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Education issues take spotlight in Springfield

2/11/2018
The Illinois General Assembly will return to Springfield on Tuesday to continue considering bills in committees. Here are some highlights of this week’s action.
 
Rauner to give budget address on Wednesday
The governor will deliver his annual budget address on Wednesday, February 14. He has pledged to present a balanced budget; it would be the first time he’s done so during his tenure. Rauner painted a rosy picture of Illinois during his State of the State address two weeks ago, but failed to take responsibility for the problems he’s created, including his two-year budget impasse that hurt our K12 schools, universities, and communities.
 
Teacher shortage takes spotlight; subject matter hearings planned
The House Education Licensure, Administration, and Oversight Committee has convened a subcommittee on the teacher shortage. The committee plans to hold informational hearings in the coming weeks. Discussions about the teacher shortage are expected to occur in the Senate Education Committee as well.

Members discussed two bills in subcommittee this week. HB 4167 (Parkhurst, R-Kankakee) would allow a student who is enrolled in an educator preparation program at a regionally accredited institution of higher education and has earned at least 90 credit hours at that institution to apply for a Substitute Teaching License. HB 4280 (Pritchard, R-Sycamore) would require ISBE to establish and maintain the Growing Future Educators Program to train high school graduates who are English language learners and are enrolled in an approved educator preparation program to become secondary language educators. Votes were not taken on either proposal.
 
Senate Ed committee focuses on school funding
Still stinging from the need to override the Rauner’s veto of SB 444, legislators heard testimony from State Superintendent Tony Smith before the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Smith provided an update on the status of distributing $350 million in additional state money for education that was included in the FY19 budget. The new money will (eventually) be distributed using the new funding formula, which is designed to steer the most state money to the districts most in need.
 
ISBE now says it needs more than 20 technical changes to the evidence-based funding legislation before it can distribute the money. Smith said that April remains ISBE’s target date for distribution.
 
Tuition waivers in jeopardy
HB 4235, (Pritchard, R-DeKalb), would prohibit districts from waiving the out of district tuition fees for their employee teachers who live out of district but want their children to attend school in the district in which they teach. The sponsor claims eliminating the waiver would save costs for district. The bill would still allow the fees to be waived if the district is in a certified teacher shortage area.

IFT opposes this legislation, which would worsen the teacher shortage and eliminate district authority. The bill passed out of committee.
 
Widespread early voting delays
Some Illinois county clerks have delayed early voting due to ballot challenges. In Chicago and Cook county, the delay may last up to two weeks. Officials in Lake, St. Clair, McClean, and other counties have also announced a delay. If you are planning to vote in the next two weeks, first check with your county clerk’s office. To learn more about the candidates and the issues before you vote, visit ift-aft.org/VOTE.
Stay tuned to Under the Dome for legislative updates.

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