What happened in Springfield?

by Amy Excell | May 31, 2014
The 98th Illinois General Assembly has adjourned. So what happened, and what does it mean to YOU?

The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up session on Saturday, May 31 after approving a budget that kicks the can down the road for another year but spares education from major cuts – for now. While we are disappointed with this temporary fix, the IFT can claim victory on some important bills that will benefit you.

Despite our efforts, the legislature failed to extend the income tax rate which would have funded the Governor’s recommended budget. On January 1, 2015 the state’s personal income tax rate will return to 3.75 percent, resulting in a massive loss in revenue.

Instead, lawmakers passed a Band-Aid budget, which avoids cuts to education funding in FY 15 but may harm other programs and public services. More importantly, it fails to fix the underlying structural revenue problems that may decimate funding for education and services in the future.

A measure that will allow voters to weigh in on whether they would support an additional 3 percent surtax on all individual income over $1 million to be used for education spending is headed to the Governor’s desk. This “Millionaire’s Tax” will appear on the November ballot and could produce up to $1 billion for schools.

As part of the A Better Illinois coalition, the IFT fought to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot asking whether the wealthy should pay a higher income tax rate than others. Unfortunately, lawmakers allowed the deadline to expire on the proposal, denying voters the chance to be heard on this fair tax.

In a huge win that may foreshadow ultimate success, our We Are One Illinois coalition stopped the implementation of pension-slashing SB 1. A state circuit court granted our request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction until the court rules on the law’s constitutionality. Read more about the big news here.

Fix to SB 7
IFT won a major victory for members with the passage of a bill that restores additional recall rights which many teachers lost under SB 7 and clarifies other language.

Education Funding
A substantive bill that would have streamlined the education funding formula and provided more dollars for needy districts, with potential negative impact on other districts, sputtered in the final days of session.

Standardized Testing
An important IFT testing initiative passed both chambers. The bill will help provide a comprehensive picture of the impact of testing in Illinois and guide future legislative policy.

IFT will continue to advocate for our initiative to ensure K-2 students aren’t subject to high-stakes testing before they are developmentally and emotionally ready. The bill remains in hearings.

Learn more about both these IFT initiatives here.

Data Privacy
An important IFT initiative to protect the personally identifiable information of students and educators from third parties, was approved in the Senate but stalled in House committee. The IFT will continue negotiations on the bill language this summer.

Charter Schools
Three key bills were approved this session, while another didn't make the cut:

The IFT-supported Charter Accountability Act requires charter schools to be more transparent and accountable to taxpayers.

The Money Follows the Student initiative provides that if a charter school dismisses a student after the charter is paid by the school district, the charter must refund to the district the tuition for the time the student is not enrolled.

Virtual charter school legislation supported by the IFT will extend the moratorium on establishing charter schools with virtual-schooling components through December 31, 2016 and exempt Chicago. The extension will allow more time to determine how to regulate such schools.

A bill that would have abolished the State Charter School Commission and shifted its responsibilities to a new Charter School Appeals Board under ISBE failed in the House during the final hours of session.

Learn more about the last week of action, then watch the IFT website in the days ahead for an in-depth analysis of this session.

As always, rest assured that the IFT will continue our efforts to pass beneficial legislation - and stop harmful proposals - in the November veto session and beyond.