The Illinois General Assembly adjourned as scheduled on May 31 after approving a Fiscal Year 2019 budget on an overwhelming and bipartisan vote for the first time in many years.
The Senate passed the budget package Wednesday night; the House approved it on Thursday. Governor Rauner has indicated he will sign the package soon.
This budget is significant because it is a return to functional government after more than three years of dysfunction under Governor Rauner. This should help bring back stability to our state government, which it has been sadly lacking. With the FY19 budget passed, we can return our attention to the best long-term solution to our state's fiscal problems - the Fair Tax.
Read our detailed analysis of the budget here.
Highlights of other action from this session include:
Big wins for IFT members
Minimum teacher salary boosted An increase to minimum teacher pay was approved by both chambers. Under SB 2892 (Manar) the state would phase-in updated minimum mandated salaries for teachers each year for the next four school years:
• $32,076 for 2019-20
• $34,576 for 2020-21
• $37,076 for 2021-22
• $40,000 for 2022-23
After that, increases would be based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and subject to review by the General Assembly. The IFT was a vocal advocate for SB 2892, which now heads to Rauner’s desk.
Public employee back pay approved Both chambers passed HB 4290 (Costello/Manar), legislation that appropriates more than $60 million in wages owed since 2011 to some state employees, including IFT members of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408.
House passes fair tax resolution House Resolution 1025 resolves “support of a fair and progressive income tax that must reduce taxes on low and middle-income families while raising taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans.” The resolution passed the House with a vote that was mostly along partisan lines. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) released a report which outlines a potential tax rate structure that would cut taxes for 98 percent of taxpayers while also raising $2 billion in revenue for public education and state services.
Out-of-district tuition waivers protected At the urging of the IFT, the House defeated HB 4235 (Pritchard). This bill would have prohibited school districts from waiving the out-of-district tuition fees for their employees and teachers who live out of district but want their children to attend school in the district where they teach or work. The change would also have excluded local unions and districts from bargaining the issue and exacerbated the teacher shortage in downstate Illinois.
Public employees defend food safety IFT members who keep our food safe continued to push back against HB 4188, legislation that had the potential to put harmful meat in the hands of consumers. Illinois Federation of Public Employees (Local 4408) member Becky Styron testified in Springfield on behalf of state meat inspectors who belong to IFT and oppose the proposal to create loopholes for meat processors wanting to bypass some inspection standards. The bill passed out of committee, but was held so the inspectors can negotiate over the language in the bill and try to reach a compromise.
Amendment to outsourcing ISBE staff work tabled Senate Amendment #2 to HB 4706 (Scherer/Manar) was filed to allow the Regional Offices of Education to process substitute and paraprofessional license applications. The IFT opposed this due to the negative impact it would have on the staff in the licensure division at ISBE and because other legislative initiatives to alleviate licensure approval are already backlogged.
Efforts renewed to restore local control to charter approval process HB 5175 (Hoffman/Cunningham) is identical to a bill vetoed by Governor Rauner earlier this year (HB 768). As amended, HB 5175 removes provisions allowing the State Charter School Commission to reverse a school board’s decision to deny, revoke, or not renew a charter. This bill passed both chambers.
Status of key IFT initiatives
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 and Senate unanimously and heads to the governor’s desk.
HB 5136 (Rep. Slaughter/Sen. Castro) 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.
HB 5136 passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.
SB 3220 (Aquino/Welch) provides that a for-profit higher education institution that is denied an initial recommendation for recognition by the State Educator Preparation and Licensure Board may appeal the denial to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), as provided by rules adopted by ISBE; the proposal also specifies hearing requirements for an appeal when requested by a for-profit institution. The bill passed both chambers and moves to the governor.
HB 1253 (Tabares) deletes Section 4.5 of the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act (IELRA) and would restore mandatory bargaining rights to all parts of the state over third-party contracting, class size, and staffing decisions. The bill passed the House and is pending action in the Senate.
Rauner-controlled ISBE initiatives
HB 4902 (Wheeler) allow school districts in Illinois to become “Districts of Innovation”. This bill would give the state and school districts the control to waive out of many school code mandates, including special education class size, bilingual education, and others. IFT opposed this proposal.
SB 2941 (McGuire) expands provisions within the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act to allow all grade levels (K-12) to participate. It also adds language ensuring the collective bargaining representatives have signoff. The IFT took a neutral position on the bill, which passed both chambers and is pending the governor’s signature.
HB 5588 (Crespo) includes legislative changes necessary to implement Illinois’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan. The bill changes references in state law from the old version of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind), to the new version, ESSA. The bill was amended in the Senate to include changes suggested by the IFT that would add transparency and teacher voice to the process. HB 5588 passed both chambers.
HB 5627 (Bennett) addresses ISBE licensure proposal. It modifies out-of-state reciprocity requirements, creates a flexible short-term substitute teacher license for individuals with an Associate’s degree or 60 semester hours, and allows retired teachers to substitute teach for up to 20 additional days. IFT successfully eliminated harmful language from the bill that would have expanded alternative certification, added representatives of for-profit and non-for-profit alternative certification programs to the State Educator Preparation and Licensure Board, and lowered teacher qualification standards. The bill passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.
