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NEWS

Legislative Highlights for the Week of 3/8/24

Lawmakers returned to Springfield this week to take further action on bills, with a focus on legislation in committees, rather than the floor. Friday March 15 is the deadline to advance Senate bills out of committee; the House committee deadline is April 5.

 

Notable action this week includes:


SB 15 (Harmon, D-Oak Park) creates the implementation process for an elected school board in Chicago. The bill would create 10 districts in the city and a school board member would be elected in each of those districts in this year’s general election. Mayor Brandon Johnson would appoint an additional school board member in each of those districts. In 2026, the 10 districts would each be divided into 2 sub-districts and all 20 members of the school board would be on the ballot. The bill passed both the House and Senate and now goes to the governor for consideration.


SB 3649 (Peters, D-Chicago) would prohibit Illinois employers from requiring employees to attend employer-sponsored meetings where the primary purpose is to communicate the employer’s opinions on religious or political matters. Some employers have used these meetings to discourage employees from joining a union. The bill passed out of the Senate Labor committee and goes to the full Senate for consideration.


SB 2696 (Morrison, D-Deerfield) requires Type I or Type II school buses to be equipped with a set of three-point seat belts or any other federally approved restraint system. All newly purchased school buses after January 1, 2028, must be equipped with the same restraint system for each passenger. The Senate Transportation Committee discussed this bill as part of a subject matter hearing, including that this proposal would cost an increase of $10,000 per bus, and considering each bus would seat fewer students, additional buses and drivers would be required. Currently only eight states have laws requiring seat belts on school buses, as there is data to support both sides of the argument. The bill remains in the Committee.


SB 3316 (Feigenholtz, D-Chicago) is a proposal that will further the work of the Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative (CBHTI) launched by Governor Pritzker in March of 2022 to evaluate and redesign the delivery of behavioral health services for children in Illinois. Part of the initiative includes a readiness assessment performed by ISBE that will gauge the field’s ability to perform mental health screenings for all children. ISBE shall issue a report to the Governor and the General Assembly on school district readiness and plan for a phased approach to universal mental health screening of students on or before April 1, 2025. This bill does not require mental health screenings for all students but establishes capacity for offering the screenings. The bill passed out of the Senate Behavioral and Mental Health Committee unanimously and will move to the Senate floor.


HB 5393 (Mayfield, D-Waukegan) was passed out of the House Education Administration, Licensing and Charter Schools Committee. This would allow pre-service educators to teach on a provisional license while working to pass their content area test. Rep Mayfield shared with the committee about the struggle of a number of students in her district to pass the content area tests. Rep Mayfield believes that the competency shown by students through successfully passing their college coursework and practicum work should allow them to begin their teaching journey in situations where the students struggle to pass these tests. Test bias and testing anxiety were discussed in depth and there was bipartisan agreement in the committee that constituents are facing this challenge. Rep Mayfield is working with the Illinois State Board of Education on an amendment to HB 5393, but the committee agreed to advance the bill to keep the discussion going.


Subject Matter Hearing on Testing

Rep. Sue Scherer held a subject matter hearing on HB 4955, which would restrict state testing to what is required by the federal government, allow students to opt out of taking the SAT as a graduation requirement, and encourage ISBE to seek federal testing waivers. The bill was discussed but not approved by the House Education Administration Licensing and Charter Schools Committee.


State Literacy Plan and Learning Partners

Rep. Laura Faver Dias (D- Grayslake) passed HB 4902 out of the Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies Committee. HB 4902 requires ISBE learning partners, which work with the lowest performing schools in the state, to align with the state literacy plan.


Streamlining Educator Professional Development Trailer Bill

HB 4653 (Mussman, D- Schaumburg) is trailer legislation to Public Act 103-0542. The bill would further streamline health conditions of students training and incorporate training mandates passed in 2023. The bill is effective January 1, 2025.


Commission on Equitable Public University Funding Report and Next Steps

The Commission on Equitable Public University Funding issued its report on Friday March 1. This week in Springfield, members of the Commission and advocates held a press conference to discuss the recommendations.


Without proper state funding for higher education, the financial burden has fallen on students. Ralph Martire, the executive director at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said the amount of operational funding covered by the state has decreased from 72 percent covered in 2002 to 35 percent in 2021.


Martire said that as the cost to students goes up, college becomes less accessible. Lack of access to higher education perpetuates systemic issues such as income inequality.


Higher education has seen increased funding under the Pritzker administration, notably for the Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants. In the current fiscal year, the state allocated over $700 million in MAP funding, up from about $401 million when Pritzker took office in 2019. The state’s total higher education budget is just over $2.5 billion in the current fiscal year.


The commission has been working to develop a formula to bridge the gap in funding. The commission looked at funding models from five states including Tennessee and California as well as Illinois’ K-12 Evidence-Based Funding model. The commission decided to base the higher education formula on the K-12 model.


The commission’s report will be part of subject matter hearing next week.


Paid Student Teaching Discussion in House Higher Education Committee

Two bills – HB 4652 (Hernandez, D- Aurora) and HB 5414 (Faver Dias, D- Grayslake) – would, for the first time in Illinois, provide state-funded stipends for student teachers. The goal of the legislation is to ease some of the financial burden on teachers-in-training.


Student teaching typically involves a full semester of on-the-job training in a classroom under the supervision of a licensed cooperating teacher. But while student teachers work similar hours as a full-time professional teacher, they are not paid for their labor and, in fact, must pay full tuition and fees at their college or university to get credit for the experience. Some universities also discourage student teachers from working outside jobs, although many say that’s the only way they can make ends meet.


Both bills call for stipends of $10,000 for a semester, the rough equivalent of $15 per-hour for 40 hours per week – even though most student teachers say they work much more than that. Assuming an average of 5,400 student teachers per year, the cost would be approximately $54 million in state funding needed to support the program.


Both HB 4652 and HB 5414 were discussed by the House Higher Education Committee and neither bill was voted on. The IFT supports paid student teaching as a strategy to address the teacher shortage and provided legislators with stories from both current student teachers and cooperating teachers of the challenges they faced or are facing currently during their student teaching experience.

 

A Look Ahead


Legislators will return to Springfield on Tuesday, March 12.


The House and Senate Appropriation Committees will continue to discuss components of the fiscal year 2025 state budget, including many priorities of the IFT like:


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