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Legislative update - week of 2/28/20

2/28/2020
The Illinois General Assembly spent most of the week working through bills in committees and advancing bills on the floor. The legislature will be in session again next week before taking a week off in preparation for the primary election on March 17. 

Notable action this week includes: 

FY21 Budget
House and Senate Appropriations committees began taking testimony this week. Legislators heard from Eastern Illinois University, Governor’s State University, University of Illinois, and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. 

Next Tuesday, IFT will testify before the Appropriations - House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee about the importance of funding induction and mentoring programs and other K12 budget line items. 

Retiree Health Insurance
The governor’s FY 2021 budget includes restructuring the funding for the health insurance plans for retired teachers and retired community college professionals. The Teachers Retirement Insurance Plan (TRIP) provides subsidized health insurance for retired teachers outside the city of Chicago. The College Insurance Program (CIP) provides subsidized health insurance benefits for community college retirees outside the city of Chicago. Both programs are funded by the state, community colleges, active community college professionals, and retirees but differ in several ways.

The most significant difference is the way the contributions from these sources are adjusted annually to consider inflation and the increasing cost of health care. Under TRIP, contributions from the state and active teachers are adjusted based upon the projected increase in premiums for retirees. This “escalator” has resulted in a plan that is fiscally healthy and currently up to date with paying the expenses of the plan. In fact, projections show that by FY 2028, the plan will have an $800 million surplus or funds in excess of the amount needed to maintain the current payment cycle. In contrast, CIP does not have this escalator and as a result the plan has fallen into financial distress. The plan is projected to have a $300 million deficit by FY 2028. 

Given these challenges, the governor is recommending changes to these plans that reflect their current financial status. The TRIP proposal includes a reduction in the employee, employer, and state contributions to the plan while maintaining the 5% escalator clause. The CIP proposal includes an increase in employee, employer, and state contributions along with the enactment of a 5% escalator clause that will help the plan keep pace with the increase in health care cost eliminate the backlog of current bills by 2028. IFT is in discussion with the administration about these plans and will be monitoring this issue closely this session.     
 
Pensions
Legislation allowing for the purchase of private school credit by members of TRS was approved by the Senate Government Accountability and Pensions Committee this week. SB 3027 (Sen. McClure, R- Springfield) will allow for the member to pay the employee and employer contribution required for up to 2 years of service credit in TRS. The member must have completed at least 10 years of service in TRS and apply before June 30, 2021, to be eligible for the purchase of credit. The legislation must be approved by the Senate and the House before the governor can consider the proposal.

SB 2478 (Sen. Manar, D- Bunker Hill) allows a retired teacher to return to service without impacting their retirement for up to 120 days or 600 hours each school year. A retiree must wait until the year after they retired in order to be able to return to service.      
Elementary and Secondary Education
The House and Senate Education Committees advanced several bills to the floor: 

SB 2474 (Sen. Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield) provides that a course in financial literacy may be taken towards the fulfillment of the mathematics requirement that each pupil entering the 9th grade must successfully complete to receive a high school diploma.

SB 3222 (Sen. Bennett, D-Champaign) allows parents to opt their children out of school safety drills. The Senator spoke in committee about a potential amendment to alleviate the concerns of the IFT as well as the Illinois State Board of Education. 

SB 2954 (Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glen View) requires that public schools and districts disclose the use of tar-coal based sealants applied to playgrounds and parking lots through public posting. It also requires schools and districts to seek alternatives to the use of tar-coal based sealants, which pose health hazards. 

HB 4306 (Rep. Harper, D-Chicago) provides that a charter school’s auditor shall not be an employee of the charter school or affiliated with the charter school or its authorizer in any way, other than to audit the charter school’s finances. 

HB 4417 (Rep. DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights) provides that before a school board makes a final decision on whether a site or building has become unnecessary, unsuitable, or inconvenient for a school, the school board must hold at least 3 public hearings, one per month for 3 consecutive months, the sole purpose of which shall be to discuss the decision and to receive input from the community. Further amendments to come.

HB 4510 (Rep. Scherer, D- Decatur) would allow teachers in contractual continued service whose performance is rated as either "excellent" or "proficient" to be evaluated at least once in the course of the three school years (rather than every two years). This bill is an initiative of the IFT that came out of the recommendations of the PERA survey completed by members in December 2019. 

ISBE Emergency Rules on Isolation and Seclusion and Updated Guidance
On Tuesday February 25, ISBE filed a second set of emergency rules to allow for the use of isolated time out in limited circumstances, effective immediately. The emergency amendment allows for limited use of isolated time out when the adult in the time out space faces imminent danger of serious physical harm. 

ISBE has issued an updated guidance document for the Emergency Regulations for the Use of Time Out and Physical Restraint. View the updated guidance here. ISBE has also revised the reporting form for physical restraint and time out. View the updated form here. IFT public comments on the proposed rules can be found here.

Make Your Voice Heard in the March 17 Primary Election
The March 17 Illinois primary is just over two weeks away. In this election, voters will decide nominees for the fall election. The offices on the primary ballot include president, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, state senator, and state representative. 

Register to vote online through midnight this Sunday, March 1. Request vote by mail applications by Thursday, March 12. 

Don’t forget to check out IFT endorsed candidates who are committed to supporting public education, state services, and essential programs before voting!  
 
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