Legislative update 6.1.16

by Beth Camplain | Jun 01, 2016
After a frenzied day of activity, Illinois lawmakers left Springfield on the final day of scheduled session late Tuesday without passing a budget.

After a frenzied day of activity, Illinois lawmakers left Springfield on the final day of scheduled session late Tuesday without passing a budget that would fund K-12 education, higher education, or state services.

IFT President Dan Montgomery said this after session ended:

"The Governor finally did the right thing by setting aside his personal agenda of non-budget items, at least temporarily. However, we are disappointed with his disingenuous last-minute call to rush through a stopgap budget in the final hours of session.

We thank Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton for their continued leadership in the budget process and look forward to swift action from the bipartisan working group that will allow schools to begin on time, colleges and universities to keep their doors open, and vital state services to continue.

The real damage that has been done to higher education and social services as Gov. Rauner stubbornly held out for his so-called "turnaround" agenda for the last 11 months is unconscionable. While an interim budget isn't ideal, we are hopeful that it can serve as a step in the right direction.

For the sake of Illinois’ future, we urge the Governor to refocus his priorities to work on real, sustainable revenue solutions that are fair to all Illinois communities."

The Senate did vote to approve, HB 2990, a stand-alone K-12 education bill, but the measure received only 24 affirmative votes in the House.

Just after that vote, the House adopted a resolution proclaiming that both chambers will remain in “continuous session,” leaving considerable uncertainty on many issues as summer approaches. Both chambers are expected to return to Springfield on Wednesday, June 8th.

Here is an overview of issues the IFT worked on or monitored during this session:

PSRP recall rights bill heads to Governor
HB 6299, (Rep. Andrade, D-Chicago/Sen. Bush, D-Grayslake) and IFT initiative that provides recall rights for paraprofessionals and school related personnel (PSRP’s), was approved by both chambers this session. The measure resulted from an unfair reduction in force (RIF) situation that harmed 21 PSRPs in a downstate school district, causing them to lose seniority, pay, and health care benefits.

HB 6299 requires that if a PSRP is called back to work within one year of the time he or she was subject to a RIF, the PSRP will maintain any rights and benefits accrued.

IFT bill to close PD “blackout” window approved
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/Rep. Willis, D-Chicago), an IFT initiative would close that unfair “professional development blackout window.” The measure passed both Houses unanimously and awaits the Governor’s signature.

Private equity and hedge fund fees approved by Senate
HB 6292, (Sen. Biss, D-Evanston/Rep. Nekritz, D-Chicago) 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.

Chicago elected school board bill to be heard this summer
Last November, 87 percent of Chicagoans voting in 327 precincts approved an advisory referendum for an elected representative school board for Chicago Public Schools. In response, Rep. Martwick (D-Chicago) sponsored House Amendment #1 to HB 557 to allow Chicago school board members to be elected beginning in March 2018. The measure cleared the Illinois House and has yet to be taken up by the Senate. The Senate plans to hold hearings on the bill in Chicago this summer.

City College elected board bill advances, then stalls
HB 4312 (Rep. Martwick, D-Chicago) would establish an elected City Colleges of Chicago board of trustees that would be directly responsible to the citizens of Chicago and give a forum for the role that these colleges have in the education of students. The legislation passed the House overwhelmingly but was not called for consideration in the Senate.


Fair Tax dies without a vote
The legislature adjourned without considering HJRCA 59, the Fair Tax amendment. The proposal would have given Illinois voters the chance to amend the state Constitution and pave the way for a fair tax structure that generates more money for schools and services while cutting taxes for 99.3% of taxpayers.

The IFT is a member of the Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC), which issued a statement criticizing the lack of action and Rauner’s efforts to effectively block the measure despite it’s overwhelming popularity with voters.

Millionaire’s tax fails
HJRCA 26, a constitutional amendment known as the Millionaire's Tax, came up short this session. It would have provided almost $1billion in dedicated funding for public schools. More than 64 percent of Illinois voters supported this idea in an advisory referendum in 2014. The measure failed by just three votes in Springfield last session.

HJRCA 26 needed to be approved by both chambers to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November and give voters the chance to make this popular measure law.


Teacher licensure bill moves through House
SB 2912, (Rep. Crespo, D-Elgin/Sen. Luechtefeld, R-Okawville), a measure to update sections of the Illinois Licensure code, was approved in the Senate but has yet to gain approval in the House. 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.  

Testing opt-out bill held in Senate
HB 306, (Sen. Delgado, D-Chicago/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. Its future is uncertain.

Lawmakers approve measure to seek clarification on testing gains
HB 5901, (Rep. Guzzardi, D-Chicago), gained approval in the House and Senate this session. The IFT-supported bill would provide transparency in statewide testing by requiring every school to report reliable information for every assessment. The measure awaits the Governor’s signature.

Retired teacher employment extended for two years
SB 235, (Rep. Mitchell/Sen. Bertino-Tarrant), will allow retired educators to return to work, longer than the current 100 days, without impairing their retirement status. The measure extends that time period to 120 days. If signed by the Governor, it will sunset in 2018.

“Breakfast After the Bell” program overcomes hurdles
SB 2393 (Rep. Pritchard, R-Sycamore/Sen. Harmon, D-Oak Park) requires many Illinois schools and districts to establish a “Breakfast After the Bell” program. Qualifying schools (those with 70 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced lunch) must provide breakfast, but they may choose to serve it before or after the instructional day has begun. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is required to establish and share guidelines for acceptable breakfast programs and collect data about participation. ISBE is also expected to collaborate with nonprofit groups, philanthropies, and districts to communicate and identify best practices in equity, the opportunity gap, hunger and food security issues, and improving student access to school breakfast. The bill was approved by both houses and now moves to the Governor.

