Wednesday, May 24, 2017

State budget bills sent to the House;
School officials urged to contact legislators about property tax freeze


Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm
IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm breaks down the budget passed by Senate Democrats and urges board members and administrators to contact their legislators about the impacts of a property tax freeze.
 
The Illinois Senate Democrats, on Tuesday, frustrated by the lack of a budget compromise between the governor and the legislative leaders, ventured out alone and approved a comprehensive statewide budget for Fiscal Year 2018. Included in the 650-page omnibus budget proposed in SB 6 are full-year appropriations for K-12 education. The bill passed on a vote of 33-23-2, with no Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

For education, the bill would provide a $286 million increase for General State Aid that is appropriated for “Evidence-Based Funding.” There is no definition in SB 6 of exactly what that means, but it can be assumed it is based on SB 1, which the Senate passed last week. More information on the Senate’s action from last week is posted here.

SB 6 includes a $36 million increase in bilingual education and a $35 million increase in early childhood education. The bill would also appropriate money to Chicago Public Schools for  teacher pension payments.

Accompanying the appropriations bill was SB 9, which would provide additional revenues to the state to cover the costs of the appropriations. SB 9 would increase the individual income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent and the corporate income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 7 percent— retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017. The sales tax base would also be broadened to cover certain services, including: storage, laundry, exterminations, security services, tattoos and piercings, cable, satellite, and digital streaming services. Along with a few other changes to the tax codes, the result is estimated to be an increase of $5.4 billion to state coffers.

As it currently stands, Governor Bruce Rauner is not on board with this proposal. In debate yesterday, Senate Republicans indicated that the final two sticking points are agreements on a property tax freeze for school districts and other units of local governments, and Workers’ Compensation Act reform. Last week, the Senate defeated a bill (SB 478) that would have frozen property tax extensions for two years. The governor is calling for a permanent property tax freeze. Alliance members are urged to contact their legislators and inform them of the adverse effects a property tax freeze would have on their school districts.

As for House Speaker Michael Madigan, it is anyone’s guess on how he will deal with the Senate budget plans. Generally, he could ignore or dispose of the Senate bills; approve the Senate bills and send them to the governor; or craft his own budget plan and send it over to the Senate.

The situation is obviously very fluid at this point. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the spring on May 31st. They will be in session most days until then, likely meeting at least a day or two over the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ISBE Briefs

Excel Awards
Nominations are being accepted for the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) annual Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year program. Recognition for seven categories of school leaders are being accepted for the 2017-2018 awards, including: school board member/community volunteer, classroom teacher, school administrator/principal, team, licensed student support personnel, educational service personnel (unlicensed), and early career educator. Those Who Excel nominations are due by June 5, with only one nominee per category, per district permitted. The nomination form is available here.

Fiscal Year 2018 Transportation Reimbursement Claims
The Pupil Transportation Claim Reimbursement System is now open to enter data for the 2016-2017 school year. The annual claims must be submitted by Aug. 15. Instructions for submitting the transportation reimbursement have been posted to the ISBE website.

Changes made to ESSA State Plan
The U.S. Department of Education has requested changes in the Illinois ESSA State Plan, due to “incomplete” measurements of interim progress for academic attainment, graduation rate, and English Learner proficiency.

The original plan submitted by ISBE aimed to develop progress measurements based on three-year baseline data, but that data was not yet available. In order to accommodate the Department of Education’s request, ISBE instead used a 15-year timeline for academic attainment based on PARCC data, graduation rates, and English Learner proficiency on ACCESS. The U.S. Department of Education accepted these qualifications. ISBE has stated that these interim progress measurements will be revisited when three-year averages are available.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-19

EVENTFUL WEEK IN CAPITOL

With time beginning to run out and tensions mounting, lawmakers delved into the weightier issues in the Capitol this week. In committee and floor action, legislators discussed moving forward on a comprehensive state budget as well as other reform measures that have been on the front burner. Components of the “grand bargain” that were attempted earlier in the year were resurrected in the Senate.

The Senate approved measures to make appropriations for a state budget (SB 6) and to reform the school funding formula (SB 1). But bills to implement the budget (SB 42) and to freeze property taxes (SB 478) failed on the Senate floor. Legislation to raise revenue through an increase in the state’s income tax rates and to reform worker’s compensation were not called for a vote, though there are reportedly negotiations that are ongoing on these topics.

SCHOOL FUNDING REFORM

The Illinois House of Representatives and Senate both advanced their versions of the Evidence-Based Funding Model (EBM) for school reform this week. The House moved HB 2808 (Davis, D-East Hazel Crest) out of an appropriations committee on Wednesday and sent it to the House floor. The bi-partisan sponsored plan could be voted on next week and sent to the Senate. While in the Senate, SB 1 ( Manar, D-Bunker Hill) – substantially similar to HB 2808 – was approved and sent across the rotunda to the House.