HB 3784 (Weaver) would address an issue that impacts at-risk students. Currently, students who fail to meet minimum academic standards may be dropped from a district’s roster. HB 3784 removes this provision in the School Code and will permit those students to remain in school and have access to opportunities and interventions to ensure they graduate from high school ready for college or career. IFT maintained a neutral position on this legislation.
K- 12 bills pass both chambers
Class size goals set, data collected
HB 5481 (Guzzardi/Aquino) helps the state gather better data related to class sizes. The legislation asks ISBE to report data about pupil-teacher ratios and sets forth class size goals to be achieved by the 2020-21 school year.
Substitute services may be contracted out HB 4742 (Mayfield/Link) allows for 3rd party contracting out 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 – inadequate pay, training, and support, and a pathway for retirees to return as substitutes without penalizing their retirement benefits.
Taskforce would develop social-emotional learning guidelines HB 4657 (Manley/Sims) would create the Emotional Intelligence and Social and Emotional Learning task force to develop curriculum guidelines and best practices on emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning. The proposal passed both chambers with overwhelming bi-partisan support.
Infectious disease information must be provided SB 2654 (Hammond/Hunter) would require the Department of Public Health to develop or approve and publish informational materials for Illinois school districts about influenza and meningococcal disease and their vaccines, in accordance with the latest recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The proposal also requires a school boards to provide such materials to students’ parents or guardians.
Parental notification of student eligibility for mental health services HB 5770 (Conroy/Bush) Provides that a school board shall notify the school district's students or parents or guardians of those students that a student with a mental health diagnosis (rather than any student) may be eligible to receive supportive services (rather than mental health services) from the school district under a federal Section 504 plan.
Special education transparency In response to concerns raised by Chicago Public School (CPS) parents, teachers, and advocates about special education, ISBE conducted the state's first-ever public inquiry this year. ISBE concluded that specific CPS policies and practices violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which protects students’ rights to a free and appropriate public education. ISBE is now hiring a monitor to ensure that CPS eliminates the barriers to federal and state compliance that the district implemented in 2016. The inquiry was limited in scope, however, and many issues critical to the education of diverse learners still need redress.
SB 454 seeks to provide transparency around the documentation necessary for CPS parents to become fully equal members of their child’s IEP team. With the exception of a ban on blocks to IEP team discussion, the improvements are separate and distinct from the remedies outlined in ISBE’s correction actions. All are necessary improvements for enhanced accountability, and will live beyond the three-year tenure of the CPS monitor.
What SB 454 will require:
Notification of data collection requirements: At least 10 calendar days prior to a student’s IEP meeting, parents will be told what IEP services require data collection and whether or not this data has been collected for their child.
Draft IEP: At least five school days prior to a student’s IEP meeting, parents will be given a copy of the draft IEP and any relevant evaluations/data collection.
Itemized minutes in IEP: IEPs for students enrolled in the district shall itemize all paraprofessional support minutes and instructional minutes.
Report cards: The district’s quarterly report card for students with an IEP shall include the number of direct service minutes the student received that quarter.
Optional ISBE Hotline: ISBE shall be authorized to create a telephone hotline to address complaints regarding the district’s special education services.
No locks and blocks: The IEP team will have authority to determine appropriate services and supports during the IEP meeting without being subject to computer software blocks.
Assistive Technology: At IEP meetings, parents will receive notice of assistive technology consideration requirements.
Higher education bills pass both chambers
Dual credit changes SB 2838 provides for limitations on the ability of a school district to contract with out-of-state community colleges for dual credit and specifies a process by which these agreements between Illinois community college and high school districts must proceed before an out-of-state option is allowed. In addition, a four-year pilot program would be established to allow high school instructors to teach dual credit while pursuing a professional development plan to complete their qualifications. An annual report would be provided by the Illinois Community College Board indicating high school instructor utilization of this licensure.
Union rights for more graduate employees SB 2546, legislation that would allow graduate employees in all classifications to unionize is headed to the governor. Under current Illinois labor law, research assistants and pre-professional graduate assistants are considered students, not workers, thus cannot unionize. A Republican legislator mentioned in debate that the governor is opposed to the bill, so he may use his veto power on SB 2546. Stay tuned.
Despite some good news in the budget, it also includes a pension “reform” measure that lowers the limitation on end-of-career salary increases from 6 to 3 percent. The IFT and our members strongly opposed this proposal, which gives public education employers a bargaining chip to negotiate lesser salary increases and avoid pension costs. Read the details in this complete budget update.
HB 751 (Davidsmeyer) amends the pension code to change the definition of “eligible employment” for the purpose of allowing a teacher to return to teaching in subject shortage areas without impairing their retirement status or retirement annuity through June 30, 2019. This bill passed both chambers.
HB 5137 (Martwick) creates an optional and supplemental 403b-like deferred-compensation savings plan option for active participants in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). This bill passed both chambers.
A look ahead
House and Senate lawmakers have returned to their districts and are expected to be back in Springfield next for the veto session, which is scheduled for November 13-15 and 27-29. Watch Under the Dome for updates in the fall.