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GOVERNMENT RELATIONS


Alliance Legislative Report 97-21

Distributed via Email: June 16, 2011

LEGISLATIVE BREAK TO BE CUT SHORT?

As was reported in the last Alliance Legislative Report (97-20), the Illinois General Assembly had adjourned for the summer, though many observers believed that the legislature would be called back before the scheduled October Veto Session date. It could be that lawmakers will be back in the Capitol sooner rather than later.

The approved budget, by most all criteria, was incomplete. The House of Representatives version of the budget which passed was replete with holes, including a shortfall in the appropriation for General State Aid (GSA) for school districts. Even the House budget sponsors know that the amount of funding appropriated for GSA cannot cover the $6,119 per pupil foundation level for a full year. And there is no funding appropriated to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for student assessments, response to intervention, or teacher/administrator mentoring programs. A budget bill that would have added another $216 million for K-12 education targeted to fill these funding gaps was approved by the Senate, but was not called for a vote in the House.

The provisions for additional funding, however, were amended onto a bill (HB 2189) that was re-appropriating funding for capital projects statewide. Since the House never approved the measure, now the capital projects are in jeopardy – projects which would be underway and providing construction jobs this summer.

The governor and the legislative leaders met Wednesday to discuss the predicament. Though there was no clear solution, it seems that the budget discussions may be put off until later in the year (Veto Session), but the capital projects dilemma must be dealt with this month. This could be as easy as the Senate coming back to the Capitol next week to drop its appropriations amendment from the capital bill, but it is too early to know if that is the will of individual members of the Senate Democrat caucus. Things could become much more complicated if both chambers return to Springfield with no deal in place, throwing the capital projects issue and the entire State FY 2012 budget in the air.

ALLIANCE HEAVILY INVOLVED IN MAJOR ISSUES

The 2011 spring legislative session was one of the busiest ever for school management activists, with many of the most serious and complicated issues moved to the forefront. Alliance lobbyists were actively engaged in the negotiations on legislation concerning education reform, charter schools authorization, tax increment financing reform, pension reform, and bills re-writing the articles for teacher certification and financial oversight panels.

EDUCATION REFORM

Governor Pat Quinn Monday signed into law SB 7 (Lightford, D-Maywood) which contains education reform provisions regarding teacher tenure, teacher dismissal, teacher seniority, teacher strikes, and mandatory school board member training. A comprehensive summary of the bill can be found at: http://www.iasb.com/govrel/sb7analysis.pdf. Alliance legal counsel and lobbyists were involved in four months of intense negotiations on the legislation.

FINANCIAL OVERSIGHT PANELS

When the ISBE announced that it would be forwarding legislation to re-write the statue on school district financial oversight panels, the Alliance immediately got involved. Based on Alliance suggestions, many provisions were added to the bill (SB 2149) to protect the interests of individual school districts. These changes reflect the recently adopted positions of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) and the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) regarding Financial Oversight Panels and School Finance Authorities. The bill was approved by both houses.

CHARTER SCHOOL AUTHORIZOR

Alliance lobbyists were also involved from the beginning on the issue of establishing a State Charter School Commission as an independent state agency with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority. SB 79 was approved by both the House and Senate. Again, the bill contains safeguards for local school boards as suggested by the Alliance.

TAX INCREMENT FINANCING DISTRICTS

The Alliance was involved in long negotiations regarding a possible re-write of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) law. The bill (SB 540) contained many provisions that reflected the IASB and IASA position statements on TIFs. It would have made the decision of a TIF Joint Review Board binding with a 3/5 vote of its members, allowing other taxing districts to veto a TIF proposal. It would have provided that no TIF district (or combination of TIF districts) may be established after Jan. 1, 2012 that would incorporate more than 35% of the equalized assessed value of a municipality. And it would have further limited the scope of residential developments within a TIF district and added new reporting requirements regarding existing TIF districts, including penalties for non-compliance with the reporting requirements. The bill was held up in the Senate Revenue Committee.

