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Legislative update 3.20.15

The Illinois House and Senate were in session this week. With the Friday, March 27 committee deadline in both chambers quickly approaching, the IFT Department of Political Activities is closely tracking bills that would impact our members and watching for last minute amendments to legislation. Below is a review of important legislative activity this week in Springfield.

Tuition waiver update
HB 403, a bill to eliminate tuition waivers at state universities, was amended this week. As amended, the legislation eliminates the 50% tuition waiver for university faculty and staff over the next four years (instead of immediately).

While the legislation passed the State Government Committee this week, its sponsor, Rep. Jack Franks, has agreed to hold the legislation and not call it for a floor vote, pending additional study and analysis of all waiver policies in Illinois.  

The IFT will work to further clarify the roll that these waivers play in the recruitment and retention of university employees and why they are critical to the overall compensation of workers who have chosen a career in the field of higher education.

Resolution to examine PARCC is introduced
As PARCC testing continues around the state, Rep. Drury (D-Highwood) introduced HJR 58, a resolution that urges the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to reconsider its use of the PARCC exam as a way to test students' readiness for higher education, and to instead consider the use of alternative Common Core-based exams. IFT position = SUPPORT

Heavily-negotiated school discipline bill clears Senate committee
The Senate Education Committee approved SB 100 this week, a measure that would make significant changes to student suspension and expulsion procedures and require school districts to implement comprehensive new policies.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), has been negotiating the legislation with interested parties over the past year.  IFT position = SUPPORT

Meeks and other members confirmed to ISBE board
This week the Senate confirmed five new members to the Illinois State Board of Education. Among the appointments are Rev. James Meeks, former State Senator. Also appointed were Lula Ford, Craig Lindvahl, Eligio Pimentel, and John Sanders. Learn more about these new board members on the ISBE website.

Suicide awareness bill approved
A measure seeking to develop a school curriculum on youth suicide awareness and prevention passed the Senate Education Committee this week. SB 1793 was sponsored by State Sen. Mike Hastings (D-Tinley Park) after a tragic incident occurred in his district. Read more about it here.

State Board of Education discusses School Funding Reform Act
At their monthly meeting on March 18, the Illinois State Board of Education discussed SB 1 (Manar), including a brief overview of the preliminary results of their modeling. Dr. Marguerite Roza, Director of Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University and a national expert on the topic, provided input. The Board plans further discussion as a Committee of the Whole in the coming months. At this time, the legislature has not taken action to advance the bill, nor has ISBE completed district by district impact runs.

Trailer bill on priority district status advances
SB 665 (Sen. Steans) as amended provides for a five-day notice from a school district to an exclusive bargaining agent (union) that a district has been identified as a designated priority district. SB 665 is a trailer bill to a measure that passed last session, and seeks to give teachers, students, and staff the necessary notification to digest and prepare for the changes that result from priority district status.
IFT position = SUPPORT

FY15 budget concerns
On January 1, 2015, the 5 percent temporary income tax increase was not renewed, returning the rate to 3.75 percent and cutting state revenues by roughly $2 billion in the final half of FY15, and an additional $4 billion in FY16 (which begins July 1). Lawmakers, legislative leaders, and the Governor’s office are continuing talks about how to address this deficit, including the possibility of mid-year cuts.

Members of all IFT constituencies - teachers, PSRPs, higher education, and public employees - could be harmed by mid-year cuts. While a final proposal has not surfaced, many questions are being asked about how such cuts would impact districts, institutions, and agencies which have already budgeted and committed to pay for salaries and services for the reminder of the year.

Legislation addressing the FY15 budget could come before the legislature as soon as next week, so stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

FY16 budget discussions continue

The Legislative Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate are hearing weekly from different state agencies and constituency groups regarding the FY16 budget. As you probably know, Governor Rauner’s proposed FY16 budget contains some harmful cuts that would impact IFT members and those we serve. The House Appropriations Committees discussed potential cuts this week to higher education and state employee group insurance.

To date, the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee has taken testimony from SIU, EIU, NIU, ISU, and U of I regarding Rauner’s proposed 31.5% cut to higher education. University presidents have outlined the impact these cuts will have on educational, research, service, and economic development missions of the Universities, including:

- Decline in student services
- Threatened quality of education
- Increased time to degree completion
- Reduced workforce
- Diminished service to the state
- Challenged research environment

The Department of Central Management Services testified in the House Appropriations General Services Committee about their plans to reduce state employee group health insurance costs by $700 million.

The House and Senate will return on Tuesday, March 24, and appropriations hearings will continue next week in both chambers.

Visit Under the Dome weekly for the latest updates on legislative action, and check the IFT Watch List to view additional legislative proposals the IFT is tracking.




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