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Legislative update 4.22.16

Legislators spent most of their time this week passing bills to the opposite chamber. Next week, they will be in their district offices before the last scheduled month of session.

Higher education stopgap measure approved
Lawmakers in both chambers approved a $600 million plan to fund state colleges, universities, and student financial aid (MAP grants) through the summer.
Appropriations included in SB 2059 (Sen. Cullerton, D-Chicago/Rep. Currie, D-Chicago) and in SB 2047 (Cullerton) will prevent immediate college closures, help students plan for their future, and begin to address the crisis Governor Rauner created.

Unlike previous higher education funding bills which he vetoed, the Governor is expected to sign this legislation.
FY16 and FY17 budgets
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees took testimony and requests for FY17 budget proposals. No additional revenue or spending plan has been finalized at this time.

Fair tax passes out of committee, Millionaire’s Tax fails
HJRCA 59 and HB 689, components of the newly proposed Fair Tax measure, passed out of the House Executive committee this week and await consideration by the full House.

The rate structure for the new tax is contained in HB 689. This proposal determines individual and business tax rates based on ability to pay. The Fair Tax would generate over $1.9 billion in new revenue for public education and state services and cut taxes for more than 99% of taxpayers. Tax rates would only significantly increase on incomes of more than $500,000. This measure would only go into effect if Illinois voters approve a constitutional amendment.

HJRCA 59 would put the constitutional amendment on the ballot in November if it passes both chambers with a three-fifths majority vote by May 7.

HJRCA 26, a constitutional amendment known as the Millionaire’s Tax, came up short in the House last week. It would have provided almost $1billion in dedicated funding for public schools. More than 64% of Illinois voters supported this idea in an advisory referendum in 2014.

Property tax freeze advances

HB 696, (Rep. Franks, D-Marengo) would apply PTELL to all non-home rule units of government and permanently freeze property tax extensions beginning in the 2015 levy year. The IFT opposed this measure due to concerns that it will limit local property tax revenue to zero growth. Combined with cuts in state funding, this could lead to increased teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and loss of education programs.

ISBE Districts of Innovation bill fails to gain traction         

SB 3422, (Sen. McConnaughay, R-Chicago) a bill that would allow school districts to waive out of any and all statutory requirements, was introduced. The initiative, a model ALEC proposal, was troubling to both teachers’ unions and management officials. The bill is not expected to see further movement, but a subject matter hearing may be held in the future.

No numbers yet on Manar school funding bill

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), the sponsor of the 2014 school formula re-write bill (SB 16) has reintroduced a similar measure in SB 231. The measure was previously approved in Senate Executive committee but is awaiting consideration in the full Senate.
Like the original plan, SB 231 would collapse special education funding into the General State Aid (GSA) formula so those dollars would also be distributed based on need. The new plan would also include a hold harmless provision, guaranteeing that no school district would lose funding in the first year. The new formula would be phased in over four years to allow school districts that would eventually receive less state funding the opportunity to plan and make adjustments accordingly. The proposal would also eliminate block grant funding for Chicago Public Schools, but provide the district $200 million annually to support the teachers’ pension fund.
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has been asked to determine the funding breakdown for each school district under the plan. The IFT is waiting for this information before taking a position on the bill.


Bill filed to extend the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC)

To ensure that teachers continue to have a state level voice on evaluation issues, the IFT worked with Sen. Kim Lightford (D-Westchester) to pass SB 240. The measure would extend the expiration date of the statewide Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) from June 2017 to June 2021.
The bill passed unanimously in the Senate. It now moves to the House.

Charter cap lift bill advances despite opposition

A measure that would eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools was not taken up by the House this week. The bill, HB 6142 (Rep. Barb Wheeler, R - Crystal Lake), was narrowly approved by the House Executive Committee last week. CTU and IFT testified in opposition to the bill, specifically reminding legislators that:

  • Eliminating the cap on charter schools provides additional incentives to expand charter schools.

  • A cap on charter schools in Chicago is meaningless because of the state’s charter law loophole that allows networks to replicate multi-campus charters at will. Despite a "cap" of 70, there are actually more than 130 charter campuses in the city.

