The Illinois General Assembly was back in session this week working bills through the committee process, as well as advancing bills on the floor. Legislators will be working in their districts next week in preparation for the primary election on March 17.
Notable action this week includes:
Legislature Discusses Enhancing Behavioral Healthcare Pipeline
The Senate Human Services Committee and the House Mental Health Committee held hearings this week to discuss a new report that says Illinois' behavioral health workforce has lurched from "emergency" to "crisis" and calls on the legislature to establish a permanent "workforce education center" to address an acute shortage of workers, especially in rural areas of the state. The Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center Task Force, authorized by the Illinois General Assembly, says that since 2018 the behavioral health workforce emergency has escalated to a crisis. Task force members included representatives from the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, and the Illinois Department of Human Service – Division of Mental Health, and the report suggests elevating the pipeline for behavioral health professionals through building partnerships with school districts, colleges and universities, and workforce investment agencies; develop best-practice tracking systems; and provide technical assistance to support professional training. State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) is sponsoring legislation, SB 3501, to create the center. Among other solutions is a recommendation on revamping the State of Illinois' behavioral health financing that considers the cost of providing services and the need to pay employees commensurate with their required education and levels of responsibility, which is addressed by new rate increase legislation, SB 3385, also sponsored by Sen. Steans.
House Appropriations Committee Takes Testimony on Teacher Induction and Mentoring
On Tuesday March 3, the House Appropriations – Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard from advocates about Principal & Teacher Mentoring, Early Childhood Education, Teach for America, Southwest Organizing Project, and Special Education. IFT testified about the importance of the state legislature funding high-quality, district- and union-developed teacher induction and mentoring programs and about the research that shows that induction and mentoring develop beginning teachers instructional practices more rapidly and has positive impacts on teacher retention. The Illinois State Board of Education recommended funding teacher mentoring at $8 million for FY21, the Governor recommended $2 million; IFT is asking for at least $2 million and to restore the program that ran from the mid-1990’s through 2012. Additional hearings are anticipated when legislators return to Springfield the week of March 16.
Elementary and Secondary Education
The House and Senate Education Committees advanced several bills to the floor:
HB 4382 (Rep Caulkins, R-Decatur) provides for the reinstatement of a lapsed Professional Educator License upon the payment by the applicant of the lesser of a $100 penalty or a $10 penalty for each year the license has lapsed (rather than a $500 penalty). Passed unanimously in the House Education Administration, Licensing and Charter School Committee.
HB 4690 (Rep. Keicher, R-Sycamore) allows dependents of military personnel up to six months before the families must live in a school district, in which said dependents are enrolled. Currently, dependents of military personnel have up to two months. Passed unanimously in House Education Curriculum Committee.
HB 4783 (Rep. West, D-Rockford) prohibits the use of Native American logo or mascot or any other Native American imagery from schools, unless the school: 1) receives written consent from a Native American tribe within 500 miles; 2) conducts a school-wide program on Native American culture at least twice a year; 3) offers a course of study outlining Native American contributions to society; and 4) files an annual report with ISBE detailing what academic programs on Native American it has offered during the school year.
HB 4954 (Rep. Ford, D-Chicago) amends the school code to add commemorative holidays January 15 (Humanitarian Day), April 4 (Victims of Violence Wholly Day), and August 28 (Dream Day) to observe American Civil Rights. The bill further states that the teaching of the history of the United States shall include the study of the Black History unit of instruction, including the study of the American civil rights renaissance and the study of pre-enslavement history, American civil rights renaissance, that period of time from 1954 to 1965 called the Movement.
SB 2510 (Sen. Rezin, R-Morris) Adds forensic speech (speech and debate) to the music, art, foreign language, or vocational education elective that a student may choose to satisfy the one year prerequisite that each student entering the 9th grade is required to successfully complete to receive a high school diploma. Provides that the course in forensic speech may not be used to satisfy the language arts course requirement.
SB 2548 (Sen. Glowiak Hilton, D-Oakbrook Terrace) provides that higher education entities designate an employee as a liaison to a homeless student that is enrolled at the institution. The duties of the liaison include assistance in identifying financial aid, developing a plan for housing, and reporting on the status of homeless students at the institution. If the bill were to become law, it does not become effective until August of 2021.
SB 2932 (Sen. Morrison, D-Deerfield) provides that it is unlawful to apply a restricted use pesticide on or within 500 feet of a school property during normal hours, except for whole structure fumigation, unless the pesticide application information listed on the pesticide label is more restrictive, in which case the more restrictive provision shall apply. Directs the Department of Agriculture to adopt rules necessary to implement the restriction.
HB 4510, an initiative of the IFT that came out of the recommendations of the PERA survey completed by members in December 2019 passed the House this week on a vote of 109-0-0. The bill, sponsored by 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). The bill now heads to the Senate where Sen. Belt, D-East St. Louis, will be the chief sponsor.
Make Your Voice Heard in the March 17 Primary Election
The March 17 Illinois primary is just over one week 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.
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!