Legislative Update for Feb. 26, 2015

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This is the first in a series of updates the Government Relations Department will provide on a frequent basis. We hope this update is helpful in providing background and information on issues moving through the Illinois General Assembly and Congress that impact you and the tools you need to educate your local members and lobby your legislators.

99TH ILLINOIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Important Legislative Dates and Committees 

  • March 27th – Bills out of Committee (both chambers)
  • April 24th – Final 3rd Reading deadline (both chambers)
  • May 8th – Deadline for Senate bills to get out of House Committees
  • May 15th – Deadline for House bills to get out of Senate Committees
  • May 22nd – Final 3rd Reading deadline (both chambers)
  • May 31st – Adjournment

A schedule for each chamber can be found on the General Assembly website.

Government Relations staff track education, revenue, pension and labor bills through a variety of committees in the General Assembly. Those committees include:

  • Senate Education
  • Senate Appropriations I & II
  • Senate Revenue
  • Senate Licensed Activities & Pensions
  • Senate Higher Education
  • Senate Labor
  • House Elementary & Secondary Education: Charter School Policy
  • House Elementary & Secondary Education: Licensing Oversight
  • House Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies
  • House Appropriations – Elementary & Secondary Education
  • House Revenue
  • House Personnel & Pensions
  • House Higher Education
  • House Labor

A list of the House and Senate Committees and members can be found on the General Assembly website.

Governor’s Budget Address

Governor Rauner gave his FY16 budget address on Wednesday, February 18th. The budget proposal included a reduction in FY16 spending of $4.18 billion over the current fiscal year. These proposed cuts include reducing or eliminating many programs and making changes to the pension systems.

Budget – Education Funding

P-12 education was one of the only areas in the budget the governor proposed to increase. His proposal would include an additional $288 million of General Revenue Funds in the State Board of Education budget. A majority of this increase would be added to General State Aid, which while not fully funding the current statutory foundation level, would increase the proration from the current 89% to 94.5%. An additional $25 million would also be put into early childhood education. Unfortunately this budget also calls for the elimination of several smaller grant items, including Advanced Placement, Arts/Foreign Language, Agricultural Education, Regional Safe Schools, Children’s Mental Health Partnership, National Board Certified Teachers and Teach for America among others.

While increasing funding for P-12 education, the governor’s proposed budget is less than the FY16 budget recommended by the State Board of Education, which proposes increased funding by $730 million, which among other things, would fully fund the General State Aid foundation level and increase funding for several other line items including early childhood education, bilingual education and transportation.

A comparison of FY15 appropriations to the FY16 State Board of Education budget and the governor’s recommendations can be found at: http://isbe.net/budget/fy16/FY16-budget-compare-gov.pdf

Higher education in the governor’s proposed budget was not as fortunate. Overall, the governor proposed reducing funding to higher education by 31%, or over $380 million.

Budget – Pension System Changes

A significant part of the governor’s budget calls for changes to the pension systems. The proposal includes moving every state employee and teacher to the Tier Two pension plan. The governor is proposing to “freeze” the benefits of Tier One members as of June 30, 2015, and then allow them to begin to accrue Tier Two benefits from July 1, 2015, and beyond.

In his budget address, the governor stated that he believed this would create $2.2 billion in savings that would be able to be used in the upcoming fiscal year and even though SB 1 is still being litigated, these changes should be made. IEA believes this proposal would not meet constitutional muster.

Budget – Elimination of State Funding of TRIP

The governor also proposed eliminating funding for the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP). Currently, the State contributes $100 million towards TRIP. Eliminating the State’s contribution would require specific legislative action.

Charter School Primer

Government Relations staff developed a background primer on charter schools that can be used by members when discussing charter schools with elected officials and other members. View the Charter School Primer.

Hot Bills

To date the General Assembly has introduced over 6,000 bills for the first year of this General Assembly. IEA staff are tracking a number of these bills that are education, revenue, pension and labor related. Information on a few hot bills can be found below, as well as the IEA position.

HB 397 (Welch) IEA INITIATIVE – This bill addresses the appeal process when a charter application is denied by a local board of education. Currently if a charter school application is denied by the local board of education, the charter school applicant can appeal the decision to the State Charter School Commission. If the Commission overturns the local board decision to deny the charter, then the charter would become a Commission-authorized charter school and be established regardless of the local boards decision. HB 397 removes the ability of a charter school applicant to appeal a denial to the Charter School Commission. The decision of the local board of education would stand. View the fact sheet on the bill.

HB 403 (Franks) Repeals statute that allows children of employees of State Universities that have been employed for at least seven years to receive a 50% tuition waiver. IEA is opposed to this bill.

HB 1330 (Sandack) Removes the requirement for daily physical education. IEA is opposed to this bill.

HB 1448 (D. Harris) Amends the physical education statute to include students in grades 9 and 10 (instead of just 11 and 12) that can be excused from physical education for statutorily listed reasons. IEA is opposed to this bill.

SB 114 (McConnaughay)/HB 2536 (Tryon) Permits a local board of education to excuse students in grades 9-12 from physical education if they are enrolled in two or more Advanced Placement courses if the student requests to be excused. IEA is opposed to this bill.

SB 1507 (Bertino-Tarrant) Allows school districts to not comply with many statutory mandates or administrative rule mandates that are unfunded, with limited exceptions. Exceptions include civil rights protections, laws pertaining to student health, life or safety and federally required mandates, including No Child Left Behind. The school district could hold a public hearing and then submit a question to referendum. If a majority of the electorate agrees, the district would no longer have to engage in the mandate. IEA is opposed to this bill.

114TH CONGRESS

ESEA Reauthorization

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), formerly known as “No Child Left Behind,” is being debated now in the House of Representatives as the Student Success Act (HR 5). NEA is working with members of Congress to make sure the new ESEA is good for both students and public schools.  NEA is asking members to take action now!

ESEA Amendment Gets it Right 

Congressman Rodney Davis (R, CD 13) introduced and passed NEA supported House Amendment 12 to HR 5, the ESEA Reauthorization bill. The amendment provides certainty to local and state entities that current collective bargaining agreements must remain in in place, without expanding collective bargaining rights, by restoring the “savings clause” to Title 1 of ESEA. This ensures that nothing in federal law can be construed to upend a state or local’s collective bargaining law, memorandum of understanding and other agreements.
NEA supported this amendment and worked with Rep. Davis to introduce and ultimately pass on the House floor yesterday.  The IEA officers and NEA Directors assisted the NEA lobbying team in contacting members of Congress from Illinois to pass this amendment.
View the video of Rep. Davis on the House floor addressing this amendment. Congressman Mike Bost (R, CD 12) also speaks on the House floor supporting the amendment.