  • Concern about the policy of lifting the cap. As recently seen, Chicago Public Schools tried to close down 3 charter schools due to underperformance. The State Charter Commission overturned that action and the schools will remain open. While the district is suing the commission to close them again, we see a lifting of the charter cap as an issue of local control for School districts.

While the measure isn’t moving at this time, IFT will closely monitor the bill through the end of session.

Student data bill passes Senate

A measure to prohibit advertising to students and ensure protection of their information gained approval in the Senate this week.
SB 229 (Sen. Mike Hastings, D - Tinley Park) was an agreement between school management and the vendor community. Any violation of the legislation would constitute an unlawful practice for which the attorney general may take appropriate action under consumer fraud laws. The IFT was neutral on the legislation, but we do believe the bill is a step in the right direction toward protecting students’ information.
The measure now moves to the House.

School districts facing repayment of funds due to state error

Local taxing districts, including schools, township road districts, and more must repay an estimated $168 million from the corporate personal property-tax replacement (CPPRT) fund as the result of a calculation error by the State.
The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) found the error last month, and CPPRT payments to districts were reduced in April. It is expected that districts will continue to receive reduced amounts and that some districts will see further reductions as their “repayment” to the state. The error may potentially impact GSA allocations for FY16. For foundation level districts, $1 of CPPRT = $1 GSA.

Union efforts stall mandates measures

The IFT, IEA, and other education advocates staved off the de-mandation of driver education and physical education and preserved protections for third-party contracting.

HB 6164, (Rep. Sandack, R-Downers Grove), would allow school districts to contract out driver education without having to request a waiver. The bill also eliminates the requirement that private companies provide their employees with a benefits package comparable to that of school district employees, and provides additional reasons to allow students to be exempt from P.E. The IFT opposed HB 6164, and it failed to pass out of House committee.

HB 825, (Rep. Yingling, D-Grayslake), would allow Round Lake Community Unit School District 116 to permanently reduce P.E. to just two days per week. The IFT opposes this bill because it could set a dangerous precedent. To date, it has not been called in the House Elementary and Secondary Education committee.

Bill would update educator licensure

SB 2912 (Sen. Luechtefeld, D-Okawville), a measure to update sections of the Illinois Licensure code, was introduced this week. This legislation would grant greater reciprocity for educators trained in other states to teach in Illinois schools. It would also amend the Teacher Leader section of school code, creating seven requirements teachers must meet to earn that endorsement.
SB 2912 also amends sections that deal with substitute teaching. The measure would: simplify the process by which out-of-state educators or those on ‘retired’ status may teach as substitutes; allow ‘lapsed’ licenses to be converted to ‘retired’ status for subbing purposes; and not require substitutes to take the basic skills or Work Keys tests. A substitute license would be valid for five years.

Charter schools required to meet higher standards, for renewal

HB 5918 (Rep. Thapedi, D- Chicago) passed the House this week. This bill requires charter schools to meet higher benchmarks in order to renew their charters for a period longer than five years. IFT opposed the original draft of this legislation and successfully worked to remove the most objectionable aspects of the bill.

Students, teachers rally at the State Capitol for higher education funding

Hundreds of IFT members, students, and others descended on the State Capitol from all across Illinois on Wednesday for massive rallies during a higher education day of action.

The day’s events began with a rally and march to the Governor's mansion, followed by a second protest at a nearby location. After the speakers united the crowd, participants went to the Capitol to lobby for education funding and tax fairness proposals.

House committee approves elected City Colleges board

HB 4312 (Rep. Martwick D-Chicago) would establish a democratically-elected board for the City Colleges of Chicago and finally give city residents a say in how their city colleges operate. Currently the seven-member board is appointed by the mayor. The House Higher Education Committee approved the legislation by a vote of 13-1. The legislation now moves to the House.

If you live in Cook County, help IFT members in the Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600, keep the “community”  in Chicago’s community colleges! Call your Representative today to urge passage of HB 4312.

Both chambers are scheduled to return Tuesday, May 3. Watch Under the Dome for updates.



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