OTHER MAJOR LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

Other significant issues were debated in the Capitol this spring with the Alliance in strong opposition. When the governor made his budget address in February and called for mandatory school district consolidation, Alliance members made their opinions known. Likewise, when legislative leaders forwarded a pension reform bill that would affect the retirement plans of current members of the Teachers’ Retirement System, Alliance members contacted their legislators.

MANDATORY SCHOOL DISTRICT CONSOLIDATION

Though nothing was ever officially submitted in writing from the governor’s office regarding school district consolidation, Governor Quinn’s plans were to “impose” consolidation upon local communities and school districts. His proposal would not have allowed local community input, local school district input, or even legislative input. The governor’s plan was to have no more than 300 school districts in the state and to “draw new school boundaries in much the same way as the General Assembly draws legislative district boundaries”. The Alliance worked hard to squelch the proposal.

HB 1886 (Rita, D-Blue Island) , would have dissolved all school districts on July 1, 2012, abolished all school boards on July 1, 2012, established county school districts, and set a date for a special election for each county to elect members of the new county school board. With the help of hundreds of phone calls from school board members and administrators, and organized community action in Representative Rita’s district, Alliance lobbyists were successful in keeping the bill bottled up in a House committee.

Another bill, SB 1324 (Schoenberg, D-Evanston) , called for a commission to make specific recommendations regarding school consolidation, including which school districts should be consolidated. In that proposal, the report of the commission could take effect with the force of law even without action from the legislature, and with no input from local communities. The Alliance was successful in having the bill sent to a Senate sub-committee with no further action being taken on the measure.

SB 2134 (Garrett, D-Lake Forest) originally would have eliminated the position of an elected Regional Superintendent of Schools and replaced that position with an appointed person serving within the ISBE. The new appointed person would have had the authority to rate each school district on its fiscal efficiencies, and could have unilaterally required the districts to share services or consolidate with another school district. The bill was amended, largely using language drafted by the Alliance, to remove all of those provisions and replace them with permissive language for shared services between school districts.

Finally, HB 1216 (Chapa La Via, D-Aurora) establishes a “School District Realignment and Consolidation Commission” to study the issue of school reorganization without any mandatory provisions. The Alliance supported the concept of studying the issue, and was successful in having four appointments made to the commission – one from each of the Alliance organizations (IASB, IASA, IPA, IASBO).

PENSION REFORM

The call for “pension reform” was still loud and clear in the Capitol this spring. Following the drumbeat of many of the State’s business leaders, House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) introduced an amendment that would have affected the pensions of persons currently participating in the state’s retirement systems, including the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). SB 512 would have required employees who became a TRS participant before January 1, 2011 to select, by July 1, 2012, which retirement program they wish to participate in: the “traditional” plan which offers the TRS retirement benefits that were in place before Jan. 1, 2011; the “revised” plan which offers the “Tier II” TRS retirement benefits that are available to participants that entered the system on January 1, 2011 or after; or the “self-managed” defined contribution plan (similar to a “401(k)” plan). The bill was not called for a vote on the House floor.

There was also discussion of requiring school districts to pay the year-to-year TRS costs, while the state continued to pay on the debt from past underfunding of the system. These “normal costs” of the pension system make up about 1/3 of the state’s annual pension payments for TRS. This could have cost school districts close to a billion dollars. The proposal was never put into bill form.

Related Pension Issues

HB 3375 (McCarthy, D-Orland Park) provided that if a member or participant of a retirement system (including TRS) is currently receiving a retirement annuity or pension, and becomes a member of any other state pension system and is employed on a full-time basis, then the person’s retirement annuity or pension shall be suspended during that employment. The bill was not approved.

SB 1831 (Raoul, D-Chicago) requires employers participating in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) to post the total compensation package of employees making more than $75,000 per year. It provides that if a new hire is receiving a retirement annuity or pension and accepts a contractual position to provide services to a governmental entity from which he or she has retired, then that person’s annuity or pension will be suspended during that contractual service (no “double-dipping”). It makes similar changes to the IMRF system to that of TRS regarding the computation of final rate of earnings and a 6% cap on salary increases. The bill passed both houses.

