Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Waiver request deadline for School Code mandates nears

School districts applying for a waiver from Illinois School Code mandates need to have applications postmarked by August 15 to be considered this fall. Application forms mailed to the Illinois State Board of Education by the deadline are reviewed and submitted in a report to the General Assembly by October 1.

Most such waivers or modifications remain in effect for up to five school years and may be renewed if the district reapplies.

For the state to grant a waiver of a School Code mandate, a school district must demonstrate that it can meet the intent of the mandate in a more effective, efficient, or economical manner; or that the waiver is necessary to stimulate innovation or to improve student performance. If school leaders are applying for a modification of School Code mandates (such as for attendance days), or a waiver or a modification of administrative rules, there is no submission deadline. But approval must be granted before the modification can be made. The process of applying for such a modification is exactly the same in applying for a waiver of a School Code mandate.

The applicant school board may only approve the waiver request following a public hearing on the application and plan. Proper notice of that hearing needs to be posted on the district’s website at least 14 days beforehand, and proper newspaper notice publication is required at least seven days before that hearing. The approved waiver request must be submitted to the State Board of Education within 15 days of its approval by the school board.

Any requests that the state board fails to disapprove are granted, and even rejected waiver requests may be appealed to the legislature, which sometimes reverses the agency ruling.

By law, waivers cannot be allowed from laws, rules, and regulations regarding special education, township treasurers, teacher certification, or teacher tenure and seniority, nor can they be granted if they pertain to ESSA requirements, or Section 5-2.1 of the School Code (eligibility of voters in school elections). Certain student performance data requirements also cannot be waived. Waivers are no longer needed for legal school holiday requests, and most parent-teacher conference schedules.

State law (105 LCS 5/2-3.25g) limits terms of physical education waivers. It provides that an approved physical education waiver or modification may remain in effect for up to two school years and may be renewed no more than two times.

IASB led the charge for adoption of the waiver law, and roughly 6,000 waiver requests have been approved since the law went into effect in March 1995, with over 100 new requests approved each year.

ISBE provides a more complete overview for waiver process on its website. Application forms and instructions for waivers and modifications can also be downloaded from the agency website