Saturday, March 16, 2019

Alliance Legislative Report 101-09

Yesterday capped off another busy week of session. The Senate Committee deadline to have Senate bills considered by a committee is next Friday, March 22.  The House still has two more weeks of session before its deadline on Friday, March 29. Deadlines have not meant as much in the last several years as extensions are granted on most any bill a sponsor requests an extension for, but it should lessen the number of bills that must be tracked by the Alliance.

Friday, March 15, 2019

IASB Legislative Alert

IASB strongly opposes a number of bills that include costly mandates on school districts and/or usurp a school board's local authority and decrease flexibility for boards to make decisions. As mentioned, all positions taken by the Association come directly from the IASB Position Statements which are proposed and approved by school board members throughout the State through the Resolutions and Delegate Assembly Process

Click here to see the IASB Position Statements.

For many years, school funding was based on school districts providing at least a minimum of a five-clock hour school day. With the adoption of the Evidence-Based Funding Formula, this provision was deleted. Focus has now shifted to a more "outcomes based" philosophy where counting individual minutes of seat time by students is not as high of a priority as measuring the academic achievement of a student. Students learn in many different ways. In the brief time (parts of two school years) that this new flexibility has been available to school districts, many have found they could offer new and innovative education programs that did not fit perfectly into a five-hour time frame in a school classroom.

SB 28 would revert back to a prescriptive five-clock hour minimum school day and would cause school districts to forfeit this new flexibility and opportunity for innovation. IASB opposes the bill. With the adoption of an amendment this week, the other Alliance partner associations are now supporting SB 28. Though the amendment does make some slight improvements to the original bill, it still fails in comparison to the current flexibility now being offered to local school boards. Therefore, IASB still opposes the legislation.

IASB Position Statements 1.01 Educational Programs, 1.12 Funding for Differentiated Instruction, and 2.29 Clock Hours vs. Minutes, direct IASB to oppose SB 28.

The amendment to SB 28 was approved this week by the Senate Education Committee, and is pending on the Senate floor. A vote could take place on the bill at any time.

A bill was approved last year by the Illinois General Assembly that would increase the minimum teacher salary to $40,000 per year. However, it did not survive a gubernatorial veto and the measure died. This year, the proposal was resurrected in the form of SB 10 and HB 2078.

Under the bills, the minimum salary increase would be phased in at the following increments:
  • not less than $32,076 for the 2020-2021 school year
  • not less than $34,576 for the 2021-2022 school year
  • not less than $37,076 for the 2022-2023 school year
  • not less than $40,000 for the 2023-2024 school year
Enactment of SB 10 or HB 2078 would bring public schools closer to a standard, statutory salary schedule, as well as consume a significant share of any increase in funding that comes to school districts from the new evidence-based formula. Though the legislative change would require a minimum salary (of which at least half of Illinois' 850 school districts are now below), there would undoubtedly be a ripple effect throughout the entire salary schedule if one of these bills were to be enacted into law. More importantly, it usurps the local authority of local school boards and teachers to negotiate salary and benefits based on the resources, wants, and needs of teachers, the community, and the district.

IASB strongly opposes both bills based on IASB Position Statements 2.03 Funding Mandated Programs, 5.01 Board Rights, 5.02 Teacher Salaries, and 5.03 Collective Bargaining.

SB 10 is pending on the Senate floor; HB 2078 is pending on the House floor. Either could be called for a vote at any time.

After decades of requiring physical education for every student, in every grade, in every year of school, a provision in the evidence-based funding bill finally provided some relief for school districts in this area. It reduced the P.E. requirement from instruction five days per week, to only three days per week. This gave both school districts and students increased flexibility in offering and participating in other academic classes like courses for graduation requirements, electives, or the arts.  But even before school boards could plan to use this new flexibility for an entire year, legislation is proposed to increase the requirement and add new restrictions.
SB 1189 and HB 2234 would:
  • require that at least 150 minutes of P.E. be provided weekly for each elementary school pupil
  • require that at least 225 minutes of P.E. be provided weekly for each middle school, junior high school, or high school pupil
  • limit P.E. waivers to remain in effect for no more than two years (currently five years)
  • limits P.E. waivers to renewed no more than two times
IASB opposes the bills based on IASB Position Statements 1.01 Education Programs, 1.02 Curricular Material Determination, 1.03 Physical Education, and 2.03 Funding Mandated Programs.

Both SB 1189 and HB 2234 are still pending in their respective chambers' education committees. Committee votes are likely next week.

In what is becoming a regular event at the dawn of each new gubernatorial administration in Illinois, discussions are starting regarding the forced consolidation of units of local governments, including school districts.

SB 1838 and HB 3053 would create the School District Efficiency Commission that would identify, before May 1, 2020, no less than 25 percent of school districts in Illinois that will be required to hold a referendum to consolidate in the next general election. The Commission would consist of 20 people, including one each from IASB and the other three Alliance partners.

The Commission is charged with focusing on:
  • reducing the money spent on duplication of services
  • having fewer obstacles between teachers and their students
  • lowering the property tax burden
  • providing recommendations on next cost savings
  • reducing administrative costs
  • reducing the number of school districts by 25 percent
  • recommendations on what the maximum tax rate could be in a reorganized district
IASB is strongly opposed to this usurpation of local authority of a duly elected school board. IASB Position Statements 6.01 Local Control, 7.01 District Reorganization, and 7.02 School District Reorganization Voting Requirements direct IASB in this area.

