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Springfield Session Week in Review - May 9, 2014

Lawmakers wrapped up their first full week in May today without taking up some major issues of this year's session. Expect a flurry of activity in the coming weeks as we approach the May 31st deadline.
Here's a quick recap of this week's action in Springfield:
IFT Initiatives
No significant movement was made on IFT initiatives SB 3092SB 3460 or HB 5330, this week.

Despite Stakeholder Opposition, HB 5286 Moves Through Senate Education Committee
A measure that would allow years working as school physiologist, social worker, nurse, or other school support personnel to count towards a principal endorsement for a Professional Educator License passed the Senate Education committee this week despite strong opposition from the IFT and other stakeholders.

The IFT testified before the committee, arguing the importance of having in-classroom instruction time before leading a building. Also, with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) implementation coming, having a principal that understands the nuances of a classroom will lead to better evaluation of teachers. The Illinois State Board of Education also testified against the bill, which passed 14-0-0.

The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration. The IFT and other stakeholders will continue to educate members and lobby against the bill. 

Lawmakers Consider Making Temporary Tax Hike Permanent
Last week the effort to give voters the choice to move to a graduated income tax structure was put on hold due to lack of support in the Illinois House. Lawmakers have now turned their attention to making the temporary income tax hike permanent.

The temporary increase from 3 to 5 percent in the state income tax was passed in 2011. It is scheduled to end on January 1, 2015. If it does, the state's income tax rate will drop from 5 percent to 3.75 percent. As a result, the state's revenue would drop by about $1.6 billion.

Both House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton support making the tax permanent, avoiding drastic cuts in all areas of state government, most notably education. A sharp drop in income tax revenue would mean an estimated $967 million less for education overall, $450 million of which would be from General State Aid to schools.

The State Universities Retirement System Changes "Money Purchase" Interpretation
The State Universities Retirement System (SURS) has decided to change a key interpretation with regard to the application of interest to the money purchase plan. This change did not require legislative approval, however IFT will continue to monitor legislation in case a legislative change is pursued. IFT is aggressively fighting this law in the Illinois courts and firmly believes it is unconstitutional.

Senate Subcommittee on Charter Schools Approves Two Measures
Two measures impacting charter schools were approved by the Senate Subcommittee on Charter Schools this week.

The first, HB 3937 (sponsored by Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant), extends the moratorium on the establishment of charter schools with virtual-schooling components in school districts other than Chicago Public Schools through December 31, 2017 (instead of through April 1, 2014). The measure will most likely be taken up by the full Senate Education Committee next week.

The second, HB 4591 (sponsored by Rep. Robert Martwick and Sen. Jacqueline Collins), provides that if a charter school dismisses a pupil after receiving a quarterly payment from the school district, the charter school shall return to the school district an amount equal to 100 percent of the school district's per capita student tuition, on a pro rata basis, for the time the student is not enrolled at the charter school. This measure passed the Senate Education Committee and awaits a full Senate vote.

CCSS and the PARCC Assessments – Subject Matter Hearings in House Education Committee
House Education Committee Chair Rep. Chapa La Via convened hearings on the Common Core State Standards and PARCC assessments this week.

PARCC Assessments
State Superintendent of Education Chris Koch and The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) staff offered testimony describing lessons learned from the piloting of the Partnership for Assessment of Reediness for College and Careers (PARCC) test.

ISBE is hopeful that both the CCSS and the implementation of the PARCC assessments will provide tools and opportunities for educators to better serve Illinois students.

IFT made clear that we support PARCC implementation, but would prefer that PARCC not be used for high stakes accountability and evaluations of districts, schools, and teachers until it has been in place for several years, as its validity and reliability as a testing tool has not been established. Additionally, IFT stated that we believe districts and schools across the state need more time to put needed technology into place.

School superintendents expressed concern that districts do not have the technology infrastructure in place to meet the requirements of the tests.

Common Core State Standards
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) stated that with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCCSS) instruction is more focused and students are more engaged. While IFT stated we support CCSS, we also expressed concern that not all schools and districts have offered teachers the necessary time and resources to adapt their curricula to the new standards.

IFT and Other Stakeholders Working to Secure Back Pay
The IFT is part of an effort by the AFL-CIO to pass a supplemental appropriation that would fund contractually obligated back wages owed to 24,000 union employees, including members of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408. HB 3764/SB 2603 provides for a $112 million supplemental appropriation to fund these wage increases that were agreed to in 2011. This is the state's oldest outstanding debt, and IFT contends it should be given the same priority status as other outstanding debts. An independent arbitrator and the State Circuit Court have ruled these wages must be paid with interest.

IFT members are encouraged to contact their lawmakers to ask them to support this legislation. We would also like lawmakers to contact the chairs of the Appropriations Committees to tell them to make this issue a priority in the state budget.

FY15 Budget Development
In February, the House Revenue Committee adopted the revenue estimates that the Illinois House plans to use in crafting the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) budget. The budget numbers are included in HR 842 and HJR 80. The estimate for total revenue available for the next fiscal year is $34.5 billion – roughly $951 million less than the current fiscal year. The current income tax rates for individuals and corporations will decrease on Jan. 1 – halfway through the next fiscal year. The temporary income tax increase enacted in 2011 will drop rates for individuals from 5 to 3.75 percent. The corporate rate will fall from 7 to 5.25 percent, resulting in a loss of $1.6 billion in revenue.

Appropriations committees in both the House and Senate have continued to meet to craft the FY15 State budget. Nothing definite has been decided at this point. The committees are still working through the Governor's initial budget proposal. More specifics on the FY15 proposed K-12 education budget can be found on the ISBE website.

The IFT is supporting ISBE's FY15 budget recommendation, an aggressive ask that fully funds General State Aid and mandated categoricals while seeking an additional $1 billion for education.
Education Funding Reform – SB 16
In late April, the Senate Executive Committee approved SB 16 (sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar), a bill intended to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. The plan would streamline the current formula funding structure into a single formula that would account for school district variables and most importantly, students' needs.

The proposal is the result of the Education Funding Advisory Council (EFAC), a panel established last year to conduct a comprehensive review of the current K-12 education funding system in Illinois and make recommendations for a more fair and adequate system. Some concerns have surfaced pertaining to various components of the bill.

In response, Sen. Manar worked with stakeholders to draft Senate Amendment #1 and #2 to SB 16. The Senate Executive Committee heard testimony and approved these two amendments to SB 16 on Thursday, May 8th. A vote is expected in the full Senate as early as next week. With less than a month remaining before the spring legislative session ends and before FY15 begins, it is unclear whether the House will take up this proposal. ISBE has run data modeling on the impact the new formula will have on districts. Details can be found here. The allocations to districts for the new formula are based on FY13 expenditures and data. 
Session will resume Tuesday, May 13, 2014.




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