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.


5 CLOCK HOURS MINIMUM
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.


MINIMUM SALARY FOR TEACHERS
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.


PHYSICAL EDUCATION
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.


SCHOOL DISTRICT CONSOLIDATION
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.


INVOLVEMENT BY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS
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.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Alliance Legislative Report 101-08

GOVERNOR PRITZKER UNVEILS PLANS FOR GRADUATED INCOME TAX

On the campaign trail and in his Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Address to the Illinois General Assembly, Governor JB Pritzker has made his case for Illinois to adopt a graduated income tax. Until Thursday, this was just a general concept without any specific rates identified. This week, the governor revealed a plan that would slightly lower the income tax rate for households making under $100,000 and keeps in place the current 4.95% income tax rate for households making between $100,000 and $250,000. The increased rate starts at incomes greater than $250,000 and tops out at incomes greater than $1,000,000 with a tax rate of 7.95%. For a more detailed breakdown, you can find Governor Pritzker’s plan here.

The plan is estimated to provide a savings for 97 percent of taxpayers and raise additional revenues of $3.4 billion per year. While the projected revenues would be a significant increase, to put it in perspective, earlier this year the Illinois State Board Education (ISBE) proposed an education budget increase of $7.2 billion to adequately fund all schools.

Currently, the Illinois Constitution bans anything other than a “non-graduated” income tax. For the governor to be able to make the changes he wants to the Illinois Constitution, he will need help from the General Assembly and voters. To make a change to the Illinois Constitution, three-fifths (a super majority) of legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate would need to approve the language for the constitutional change. Democrats currently have super majorities in the House and the Senate, but it may not be so easy to get all members on board with a constitutional change, which are typically more difficult to pass than normal pieces of legislation. If three-fifths of the General Assembly give the green light, the question would be submitted to the voters. For a constitutional change to become law, three-fifths of voters on the question, or a majority of all ballots cast would have to affirm the change. While there are still some questions as to what the exact language presented will be, it is clear that the debate around a move to a graduated income tax is just beginning.

TEACHER MINIMUM SALARY BILLS ON THE MOVE

Senate Bill 10 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill) was advanced to 3rd Reading in the Senate earlier this week. The procedural maneuver means that SB 10 could be called for a final vote at any time the Senate is in session. Across the rotunda, a House committee approved the same minimum teacher salary language in House Bill 2078 (Stuart, D-Collinsville). With bills moving in both chambers, it is important for school board members and administrators to reach out to General Assembly members to urge opposition. For additional information on minimum teacher salary language, click here.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 101-08, including information on bills currently under discussion by Illinois lawmakers.

March/April Journal offers balance

The March/April issue of The Illinois School Board Journal deals with finding balance in key areas of school board work: collective bargaining, superintendent characteristics, and superintendent stress. Attorneys Melissa D. Sobota and Shelli L. Anderson from Franczek, P.C. outline changes, including a new governor, an amendment to the Illinois Pension Code, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision, and a national rise in activism among teachers that will influence collective bargaining in the coming years.

Balancing life and work comes to mind with a piece on a survey that assesses the impact of stress on superintendents and how it relates to the work of the board. Also, discover another survey which asked school board members their ideal characteristics of a superintendent – with some interesting results.

The March/April issue also includes more ideas for balance in the Journal’s regular features, Ask the Staff, In Case You Missed It, and Practical PR.

Each issue of The Illinois School Board Journal is mailed to all members. Watch your mailbox for your printed copy, or click below for the digital edition.




Thursday, March 7, 2019

School Board Governance Recognition applications posted, boards can apply now

IASB School Board Governance Recognition recognizes full boards of education that actively model their local governance activities around the Association’s six Foundational Principles of Effective Governance.



The Governance Recognition awards program acknowledges boards that strive for excellence and exhibit effective governance behaviors. The recognition covers a two-year period from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2019. Boards that have received Governance Recognition honors should apply for renewal every two years.

To qualify, school boards need to demonstrate and provide evidence of how they are meeting the Foundational Principles of Effective Governance in the following areas:
  • Adopting and communicating the districts’ mission, vision, and goals, and monitoring progress towards district ends using data;
  • Explaining the board’s two-way community engagement efforts and activities;
  • Implementing a superintendent evaluation process and annual superintendent evaluation;
  • Conducting regular policy reviews and maintaining an updated policy manual;
  • Having an agreed upon, written, and adopted code of conduct;
  • Implementing an orientation process for new board members involving the superintendent and veteran members; and
  • Practicing effective governance behaviors by participating in board development programs and events.
Applications for School Board Governance Recognition are available online. Applications must be completed, signed by the board president, and received no later than August 1, 2019. Past winners and further information on the Governance Recognition program are posted on the IASB website.

School boards that earn Governance Recognition Awards will be honored at IASB’s fall division meetings.

Questions about the award program should be directed to Peggy Goone, ext. 1103.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Federal Legislative Report 116-01

HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BILL

The U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor passed the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019 (H.R. 865) last week by a vote of 26 to 20. The Act would invest $100 billion through grants and tax-exempt municipal bond programs to states and school districts for school infrastructure repairs, modernization, and new construction. H.R. 865 would reinstate tax credit bonds for school infrastructure projects (such as the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program) that was rescinded as part of a cost-savings measure in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The legislation would also support enhanced broadband for school buildings and would increase funding for infrastructure in Impact Aid districts. Specifically, H.R. 865 would authorize $70 billion in appropriations for grants to school districts from Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) to FY29 and would authorize $30 billion in bond authority to states and school districts for calendar years 2020-2022.