College and career readiness pilot advances
HB 5729 (Rep. K. Burke, D-Oak Lawn/Sen. Biss, D-Evanston) was approved in both chambers and awaits the Governor’s signature. This pilot program encourages districts to develop a model for improved college and career preparedness and a curriculum that aligns with that model. The legislation requires participating districts to develop pathways for students to earn college credit in mathematics. Students would then choose a pathway that aligns with their college or career goals, such as STEM, other technical fields, or data analysis. Other provisions include development of industry sector endorsements on diplomas to show that graduates have taken coursework or have work experience to make them career-ready.

This pilot has a limited scope and must be agreed to by teachers and management within a district prior to beginning the program.


School funding and budget proposals abundant in final days

In addition to SB 2048 (Sen. Cullerton, D- Chicago) a bill that provided an additional $700 million dollars for education, the House and Senate took action on a series of school funding and budget bills, including:

HB 3190
The Senate approved HB 3190 which would change how school funding is distributed and provide $205 million to Chicago Public Schools for payment to the teachers’ pension fund. For FY 2017, state aid would be distributed through the formula contained in Senator Manar’s plan (SB 231). For fiscal years 2018 and beyond, education funding would be distributed based on an Evidence-Based Funding Model. The bill was posted in the House Executive committee but was not called for a vote.

HB 828
Evidence-based funding language was contained in an amendment filed to HB 828. The amendment is pending in the House Rules Committee.

SB 231
Senator Manar’s proposal, SB 231, was also scheduled for a hearing in the House Executive committee on the last day of session, but the bill was not called. Identical language is also contained in an amendment to HB 829. That amendment is pending in the House Rules committee.

SB 2048
This budget bill would fund an “equity grant”; additional substantive language is expected to emerge to implement that approach. The plan is expected to suspend the use of the current school aid distribution formula for FY17. Instead for FY17, school districts would receive the same amount of General State Aid funding they received in FY16, plus a share of the additional $700 million to be distributed separately based on student poverty counts. The current funding formula will likely not be repealed, but simply suspended for FY17 to allow for time to study potential new funding formulas.

The measure passed in the House but failed in the Senate.

HB 813
The Senate approved a school funding bill Friday, an amendment to HB 813 (Sen. Cullerton, D-Chicago). The bill would suspend the current school funding formula for three years, funding school districts in FY17 with no less revenue than they received in FY16. The measure would redefine the new “equity grant” established in SB 2048 so that poverty funds would be distributed based on a formula that includes the low-income poverty concentration and the district’s local available resources.

The bill would also appropriate $205 million to CPS for its teacher pension fund payment in FY17 and continue such annual payments in the future based on the actuarial normal cost to the pension system.

HB 2990
In the final hours of scheduled session, the House failed to approve HB 2990, (Rep. Currie, D-Chicago), a stand-alone K-12 education budget. The $15.7-billion bill passed the Senate but was soundly defeated in the House. Components of the bill included: level funding for K12 schools at FY16 levels, an additional $700 million to be funneled to districts via a new equity grant based on poverty, as well as funding to cover the normal cost of Chicago and downstate pensions.

HB 4167
HB 4167, (Rep. Madigan, D-Chicago) provides for additional Monetary Award Program (MAP) funding for FY 2016. This funding would bring the total amount of MAP funding for FY16 to over $400 million and fully fund the program. The legislation passed both chambers awaits the Governor’s consideration.

SB 2043 and SB 2059
The House and Senate passed piecemeal FY16 budget proposals, but they were rejected by the Governor. Rauner vetoed SB 2043, (Sen. Cullerton, D-Chicago) which would have provided funding to keep starving higher education institutions open. The Senate did not override the Governor’s veto, but passed SB 2059, (Rep. Currie, D-Chicago) a $3.8 billion budget proposal that also provides funding for higher education and other programs. Many FY16 appropriations remain outstanding or continue only due to court order or consent decree.


Mandates discussion fizzles

The final few scheduled session days included many discussions about third-party contracting, physical education, and driver’s education. The IFT, IEA, and other advocates successfully staved off the harmful demandation proposals contained in HB 6164, (Rep. Sandack, R-Downers Grove) and SB 3098, (Sen. Barickman, R-Bloomington).

Collective bargaining protected
The IFT was key to stopping a bill that threatened collective bargaining. HB 4583, (Rep. Ives, R-Wheaton) would have prohibited a public or educational employer from ratifying any contract agreement until the proposed agreement had been published on the website of the employer. The bill also required the employer to hold a public meeting on the ratification of that agreement not less than 14 days after publishing the agreement.

The bill was defeated in the House Labor and Commerce committee.

State arbitration bill
HB 580 (Rep. Welch, D-Westchester) was called for a second time on the final day of session, but came up three votes short in the House of overriding the Governor's veto. The measure would allow state employee unions to seek binding arbitration as an alternative if they can’t reach agreement on a contract with the Governor.

In addition to AFSCME members, the Governor has not yet reached a contract agreement with IFT members who are part of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408.


Higher education employment law changes

SB 2156, (Sen. Cunningham, D-Chicago/Rep. Burke, D-Oak Lawn) passed the House and Senate. The legislation, in part, allows members of the State University Retirement System to purchase service credit that occurred due to a furlough. The service credit must be purchased at a full cost to the member. In addition, the legislation exempts universities from a charge under the 6 percent limitation on end of career pay raises occurring due to furloughs.


For the latest news throughout the summer, visit Under the Dome and follow the IFT on Facebook and Twitter for updates.