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Springfield Session Week in Review – May 23, 2014

5/23/2014

With just one week left in their spring session, lawmakers headed home for the Memorial Day weekend.

Here's a quick recap of this week's action in Springfield:

IFT Initiatives
Testing Review Committee Earns Approval in the Senate

HB 5330 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and Sen. Kimberly Lightford) requires the formation of a committee to study the cost, number of assessments at the state and district levels, and instructional time lost to standardized testing. The committee includes teachers, parents, school board members, an early childhood educator, and other stakeholders. The bill passed the House by a vote of 97-9-0. The measure was amended in the Senate to add more stakeholders to the committee and passed this week 57– 0–0. HB 5330 now heads back to the House to concur with the Senate amendments before proceeding to the Governor for his signature.


Tax Extension in Limbo 

With the budget deadline looming, lawmakers are still considering keeping the current tax rate in place to maintain much needed revenue for the next fiscal year. If the extension is not approved, Illinois will suffer from dramatic funding cuts to public education and state services.
 
How did we get here? The legislature approved a temporary increase to the state’s individual and corporate tax rates in 2011. Individual rates went from 3 to 5 percent, while corporate rates went from 4.8 to 7 percent. Both temporary increases are scheduled to expire on January 1, 2015. If not made permanent, the state's income tax rate would return to 3.75 percent, and the corporate rate would return to 5 percent. The combined reduction would result in an estimated $1.6 billion drop in state revenues.
 
Both House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have voiced support for making the tax permanent to avoid drastic cuts to all areas in state government, most notably education. A sharp drop in income tax revenue would mean an estimated $967 million less for education overall, including a $450 million reduction in General State Aid to schools.
 
So far, the House does not have the 60 votes required to pass the measure despite intense lobbying efforts by the IFT and other groups.
 
Next week, the House Revenue Committee will take up HB 395 (Speaker Michael Madigan), which extends the current 5 % tax rate, and HB 396 (Speaker Michael Madigan), which provides for a corresponding $500 property tax rebate. Please take a moment to tell your legislators you support HB 395 by filing an electronic witness slip.
 
Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Updates
Last Thursday, the House passed 73 appropriations bills totaling about $38 billion in General Revenue Fund spending. The bills generally make up the "recommended" version of Governor Quinn’s budget as presented in March. The IFT urged lawmakers to support this plan that would fund education with:

  • $132 million increase for General State Aid which will result in a 90% proration of the foundation level;

  • $54 million increase in Transportation Reimbursement which will result in a 83% proration;
  • $11 million increase in Special Education Reimbursement to meet federal maintenance of effort;

  • $17 million increase in Assessments that includes funding the ACT;

  • $25 million increase in Early Childhood Education; and

  • $12 million increase in Bilingual Education.

The bills also provided the Governor’s recommended funding for other areas, including state universities and other higher education entities.
 
This week the House took up HB 3792, the “not recommended" budget bill introduced by Speaker Madigan that would dramatically reduce state support for vital services, including K-12 and higher education and state services. HB 3792 would impact K-12 schools with General State Aid prorations of just 65 percent and result in unsustainable funding cuts to special education, bilingual education, and transportation. The bill was overwhelming rejected by a vote of 5-107. 
 
Education Funding Reform – SB 16
In late April, the Senate Executive Committee approved SB 16 (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 about 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 amendments on May 8. 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 FY15 begins, it is unclear whether the House will take up this substantive 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. 
 
On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee took up Amendment #4, which addresses curricular mandates by stating that a school district may use the current mandate relief procedure (in section 5/22-60 of the School Code) to petition out of most any curriculum requirement in Article 27 of the School Code. The IFT opposed the amendment because it would put important curriculum mandates like Physical Education and Drivers’ Education at risk.  
 
SB 16 is pending approval by the full Senate next week.
 
Minimum Wage Ballot Measure Clears Illinois House
A measure seeking to place a non-binding referendum on the November ballot about increasing the state's minimum wage passed in the Illinois House this week by a 71-43 vote. HB 3814 (House Speaker Michael Madigan) is expected to be heard in the Senate Executive Committee on Tuesday, May 27.
 
The advisory referendum would ask Illinois voters whether they support boosting the state's minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour by January 2015.
 
Currently, legislation that would gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $10.65 an hour is pending but is short the votes needed for passage in the House and Senate.
 
The IFT supports the measure.
 
Millionaire’s Tax Once Again Considered by House
The House Revenue committee approved HB 3816 (House Speaker Michael Madigan), legislation that would put a referendum on the ballot in November asking voters whether they would like individual school districts to receive additional revenue from a 3 percent surtax applied to incomes of more than $1 million. This is the same surtax the House unsuccessfully tried to get on the ballot previously as a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution.
 
If approved by the General Assembly, the question would appear on the ballot as a non-binding referendum.
 
The IFT supports the measure.
 
Virtual Charter School Moratorium Extension Passes Senate
HB 3937 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and Sen. Jessica Bertino-Tarrant), which extends the moratorium on the establishment of charter schools with virtual-schooling components, passed the Senate this week. The measure extends the moratorium through December 31, 2016 (instead of through April 1, 2014) and exempts Chicago. This would give Illinois more time create rules regarding how these schools will be regulated in Illinois. The bill now heads back to the House for concurrence.
 
The IFT supported the measure.

State Charter Commission Put Back Under ISBE, Retains Veto Power Over Local Boards
HB 3754 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and Sen. Kimberly Lightford) was approved by Senate this week.
 
Originally, the bill sought to eliminate the charter commission altogether, but was amended to replace it with a charter school appeal board which would work under the Illinois State Board of Education. As amended, the bill would transfer all the powers, duties, assets, liabilities, contracts, property, records, and pending business of the State Charter School Commission to the Illinois State Board of Education as the Charter Appeals Board. The state superintendent, instead of the Governor, would have the authority to select the members of the board. The appeals board would be charged with making recommendations about whether to override a school district's decision about a charter, with ISBE having the final say.
 
The bill was amended in the Senate and now goes back to the House for concurrence.
 
Although this is a step in the right direction, the IFT opposed the measure due to concern that it doesn’t go far enough.
 
"Money Follows the Student" Initiative Passes
HB 4591 (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 unanimously and now goes to the Governor’s desk.  
 
The IFT supported the measure.
 
Charter Accountability Act Heads to the House
HB 3232 (Sen. Jacqueline Collins), the Charter Accountability Act, makes crucial changes to charter school law which would force charters to be more transparent and accountable to taxpayers. The law would require a transparent process for admission lotteries, prohibits staff double-dipping, codifies how property is transferred once a charter is dissolved, and requires disclosure when advertisements for schools are paid for with public dollars. The bill passed the senate by a vote of 44-0-0 and now goes to the House for a concurrence vote.
The IFT supported the measure.
 
House Education Committee Grills IHSA
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) came before the committee this week to discuss IHSA’s role in Illinois’ secondary schools. The hearing lasted several hours.
 
The hearings were prompted by IHSA’s public presence last year, when Rep. Carol Sente proposed HB 1205, a bill limiting tackles during football practice.
 
House members wanted to meet again to better understand how IHSA works with schools and districts. House committee members raised questions related to IHSA’s funding, hiring practices, employee benefits, diversity of paid staff, and IHSA’s management of Scholastic Bowl and Athletic Programs.

Session resumes Monday, May 26, 2014 (Memorial Day).

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