Certainly the EBM approach supported by the Alliance has become the focus of the General Assembly, and now discussions have moved to details of the various evidence-based plans. While details of the basic elements will continue to be worked out by legislators, the Alliance focus is to ensure that equity and adequacy are preserved. More information on the Alliance position can be found here.

Partisan wrangling over the various funding reform bills did reach a fever pitch Thursday over how Chicago Public Schools (CPS) would be treated within the new formula. Various funding proposals treat the CPS block grant and pension payments differently, thus directing school funds in different directions. This will be one of the formula “details” that needs to be worked out.

PROPERTY TAX FREEZE

Governor Bruce Rauner has been calling for a property tax freeze since his first State of the State Address. And with legislators from both parties joining in on this mantra, the push continues. Wednesday, a bill that would have frozen the property tax extensions for school districts and other local governments for two years was defeated on the Senate floor. SB 478 received more than a simple majority of the Senators voting, but since the bill preempted the home rule statute, it needed a 3/5 th majority vote.

The governor’s position has been that if any increase in income tax rates will be permanent, then the freeze in property taxes should be permanent as well. Leadership in the Senate majority, due to the concern of what a freeze could do to local school district budgets, have agreed to no more than a two-year freeze.

MANDATE RELIEF


The issue of providing relief from the overabundance of unfunded and underfunded mandates on local school districts continues to be pushed by the Alliance and responded to in various pieces of legislation. Such provisions have emerged in various versions of pension bills, school funding reform bills, and property tax freeze bills. The Alliance has drafted its own bills to provide flexibility for physical education, drivers’ education, third party contracting, and allowing local boards to waive existing mandates. This language has been provided to legislators.

But in some versions of these “mandate relief” provisions that have appeared, there is much weaker language inserted (such as requiring a school board to hold a referendum at an election to request permission to seek a mandate waiver). The Alliance cannot support such provisions and will continue to fight for true relief and flexibility.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 100-19.

IASB officer nominations sought

The nominating committee of the Illinois Association of School Boards is seeking candidates for the offices of president and vice president. Nominating forms are due in the IASB office in Springfield by 4 p.m., Aug. 4 and candidates will be interviewed that same month.

The following criteria will be used by the committee in considering nominees: leadership experience and general participation in IASB activities; leadership experience on the local board; involvement with other education-related organizations; other leadership experiences.

Candidates for the position of President or Vice-President of the Illinois Association of School Boards should possess, at a minimum, the following qualifications:
  • Demonstrated leadership on a local board of education and at IASB division and state levels.
  • Demonstrated participation in a wide spectrum of IASB activities at all levels.
  • Demonstrated ability to speak for public education in Illinois and to be an advocate for IASB positions.
  • Membership on the IASB Board of Directors for at least two years is preferred.
Officers serve one-year terms and may serve no more than two consecutive such terms, or until their successors are elected and qualified.

Nominations for elective offices shall be made according to the nominating committee procedures that are posted at the IASB Members-Only website. Candidate Data sheets for the office of IASB president or vice president are required and must be received by 4 p.m., Friday, Aug. 4. Please mail to (or, if you wish to email, send to cbolt@iasb.com): IASB, Attn: Chairman, IASB Nominating Committee, 2921 Baker Drive, Springfield, IL 62703-5929.

A candidate slate will be presented to the Delegate Assembly in Chicago on Nov. 18.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Alliance Legislative Alert


UPDATE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
This message is from the Executive Directors of the organizations that comprise the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance: Roger Eddy (IASB), Brent Clark (IASA), Mike Jacoby (IASBO), and Jason Leahy (IPA).

With the scheduled end of the Spring Session of the General Assembly quickly approaching, there is a flurry of activity related to several issues that are critically important to the School Management Alliance. In the coming days, we will be requesting that you be prepared to contact your representative and senator to express our positions on specific legislation that support position statements of the Alliance. Please watch for “Calls to Action” regarding specific proposals and make those contacts. The purpose of this Alliance Alert is to make our position on certain critical issues clear.