SB 2187 (Clayborne, D-E. St. Louis) extended, by 5 years, the period during which certain types of salary increases may be excluded from the 6% salary cap regarding TRS pension calculations. The bill was not approved.

SB 2279 (Raoul) extended the expiration date (by 10 years) for which a person who has retired under TRS may work for a TRS employer for 120 days, instead of 100 days. The provision to allow retirees to work for 120 days will “sunset” on June 30. The bill was not approved.

MANY BILLS STALLED BECAUSE OF OPPOSITION

The Alliance was the main opposition to many pieces of legislation which would have adversely affected local school districts. The following bills, opposed by the Alliance, were stalled this year:

SB 37 required more than a dozen new items to be published on a school district’s webpage.

SB 624 required the IHSA to change its policy on non-public school enrollment multipliers.

SB 629 cut funding to school districts that receive the “double-whammy” grant for school funding.

SB 1550 expanded the type of work that is covered under the scope of the Prevailing Wage Act.

SB 1559 limited the types of cars a school district could purchase for its driver’s education program.

SB 1932 established a private school voucher program in Chicago.

HB 140 established a statewide student expulsion policy for all school districts.

HB 292 required instruction in public schools on all terrain vehicle safety.

HB 542 added requirements regarding public insurance pools that would have raised costs.

HB 942 created a new “cause of action” for employee law suits for an “Abusive Work Environment”.

HB 1248 required all high schools to add a community service prerequisite for high school graduation.

HB 1566 required all school districts to offer flavored milk in its lunch program.

HB 1568 prohibited school districts from receiving mandate waivers from the daily P.E. requirement.

HB 1570 required school districts to offer an alternative basic education track for certain students.

HB 1572 required daily P.E. classes to be a minimum of 20 minutes in length.

HB 2842 required a new type of upholstery on all school buses.

HB 2889 required a new internet policy and filters on all school computers.

HB 2890 placed an arbitrary percentage on a school district budget that is used for “classroom teaching”.

OTHER BILLS AMENDED TO ADDRESS CONCERNS

Dozens of other bills, originally opposed by the Alliance, were amended to address Alliance concerns. In many cases, legislative committee members only voted to approve legislation on the condition that the bill sponsor pledges to amend the bill to remove Alliance opposition.

HB 200 addresses school district policies for student athletes who suffer a concussion. The amendment allows for easier implementation and for a consistent policy standard set by the IHSA.

HB 287 addresses student retention policies. The amendment removed a provision that created a statewide commission that would determine whether a school district retained a student at grade level.

HB 1415 addresses year-round education programs. The amendment removed a provision that would have mandated certain school districts to offer year-round programs, and added a provision for a limited pilot project where school districts may opt in to such a program.

HB 1600 prohibits the use of trans fats in food facilities. The amendment removed school districts from the definition of food facility and makes it a “goal” for school lunch rooms to comply by 2016.

HB 1670 requires elected officials to complete training on the Open Meetings Act. The amendment allows the training to be conducted by the IASB.

HB 2086 disallows a student from being denied participation in an alternative school because he/she has been suspended or expelled from school. The amendment allows for an exception in cases where there is a safety issue.

HB 2397 requires school districts to promote 60 minutes of reading per day for K-3 students. The amendment removed a mandate and made the bill permissive.

HB 3040 added a new mandate for school districts to send building floor plans to the local fire department. The amendment allowed for easier implementation by incorporating the concept into the School Safety Drill Act annual report that is already in existence.

HB 3440 defines “service animal” in the School Code. The amendment changes provisions that require school districts to allow service dogs to a provision that requires school districts to make reasonable accommodations for students.

This legislative report is written and edited by the lobbyists of the Illinois Association of School Boards to provide information to the members of the organizations that comprise the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance.

Bill Text/Status: Illinois General Assembly www.ilga.gov


Alliance Legislative Reports are Cosponsored by IASB and:
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