It is imperative that locally elected school board members engage in the legislative process by contacting their State legislators and weigh in on these important issues. Legislators value input from school board members and want to know exactly how these issues would affect your local school district. The combination of legislators hearing from their constituents at home and IASB government relations staff communicating with them in the Capitol, can truly make a difference in the outcome of legislation.

Another way to engage in the process is to weigh in on specific pieces of legislation by filing a witness slip for bills being considered in committee. This can be done electronically from your home by logging into the Illinois General Assembly website. This allows a person to identify a specific bill and officially declare his/her support or opposition to it. It becomes part of the public record for the legislation. Alliance Legislative Reports will list the bills being considered in specific committees. Directions on how to complete a witness slip can be found here.

Message from the executive director

Thomas E. Bertrand
Above you will read the first of what will be a regular legislative alert from your Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB).

IASB remains committed to working in concert with the other members of the Illinois Statewide Management Alliance comprised of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, and the Illinois Principals Association. IASB will balance these efforts to collaborate with the need to support positions established by our membership.

When necessary, the Association will take a clear position for or against legislation on behalf of the 846 member school boards. These positions are determined by members at the annual Delegate Assembly. IASB will communicate directly to its members the positions and the rationale for or against proposed legislation.

If at any time you have questions about or suggestions to enhance our legislative efforts, please contact any member of our government relations staff.

Thomas E. Bertrand, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Illinois Association of School Boards

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Intent-to-strike notice filed in one district

Labor unrest has been mostly absent from Illinois schools in early 2019, with teacher contract settlements reached in several districts, but the threat of a strike looms large in at least one district, Warren THSD 121, Gurnee.

Intent-to-strike notice forms were filed by the District 121 teachers organization on February 27 after the 350-member union voted 99.7 percent in favor of the action. A recent meeting with a federal mediator, however, led to good progress, according to both sides in the negotiations. Board President Tom Drake said the board's bargaining team remains hopeful that an agreement will be reached.

The earliest possible strike date would be March 13. The teachers’ group and the district have been negotiating a new deal for six months without a contract, and have held at least eight meetings with a federal mediator. Superintendent John Algrim said the two sides have made considerable progress, particularly in those eight sessions.

"Substantial progress has been made on salary, health care, and retirement benefits, which are the most significant issues," Algrim told the Daily Herald in comments published on February 27.

More detailed information is available from the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB), which collects public postings for education-related final offers. Current IELRB postings can be accessed here.

UPDATE: The Daily Herald reported on March 14 that a tentative agreement between Warren THSD 121 and its teachers union had been reached.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Tax and bond issues on April ballot

Numerous local-district school funding referendums are set to appear on the April 2 consolidated election ballot, including at least 14 bond issues, and two tax increase proposals. Many more districts would benefit from four countywide sales tax propositions earmarked for school facility purposes.

The largest of the known district school finance propositions is a $185 million building bond proposition in Barrington CUSD 220. It calls for renovating classrooms, restrooms, and food service facilities, and increasing building safety and security at District 220 schools.

The next-largest school funding proposal is in Hinsdale THSD 86, where a $139.8 million bond issue appears on the ballot. That proposal asks voters to endorse renovating and replacing portions of two high school campuses.

One tax increase proposal on the April ballot would increase the education-fund tax rate at Limestone CHSD 310 by 55 cents per $100 of equalized assessed property valuation. Another would boost the transportation-fund tax rate at Collinsville CUSD 10 by 30 cents per $100 of equalized assessed property valuation.

One other local tax question seeks to raise the limiting rate under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), hiking taxes by $5.6 million in Oswego CUSD 308.

School districts known to be placing local bond issues before voters in April, in addition to the bond propositions already mentioned in Barrington and Hinsdale, include:
  • Alden-Hebron CCSD 19, a $20.3 million bond proposition to improve a building site of and build and equip a middle school/high school building
  • Bradley SD 61, a $10 million bond proposal to renovate school buildings to provide air conditioning, new windows and electrical system improvements, and repair and equip school buildings
  • Community Unit School District 4, Hebron, $6 million to build and equip an addition, and alter, repair, and equip the Unity Elementary School Building
  • East Dubuque Unit SD 119, $12 million to build and equip additions to and alter, repair, and equip the Junior High and High School Building, and establish a single campus for instructional purposes
  • Iroquois West Community Unit School District 10, $25 million to acquire land, build and equip a new high school building, and demolish all or a portion of the existing high school building, and to finance other school district capital costs
  • Minooka CCSD 201, a $50 million bond proposition to build and equip a school
  • Okaw Valley CUSD 302, $6.5 million to build and equip a gymnasium at the high school, construct a new entryway at a middle school, and add new playground equipment at an elementary school
  • St. George CCSD 258, a $6.9 million plan to build and equip classroom additions, and alter, repair, renovate, and equip a school building, which is to include providing for secure entrances and other security and safety improvements
  • Stockton CUSD 206, with three alternative building bond issues for schools, a $9.8 million level, a $12.4 million level, and an $18 million level. Voters actually have four options, they may vote for any one option, or vote no all three. The board has stated that if multiple questions pass, the district will only honor the highest single amount that passes.
  • Summersville SD 79, a $410,000 bond proposal to alter, repair, and equip the Summersville Grade School building
In addition to the school district finance propositions, countywide sales tax proposals to benefit schools are scheduled in at least four counties: Effingham, Fayette, Tazewell, and Union. Since the state law on the subject took effect in January 2008, 54 counties have adopted the retailer occupation and service occupation tax (sales tax) for the benefit of school facilities.

This blog will report on results of all the April 2 referenda.