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Legislative update 5.16.16

5/16/2016
Despite a bipartisan budget plan developed by a group of lawmakers and the fast-approaching May 31 session adjournment date, a resolution to Governor Rauner’s budget impasse is now not expected until after the November election.

Here are the highlights of last week’s action:
Budget discussions continue
A bipartisan group of legislators crafted and delivered a budget plan to legislative leaders and the Governor last week. Details are scarce, but the proposal reportedly includes a combination of tax increases, including: raising the personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to as much as 4.85 percent; expanding the sales tax to certain services; and eliminating some corporate tax breaks. The plan has also been reported to include $2.5 billion in spending cuts. In addition, the proposal would allow the state skip repayment of the $450 million it borrowed from special funds last year to plug a separate budget hole.
School funding discussion heats up
The Senate passed SB 231 (Sen. Manar, D-Bunker Hill) by a vote of 31-21-3. Like Manar’s original SB 16 school funding 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 include a hold harmless provision to guarantee that no school district would lose funding in the first year. The new formula would be phased in over four years to allow districts that would eventually receive less state funding the opportunity to plan ahead. 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.

Click here to view ISBE’s modeling of the impact SB 231 would have on individual school districts (based on FY15 appropriations).  

SB 231 now moves to the House, where its fate is uncertain. To date, the only other school funding proposal to be filed is the FY17 budget proposed by the Governor. His proposal would increase state spending on schools, but continue to distribute the funds in an inequitable manner. The House Education Funding task force and ISBE did meet last week to hear from proponents of a third education funding proposal, touted as an "evidence-based model."
School funding task force report on the horizon
Since February, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie has lead hearings of the bipartisan Education Funding Task Force. The task force has heard input from educators and advocates from throughout the state and is expected to issue a report in the coming weeks.
IFT PSRP recall rights measure clears Senate committee
HB 6299, (Sen. Bush, D-Grayslake), an IFT initiative that would provide recall rights for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs), was approved unanimously by the Senate Education Committee last week. The measure requires that if a PRSP is called back to work within one year of the time he or she was subject to a reduction in force (RIF), the PSRP will maintain any rights and benefits accrued.
HB6299testimony  
The IFT Department of Political Activities wishes to thank Terry Kays (far left) and Karen Rolfingsmeyer (left) from the Kaskaskia Special Education Association, IFT Local 4336, who testified in favor of the measure. Both were RIF’ed at the end of a school year, then called back in the fall and informed they were considered new employees with no accrued benefits for their previous years of service. 

HB 6299 is expected to be considered by the full Senate this month.
IFT bill to close PD “blackout” window moves to Senate committee
During their license renewal year, Illinois educators currently cannot enter professional development hours earned from April 1- June 30. HB 6181 (Sen. Martinez, D-Chicago), an IFT initiative that would close that unfair professional development blackout window, passed unanimously in Senate Education committee this week. The measure will be considered by the full Senate before session adjourns later this month.
Testing opt-out bill held in committee
HB 306, (Sen. Delgado, D-Chicago and Rep. Guzzardi, D-Chicago) creates a structure for parents who want to opt their children out of standardized testing. The bill requires schools to notify parents annually about their right to opt out, and educators are not allowed to encourage or discourage opting out. The measure passed the House with bi-partisan support but stalled in the Senate Education committee. The future of the legislation is uncertain.
Private equity and hedge fund fees
HB 6292, (Sen. Biss, D-Evanston) would require additional public disclosure of fees paid by Illinois public pension funds to hedge fund and private equity managers. The measure would help protect the pension systems from misuse like the recent findings regarding the use of public pension fund investment fees for such things as private plane trips and other non-investment related expenses. The legislation passed in Senate Executive Committee last week and now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.  
Teacher licensure bill moves through House
SB 2912, (Rep. Crespo, D - Elgin), a measure to update sections of the Illinois Licensure code, gained approval from a House committee last 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.  

The measure will be taken up by the full house before the end of the month.
A look ahead
Lawmakers in both chambers are scheduled to return on Tuesday, May 17. Watch Under the Dome for updates.

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