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Springfield Session Week in Review — May 31, 2014

After both the House and Senate voted on dozens of bills and passed a  “middle of the road" budget, the 98th General Assembly has adjourned.

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

Testing Review Committee Clears Final Legislative Hurdle
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 and the Senate 57–0–0. HB 5330 now heads to the Governor for his signature.

Data Privacy in Continuing Negotiations
On the heels of the IFT Convention and the unanimous approval of IFT resolution No. 4, the Department of Political Activities introduced a measure this legislative session to protect student and teacher data from marketing or sale by third party vendors. The bill, SB 3092 sponsored by Sen. William Delgado, passed to the Illinois House where the bill was placed in a sub-committee for further negotiation between the IFT, stakeholders, and lawmakers.

Millionaire’s Tax to Be Added to the November Ballot
After being approved by the House last week, the Illinois Senate took up HB 3816 (Sen. Michael Noland), a measure that would allow voters to weigh in on whether they would support an additional 3 percent surtax on all individual income over $1 million to be used for education spending. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 33-17 and is now headed to Governor Quinn's desk.
House Speaker Michael Madigan first floated the idea of a millionaire’s tax back in March. The original intent was to include the question on the ballot as a proposed amendment to the state constitution. With no support to change the constitution, the Illinois House changed course and made the measure a non-binding question.  

Minimum Wage Question to Be Added to the November Ballot
The IFT supported HB 3814 (Speaker Michael Madigan), legislation that will place an advisory referendum question on the ballot in November. Voters will be asked, "Shall the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over the age of 18 be raised to $10 per hour by January 1, 2015?" The IFT supports an increase in the minimum wage. The bill passed the House by a vote of 71-43 and the Senate 39-17. HB 3814 now heads to the Governor for consideration.

Education Funding Reform
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 surfaced about various components of the bill. In response, Sen. Manar worked with stakeholders to amend SB 16 with a total of six amendments. On Tuesday, the Illinois Senate approved SB 16, by a vote of 32-19-6. Amendment #4, opposed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, was tabled before the bill was approved. The House did not consider the bill before adjournment.
Stakeholders will hold discussions this summer to decide how best to reform school funding in Illinois.
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. 

FY15 Budget
The Illinois General Assembly approved a Fiscal Year 2015 state budget this week that attempts to strike a balance between the “recommended” budget proposed by Governor Quinn and the doomsday budget that failed in the House last week. The IFT urged lawmakers to support a plan that would increase K-12 funding and provide the Governor’s recommended appropriation levels for other areas, including state universities and other higher education entities.

The “recommended” plan was predicated on extending the current income tax rate. Despite intense lobbying in Springfield from the IFT and other advocacy groups, efforts to extend the current 5 percent tax rate stalled.
This set the stage for the “middle of the road” budget proposal, a series of five bills predicated on expiration of the 5 percent tax rate, a bill that allows lawmakers to borrow $600 million from other state funds and other budgeting maneuvers:

  • HB 6093 funds K-12 school districts and the State Board of Education. It was approved by a vote of 68-47 in the House and 34-19-2 in the Senate. HB 6093 is generally flat funded with the same appropriations as in the FY 2014 budget. This holds true for transportation reimbursements, bilingual education, and early childhood education. Some additional funding was dedicated to the General State Aid formula in order to maintain the per pupil foundation level proration of “just under 89%.” The budget fully funds the assessment line item to include funding for the ACT.

  • HB 6094 funds Higher Education, including Community Colleges. It was approved by a vote of 66-48-1 in the House and 36-20-2 in the Senate.

  • HB 6095, HB 6096, and HB 6097 fund constitutional offices and agencies, such as the Department of Revenue, Secretary of State, and others. The budgets included are generally the same as in FY14, however were appropriated as “lump sums” in which the legislature does not parse out funding in specific line items but allows the Governor’s office or state agencies to do so.

Without the tax extension, lawmakers approved a $35 billion budget which they acknowledge won’t cover the state’s costs. While the final details are dependent on agency budget management, it’s possible the FY15 budget as passed could lead to layoffs and delays in paying bills.
In addition to passing agency budgets, the General Assembly also approved HB 3793 which provides funding for capital infrastructure projects. This bill included:

  • $50 million for the Chicago Teacher's Pension Fund. The appropriation is designed to reduce the amount of money that Chicago Public Schools is required to contribute by $50 million. The state contributed $65 million to the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund from FY 88 to FY 09. The appropriation was discontinued several years ago but is being slowly reinstated.

  • $35 million for school construction in the Chicago Public Schools

  • $40 million for school maintenance grants for Chicago Public Schools , and

  • $50 million for the payment of back wages owed to state employees since 2011.

HB 3794 calls for $1.1 billion in construction spending, $1 billion of which would go to road and bridge projects and $100 million for local street repair projects. The money for construction would come from funding sources approved as part of the 1999 Illinois First capital program.

Local Control Argument Trumps Distaste for Charter Commission
Originally HB 3754 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and Sen. Kimberly Lightford) sought to eliminate the State Charter Schools Commission altogether. Instead the bill was amended to replace the Commission with a newly created Charter School Appeals board which would work under the Illinois State Board of Education. Under the amended bill, all of the powers, duties, assets, liabilities, contracts, property, records, and pending business of the commission would be transferred to the new board under ISBE’s purview. The state superintendent, not the Governor, would have the authority to select the members of the board. The appeals board would be charged with making recommendations about which charter decisions made by the school districts would be overridden, with ISBE having the final say.
While the amended bill passed the Senate and the House Education Committee, concerns over the final version doomed its passage on the House floor. Representatives raised objections about local taxpayers and school districts being stripped of authority to decide local education issues. They objected to the idea that the State Board of Education (or the Charter Commission) could impose a charter school on a community, even when a local school district had decided they did not want or need a charter school. Rep. Chapa LaVia made clear that she would prefer to abolish the Charter School Commission entirely; transferring it to ISBE was not an acceptable solution. The bill failed in the House by a vote of 100 to 4.

Extension of Virtual Charter School Moratorium Passes both Chambers
HB 3937 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant) which extends the moratorium on the establishment of charter schools with virtual-schooling components, passed the Senate this week by a vote of 85-23. The measure extends the moratorium through December 31, 2016 (instead of through April 1, 2014) and exempts Chicago. This gives Illinois more time create rules regarding how these schools will be regulated in Illinois. The bill now heads to the Governor for his signature.
Attempt to make ‘Safe Passage’ for Students, Safer
Following the closure of more than 50 elementary schools last year, CPS created a ‘Safe Passage’ program to oversee the security of K - 8 children traveling long distances through unfamiliar neighborhoods. This has triggered concerns around the safety of public school students in Chicago, and with good reason. The neighborhoods in which these schools were closed have some of the highest crime rates in the nation.

Earlier in the legislative session, lawmakers held a subject matter hearing on "Safe Passage," questioning CPS officials and managers of the Safe Passage Program.
Not reassured by what they heard from CPS, Rep. Flowers and Sen. Lightford pushed forth with HB 3662, legislation that could reimburse custodians of children traveling within 1 1Ž2 miles from home to school. No funding has been allocated to support this reimbursement, but the groundwork was laid for possible reimbursement in the future.

While lawmakers have adjourned, please stay tuned for important legislative updates throughout the summer.






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