements
•    National Board Certified Teachers line item is funded at $1M

ISBE Board Recommended Budget
•    Fully-funded GSA at $6,119 FL (an increase of $455M)
•    Included $5M for low performing schools 
•    Increased up to $6.5M the line item for ROE Services line item
•    Funded ROE salaries from GRF rather than CPPRT (ISBE will push legislation to make CPPRT a permanent fix) 
•    Increased teacher and administrator mentoring to $5M
•    Increased homeless line item from $1M as the Board introduced  to $3M
•    Overall budget increase of $816M represents a 13% increase over FY13 

IFT Legislative Platform Update
 
The IFT Department of Political Activities successfully worked with legislators to introduce and start discussions on the following legislative measures:
 
1.    Defining the Nurses Role In Schools: HB1373 (Chapa LaVia) provides strong language in the School Code, now found only in Part 226.840 of the Illinois State Board of Education Rules, which would define for school districts what constitutes the nurses role in the educational evaluation process. The bill defines what constitutes the medical review and who can perform this task. It also further defines the level of education required of a nurse to make recommendations to the educational team regarding accommodations for students with special health needs. A certified school nurse is an essential element in making sure that a student’s educational goals can be met.  The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard subject matter testimony on HB1373 in late February. In the meantime, further discussion continues with ISBE to adjust administrative rules. 

2.    Mandated Reporter Training For Educators: HB2245 (Chapa LaVia) provides that upon employment and at least once every 5 years thereafter, school personnel, including substitute teachers, who work directly with students must complete mandated reporter training provided by an individual or agency with expertise in recognizing and reporting child abuse. This bill follows the recommendations of the Erin’s Law Task Force and would provide school personnel an avenue to complete the requirements of PA 97-1147. Ensuring that school personnel understand their critical role in protecting children by recognizing and reporting child abuse is all our responsibilities. HB2245 has successfully passed the House and will be heard in the Senate later this month. 

3.    Kindergarten for All Students: Research shows that the early school years lay the foundation for children’s success in school and later in life. As such, the Illinois General Assembly made Illinois the first state to offer voluntary, high-quality preschool education for three- and four-year-olds, as well as expand support for at-risk infants and toddlers. The IFT believes it is time to address the gap that exists for some Illinois children - the inability to access full-day kindergarten programs. HB2405 would provide that, by the 2016-17 school year, all schools in Illinois provide students the opportunity for a full-day kindergarten experience. The bill does not force parents to enroll their children in kindergarten nor does it limit the district’s ability continue to offer half-day kindergarten.  Representative Welch indicated his intentions to call for a subject matter hearing on HB2405 later in April. 

4.    Retooling Evaluation Timelines: 24A-5 of the School Code provides that a principal shall not be prohibited from evaluating any teachers within a school during his or her first year as principal of such school. The IFT supports the ability of new principals to evaluate all teachers as called for by statute; however, in an effort to streamline the evaluation process, the IFT plans to clarify the “restart” of the two year evaluation schedule with the new principal’s first evaluation. HB3063has passed out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and awaits a full House vote. 

Teacher Certification Changing to Licensing System
•    The Educator Certification System (ECS) is being changed to an Educator Licensing System (ELIS)
This is being done automatically. Educators do not have to DO anything to make it happen.   Effective July 1, 2013.
•    This applies to teachers, paraprofessionals, clinicians and administrators.
•    Currently there are 66 different certificates. Under the new system, there will be three different licenses. Individual educators will no longer hold multiple certificates. Instead, what used to be a certificate will be listed on the license as an endorsement.  The new licenses are:
  1. Professional Educator License (PEL) for teachers and administrators.
  2. Educator License with Stipulations (ELS).
  3. Substitute License.
•    Before the ECS system changes over to ELIS, teachers should:
  1. Go to ECS. Review and update current email addresses.
  2. Enter all current PD and CPDUs on ECS.  
  3. Print copies of these entries as well as current certificates showing endorsements and NCLB highly qualified status.
  4. Create a file. After ECS changes over to ELIS, compare current certificates, endorsements, completed PD and CPDUs to information contained on ELIS. Check for accuracy.
•    Pending the passage of legislation concerning renewal details, licenses may require a minimum of 10 hours of professional development, annually. One hundred hours total could be required by the end of five years, depending on the final version of this legislation.
•    While legislation regarding renewal for National Board Certified Teachers is still being drafted, NBCTs will likely be required to pay a $50 fee for renewal every five years. NBCTs could also be required to earn 5 hours of Professional Development annually, for a total of 50 every five years. Legislation regarding these details is not final. 
•    Paper copies will not be available, so educators must monitor the ELIS system for accuracy
•    Renewal cycles will not change. Current 5 year cycles remain in effect. Check ELIS for renewal dates. 
•    See the ISBE webinar on the new Licensure system here.


Proposed Change to Illinois State Educator Preparation and Licensure Board 
HB1002 (Chapa LaVia) proposes to add one school service personnel certificate holder to the Illinois Licensure Board. This bill passed the House 86-25-1 and will next be heard in the Senate Education Committee. IFT opposes this bill, as the makeup of the Licensure Board is currently balanced between representatives of ISBE, higher education, school administrators and educators who are members of the IFT and IEA.
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