New Funding Formula
Discussions continue as to changes to the current funding formula with most of the focus on implementation of an “Evidence Based Funding Model” (EBM). This type of funding model was an important pillar in Vision 2020. Over the past couple of years, the Alliance has worked with the educational community, various task forces, and members of the General Assembly to craft language that would lead to a change in the current funding model. As the session draws to a close, our efforts will continue toward this goal. To be clear, there are some important positions that we adhere to during the negotiations:

  1. It has consistently been the position of the Alliance that all districts do not receive less funding per pupil than they received the previous year. If a district’s total student population decreases, total funding might decrease. Simply stated, that means NO RED NUMBERS.
  2. An “Adequacy Target” would be calculated for every school district in Illinois that is tied to demographic factors unique to each district. There are 27 factors in the model. Addressing funding for these factors is centered heavily on research and is reliant on employing best practices to support quality education for students.
  3. We support additional new revenue which is necessary in order to achieve the goals of equity and adequacy that this model envisions. The new revenue would be distributed to the neediest districts with a local effort calculation included.
Mandate Relief
It has long been the position of the Management Alliance to oppose new unfunded and under-funded mandates for schools. Local control of our schools is important and we firmly believe that locally-elected officials make the best decisions regarding the use of resources to provide a quality education for their students. When new mandates are enacted, we have worked to ensure that the requirements are implemented with policies that reflect those requirements. We also continue to seek relief from existing mandates. Once again, we believe that relief from existing mandates would allow locally elected officials to make decisions they believe are best for students in their district. We want to make it very clear that the Alliance position has not changed and we strongly support efforts to reduce existing mandates that place control of the decision with locally elected officials. Examples of mandate relief include, but are not limited to, third party contracting, driver’s education, and physical education.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Districts chosen to share success stories at annual conference

More than 65 school districts and related organizations submitted proposals to make panel presentations at the 2017 Joint Annual Conference, Nov. 17-19 in Chicago. Panel proposals were evaluated online by committee of school board members in early March. Notifications were mailed to 29 successful applicants in mid-April.

Click here to see an entire list of 2017 Share the Success panels.

“Share the Success” proposals were evaluated on the following criteria:

Interest or relevance for board members and school officials
Clarity of the proposals
Clarity of the objectives, and if they can be realistically achieved
Whether a program’s claim to “success” is supported by evidence
Whether creativity and innovation are clearly demonstrated
A focus on the work of the board, rather than staff

Districts that submitted proposals but were not chosen to make hour-long panel presentations may be offered an opportunity to present their topic during the Carousel of Panels. This event, to be held on Saturday, Nov. 18, will feature up to 36 participants in three successive half-hour presentations. This format give attendees an opportunity to visit a variety of presenters on a range of subjects in short amount of time.

A full description of these and all other Conference panels and programming will be available in the Conference Preview, to be posted online in mid-September.

Online conference registration and housing is expected to open in early June. This year’s event will be IASB’s 85th Joint Annual Conference with the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) and Illinois Association of School Business Officials (Illinois ASBO).

Districts and school leaders who are considering the 2017 Conference are invited to view highlights from last year’s event in the video below.


Monday, May 15, 2017

IASB executive director announces retirement

IASB Executive Director
Roger Eddy
Roger Eddy, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards since 2012, has informed the Association board of directors of his intention to retire, effective June 30, 2018.

The board accepted his letter of resignation on Saturday, May 13, and formed an ad hoc committee to lead a search for Eddy’s successor. IASB is one of the largest state school board associations in the country, representing 843 member school districts and nearly 6,000 elected school board members.

IASB President Phil Pritzker said the search committee will meet soon to determine the scope for the search process, as well as a timeline, candidate profile, and survey of stakeholders.

Eddy is the sixth fulltime executive director in the Association’s 104-year history.

“Just as those five talented individuals who came before him, Roger will definitely leave his mark on our organization," Pritzker said.

Prior to joining IASB, Eddy spent 31 years in education as a teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent. He also served 10 years in the Illinois General Assembly as a state representative.

"With a long career as teacher and administrator to mesh with his experience as the “go-to” legislative voice on education, Roger was able to hit the ground at full speed when he arrived five years ago," Pritzker continued. "He has been the right person at the right time for this organization."

The president said Eddy has been instrumental in improving everything at the Association, from policy interpretation and financial stability to working with the many stakeholders of the organization. That includes the school management Alliance partners, the state board of education, and other governmental agencies and elected representatives. Eddy was a key partner in the development of the Vision 20/20 initiative, which has become a force in state policy on education, Pritzker added.

“Working to advocate for the mission of IASB has truly been a highlight of my nearly 40-year career in public education," Eddy said. "Excellence in local school governance in support of quality public education has been the vision that defines this work. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a dedicated board of directors, excellent leadership team, and a gifted staff.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report (100-18)

BILL MOVES TO CHANGE BOARD MEMBER ELECTIONS
The Senate Executive Committee Thursday, unanimously approved an amendment that would
move the election of school board members from the Consolidated Election in April of odd-numbered years to the General Election in November of even-numbered years. Senate Amendment #2 to SB 441 (Cullerton, T., D-Villa Park) passed on a vote of 14-0 and was sent to the Senate floor for further consideration. SB 441 was introduced as a “shell bill” – a bill that merely made a technical change to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act and contained no substantive language. But Senate Amendment #2, offered this week, gutted the underlying bill and made the changes in the Election Code and the School Code.

