Legislative Update for March 19, 2015

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Legislators will be in session one more week before they begin a two-week spring break. The deadline for bills to be voted out of committees in their respective chamber is Friday, March 27. After the spring break, bills will be heard on the floor for final passage in each chamber.

Charter School Local Control CALL TO ACTION
House Bill 397 (Welch, D) IEA INITIATIVE

HB 397 is ready to be called for a vote on the House floor next week. Please contact your state representative now and ask them to vote ‘YES’ on HB 397, a bill that supports local control for establishing a charter school in a community.
View the HB 397 fact sheetFind your state representative’s contact information on this page select the Elected Officials tab.

HB 397 would remove the ability of any state entity to overturn the decision of a local school board to deny a charter school application. 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 board’s decision.

FY15 Budget
Education Faces Mid-School Year Budget Cuts

Lawmakers adjourned for the week without taking any action on the FY15 budget deficit. There are proposals being debated in Springfield now that would cut $150 million from K-12 public education during the current school year.  A reduction of this size during the current school year will be disastrous for school districts that are already struggling.  The Illinois State Board of Education has stated that 67 percent of school districts are already operating in a deficit this year.  For example, a funding cut of this size would equate to the loss of three teachers per school district for an entire school year.  Our schools need to be supported and additional cuts to schools over the next three months and into next year is not the way to go.  Contact your legislators and ask them to protect public education while debating ways to fix the current budget year’s problems.

PARCC Assessment Use
House Joint Resolution 54 (Kay, R) 

This is an IEA-supported resolution, pursuant to the directive of members at the 2014 IEA Representative Assembly through New Business Item #1. HJR 54 encourages school districts to not use the results of the PARCC exam as a determining factor for making decisions about students’ educational opportunities, the evaluation of educators and the allocation of resources based on education achievement for the 2014-2015 school year through the 2017-2018 school year.
View the HJR 54 fact sheet | View the full resolution

Opposition to Pension Cost Shift Grows
House Resolution 187 (McSweeney, R) 

IEA is opposed to shifting the State’s pension costs of TRS and SURS participants to suburban and downstate schools, colleges and universities. HR 187 illustrates the devastating impact shifting pension costs would have on public education, most likely resulting in the reduction of educational opportunities, laying off of school personnel and/or eliminating programs for students. IEA supports this resolution and we are currently working hard to get as many cosponsors as possible.
View the HR 187 fact sheet | View the resolution and current cosponsors

Tuition Waivers for Children of University Employees
House Bill 403 (Franks, D)

Current law states that university employees who have seven years or more working in the Illinois public university system are entitled to 50 percent tuition waivers for their children.  The bill originally sought to totally eliminate these tuition waivers.  The bill was amended and passed out of committee and currently provides that no such tuition waivers may be extended after the 2015-2016 school year.  However, any student who currently possesses such a waiver may continue to use that 50 percent tuition waiver for up to four years if he/she is in good academic standing. IEA is opposed to this bill.

U.S. Senate Plans to Take Up ESEA Bill in April

NEA reported that the Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced the markup of a bipartisan ESEA bill for the week of April 13, with a vote by the full Senate shortly thereafter. It is unclear how soon the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), the House version of ESEA reauthorization, could come back to the floor.

So, not much time is left to make your voice heard. The last time Congress reauthorized ESEA, it did not listen enough to educators and parents and the result was a No Child Left Behind Act that has not worked for students. Don’t let that happen again! Please contact U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D) and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R) to make your voice heard. Advocate for getting ESEA right.

NEA’s core goals for the next ESEA are:

  1. A new accountability system with an “opportunity dashboard”
  2. Less testing to give students more time to learn
  3. Decoupling high-stakes testing and accountability
  4. Ensuring qualified educators and empowering them to lead