The General Assembly returned on Monday, April 23, for a full week as the House and Senate scrambled to pass bills out of each chamber before the Friday deadline.
Here are highlights of this week’s action:
Fair tax resolution introduced
Speaker Madigan introduced HR 1025, a resolution in support of a progressive income tax.
IFT President Dan Montgomery issued this statement in support of the resolution:
“Throughout our state, parents who want their children to receive a world-class education and homeowners who want relief from rising property taxes can agree on one thing: the system is unfair and needs to change. This is the change we need, and this is the opportunity for all who claim they’re on the side of taxpayers and educators to prove it.”
Learn more about the fair tax from the Responsible Budget Coalition.
Leaders from both chambers have met and the appropriations committees have heard agency testimony, but a comprehensive budget proposal has yet to surface. Legislators will likely develop a FY19 budget during the final weeks of session in May.
IFT initiatives advance
HB 1595 (Stuart) amends the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act. The bill would allow nursing mothers in jobs like teaching, food service, and nursing to express milk at the workplace without taking sick or personal time. HB 1595 passed the House unanimously and is now headed to the Senate for further consideration.
HB 5136 (Slaughter) makes two changes to statute:
Requires each school district’s Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) joint committee to convene at least once per year (which was a best practice suggestion of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee (PEAC), and;
Clarifies the intent of PA 97-008/SB 7 (Education Reform) that the Reduction in Force (RIF) and Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) committees be excluded from the Open Meetings Act, along with the negotiating team strategy sessions.
The bill passed the House and is headed to the Senate for further consideration.
SB 3220 (Aquino) provides that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) shall not approve a course of study under the Alternative Educator Licensure Program for Teachers unless ISBE can demonstrate that there is a need for a particular type of licensed educator offered by the course of study. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.
HB 5137 (Martwick) allows TRS to develop an optional defined-contribution plan administered by the system. The intention is for school districts to offer this plan, much like the supplemental 403(b) plans that teachers already participate in throughout the state. The bill will provide quality investments at a lower fee than current plans. The bill passed the House and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
HB 4237 (Carroll) establishes an Illinois Excellence Fund in the state treasury. The fund will accept contributions exclusively for public educational purposes, including; early childhood, K-12, higher education, adult education, and teachers’ employment benefits. The bill is an attempt to provide relief from the federal State and Local Tax (SALT) changes. HB 4237 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Revenue committee next week.
SB 2260 (Tracy) creates a loss of Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax (CPPRT) “hold harmless” for schools whose total CPPRT revenues reach 13 percent or more. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is currently in the House Rules committee.
SB 2236 (Bertino-Tarrant) ensures public schools are funded adequately before any state funds are diverted to pay for tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporate scholarship donors under the new Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program. The deadline for the Senate to hear the bill has been extended to May 3.
Bills address the need for teachers and substitutes
HB 5627, Amendment 1 (Bennett) modifies out-of-state reciprocity requirements, creates a flexible short term substitute teacher license, and allows retired teachers to substitute teach for up to 20 additional days. The IFT has taken a neutral position on the amendment. The bill passed the House.
HB 5144, Am. #1(Mayfield) lessens coursework requirements for candidates entering alternative licensure programs. Currently, a bachelor’s degree in core content areas (math, science, social studies, or language arts) is required. HB 5144 replaces coursework requirement with a content area test.
IFT opposes this measure because it would:
Roll back teacher licensure advancements and allow fast-track, on-line programs;
Undercut years of effort in developing a highly-qualified, professional teaching force;
Marginalize ongoing stakeholder discussions about addressing teacher retention problems; and
Diminish professional standards, harming our neediest students and communities.
HB 5144 passed the House Education Licensure committee and awaits a vote by the full House.
HB 4742 (Mayfield) allows for 3rd party contracting of substitute teacher services. Currently, school districts recruit and coordinate substitute teachers. Under this proposal, school districts may contract with a private company to perform this work. IFT opposed this measure because it privatizes the work being done by school or district staff and does not address the underlying causes of the substitute shortage – pay, training, support, and a pathway for retirees to return as substitutes without penalizing their retirement benefits. Identical versions of the bill passed in both the House and Senate.
School safety issues have been at the forefront of legislators minds this spring. In response, a number of bills have passed out of the House and Senate, including:
SB 2350 (Morrison) requires that the law enforcement drill required by the School Safety Drill Act must address an active shooter and must be done when students are present. School personnel and students would participate in the drill with law enforcement observing;
SB 2925 (Lightford) codifies the role of school resource officers (SRO);
HB 4208 (Welch) seeks to enhance restorative justice procedures in schools while calling for additional counselors and psychologists; and
SB 563 (Cunningham) cracks down on individuals who threaten a school via social media. The bill requires those individuals to reimburse police departments for the added security and emergency response costs. Under current law, individuals are already required to pay these costs but only if they make the threat via a 9-1-1 call or if they specifically threaten to use a bomb.
Class size goals clears House
HB 5481 (Guzzardi) helps the state gather better data related to class sizes. The legislation asks the Illinois State Board of Education to report out data about pupil-teacher ratios and sets forth class size goals to be achieved by the 2020-21 school year. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
Parents seeking more say in where twins or multiples are placed
HB 4368 (Halbrook) gives parents more input on placement of twins or multiples in schools, codifying existing law. The Illinois statues were unclear on this. The bill now moves to the Senate.
Measure would notify students of mental health services
HB 5770 (Conroy) requires school boards to notify students and families that they may be eligible to receive mental health services from the school district under a federal Section 504 plan passed this week. The bill now moves to the Senate.
A look ahead
The Senate will be back in session on Tuesday, May 1. The House will return the following week.
Watch Under the Dome for updates on legislative action.