The Alliance testified before the committee in opposition to the bill.

The Consolidated Election is not eliminated in the amendment. In fact, township boards, library boards, park board, etc. will still be elected at the non-partisan election. The amendment simply removes school board members from that election and places those elected offices in the General Eection in November of the even-numbered years along with the U.S. President, U.S. Senators and Congressmen, Governor, and members of the Illinois General Assembly. The underlying reason given for the change is that school districts are the main consumer of property taxes in the State and more citizens should be voting on these races. Voter turnout in the General Election is much higher than the turnout in the Consolidated Election.

The Alliance strongly believes that school board membership should be a non-partisan office that is elected in a non-partisan election. Under the amendment, even though it is a partisan election, school board candidates would not have to declare a party and would not run as a member of a party. This office would be the only non-partisan position elected in the General Election.

School board members are urged to contact their State Senator and ask for a “No” vote on SB 441.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report (100-18), including a budget update, committee and bill action, and lead testing information.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Districts weigh referenda
decisions for March 2018 ballot

It is not too early for districts to look into placing school finance referendums on the ballot for the next regularly scheduled election, to be held on March 20, 2018.

School leaders in Mount Prospect Elementary District 57, for example, say they are considering placing a referendum on the ballot that would increase property taxes to ease growing financial pressures, including those resulting from an enrollment boom.  School leaders in Amboy CUSD 272 are currently gauging public support to build an addition to the high school there.

School leaders still have time to study their options on all such questions, as the deadline for school boards to certify a public policy question for the March 2018 election has not yet been announced by the Illinois State Board of Elections, but the deadline is likely to be in December 2017.

In the most recent elections, held April 7, 2017, voters approved 2 of 8 county school facilities sales tax proposals, 11 of 20 building bond issues, and 11 of 15 tax rate proposals. Additional historic data on school finance referenda results is available online.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

School officials urged to contact legislators over the next two weeks


Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm
IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm urges board members and administrators to contact their legislators about passing a comprehensive state budget and opposing any unfunded school mandates.

The Illinois General Assembly will be debating bills in committees and on the respective floors of the legislative chambers over the next couple of weeks. Now is an ideal time for school board members and administrators to contact their legislators and provide input on bills that would have significant impact. Details of how these proposals, if implemented, would affect local school districts send a powerful message to legislators.

The first message – approval of a comprehensive, balanced budget for the entire state is paramount. Through the two-year budget stalemate, K-12 schools have suffered, higher education has suffered, and the failure to fund social services has been harmful to at-risk constituencies, students in public schools, service providers and vendors, and the community at large. The legislature, in a bi-partisan fashion, must adopt a budget that the governor will sign.

Second – stop the mandates. Over the past ten years more than 100 new unfunded and underfunded mandates have been imposed on local school districts. These add new costs, all while school funding has declined. They add new responsibilities that require time, all without adding a minute to the school day or a day to the school year.

IASB, along with our School Management Alliance partners, have stopped dozens of new proposed requirements thus far, including bills that would have:
  • required new instruction on civics in junior high schools
  • required new instruction on work ethic for 6th graders 
  • made passage of a class in Black History a prerequisite for graduating junior high and high school 
  • required the posting of the nutritional value of any food sold on school premises 
  • required, to the minute, the amount of time elementary school students have recess
Other bills have been stopped as well, such as bills that would have prohibited a school district from charging any fee for summer school; established a private school voucher program; stopped the ability for a school district to use interfund transfers; and required dozens of new data postings on school district websites.

Still, a few bills are pending that would add new burdensome mandates on school districts, including:
  • requiring all elementary and high schools to offer instruction on cursive writing (HB 2977, Welch, D-Westchester)
  • requiring all schools with grades 6-12 to provide feminine hygiene products to students at no cost (estimated to cost over $13 million statewide) (HB 3215, Wallace, D-Rockford) 
  • requiring school districts to establish a comprehensive policy on student accelerated placement, which includes a committee to make decisions on the placement upon any request (SB 1223, Lightford, D-Maywood) 
  • requiring school buses to have seatbelts which increase cost, reduce capacity, and have no clear safety advantages according to many studies (SB 1431, Sandoval, D-Chicago and HB 3377, Lang, D-Chicago)
School board members and administrators are encouraged to contact their legislators and urge them to oppose these new mandates.

A complete list of “hot bills” that will be voted on in the next two weeks can be found here.