IASB supports the proposal, but opposes the provision regarding wage and labor rates (Davis Bacon) that would impact local school board governance and authority over contracts with service providers. Local school boards should retain all necessary decision-making authority when contracting with private companies and IASB urges an exemption of the Davis Bacon provisions applicable to the school bond programs.

House Democratic leaders would like H.R. 865 to be a component of a broader federal infrastructure package that may be considered later in the year. A similar bill is being crafted in the Senate.

HIRING FLEXIBILITY FOR NUTRITION DIRECTORS

Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a final rule that “adds four flexibilities to the hiring standards for new school nutrition program directors in small local educational agencies (LEAs) and new state directors of school nutrition programs under the professional standards regulations for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.” The final rule will take effect in 60 days.

E-RATE SPECIAL CONSTRUCTION DEADLINE EXTENSION

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau extended a key deadline for some E-rate special construction applicants. During March 2018, some E-rate special construction applicants, for funding year 2016 and 2017, received incorrect program information from the Universal Service Administrative Company. That information caused those applicants to miss key implementation deadlines. The Wireline Bureau’s action this week protects the integrity of the funding provided to program participants affected by the error. School districts with 2016 or 2017 E-rate special construction applications should review the Wireline Bureau’s decision, which can be accessed here.

Click here to read the full Federal Legislative Report 116-01, including information on FERPA guidance, school nutrition flexibility, the elimination of school discipline guidance, and more.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Alliance Summit prepares stakeholders to advocate for public school interests

Hundreds of school leaders enjoyed the chance to network with peers.
Hundreds of school board members, district administrators, school business officials, and other education leaders attended the 2019 Alliance Leadership Summit, held February 26-27 in Springfield.

The lobbying preparations, convening at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre, were jointly sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Illinois Association of School Business Officials, and the Illinois Principals Association.

The school management organizations said their goal for the summit was to bring their individual members together as a unified team in order to learn about issues and engage legislators on the needs of public education. The agenda included hearing from guest speakers and panelists on timely public policy concerns. More importantly, the Summit also helped teach participants the ropes on how to advocate effectively on the issues affecting public schools.

Day one included a keynote presentation by Dr. Jeff McCausland, Col., U.S. Army, who shared historical insights on President Abraham Lincoln’s strategic vision and successful approaches to crisis management. Panel presentations featured political analysts, and a detailed issues discussion led by executives and lobbyists from the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance.
IASB Executive Director Thomas E. Bertrand touched on key issues
in closing remarks on Tuesday, including alternative teacher licensing.

Attendees were briefed on how and why local school leaders should advocate on behalf of public education, and participants received a variety of tools to craft and deliver their messages to lawmakers at the capitol. The day concluded with a legislative reception at the Statehouse Inn.

Day two began with a panel presentation by legislators, including State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, State Representative Terri Bryant, State Representative William Davis, and State Representative Tony McCombie.  A subsequent panel presented lobbying tips and advice from Alliance lobbyists.
IASA Executive Director Brent Clark introduced a panel
of distinguished lawmakers to Wednesday morning attendees.

After lunch, local school leaders visited the statehouse to engage with their elected representatives, aides, and other key legislative staff.  Armed with position papers and other informational materials, participants engaged with their school district representatives to describe district needs and share suggestions and stories touching upon legislation.
Attendees visited the statehouse to engage with their legislators.

Among key lobbying points are support for:  the Governor’s request for an additional $375 million for the Evidence-Based Funding Model, a large increase in funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant, ensuring that any capital project funding includes school districts, and giving added flexibility with regard to pensions by increasing the limit on end-of-service salary for school employees.

For more information from the summit see Twitter (https://twitter.com/ILschoolboards).  Note that during the summit the Twitter hashtag #ILedsummit19 was used.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Alliance Legislative Report 101-07

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL ALLIANCE LEADERSHIP SUMMIT 
The Alliance would like to thank all who attended the Alliance Leadership Summit this week in Springfield. Principals, Superintendents, School Business Officials and School Board Members from across the State were able to learn more about and advocate for the issues important to school management. The impact that school leader advocacy had on the Capitol was significant and it will continue to help shape the discussion on issues vital to schools going forward. Two major issues impacted by the advocacy efforts of school leadership were the minimum teacher salary bill (HB 2078, Stuart D-Collinsville) and a weekly minute requirement for Physical Education (HB 2234, Harper D-Chicago). Both of these bills were scheduled for a committee hearing Wednesday, but neither were called due in part to the strong resistance from local education leaders present in Springfield. It is important to keep this pressure on to defeat these two bills. A great way to do that is fill out a witness slip and register your opposition to these pieces of legislation. A witness slip lets your name be a part of the record whether or not you are at the Capitol. A tutorial on how to fill out a witness slip can be found here. 

FULL STEAM AHEAD UNTIL SPRING BREAK
Only the House of Representatives was in Session this week, but starting next week, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly will be in session weekly until the legislative Spring Break in mid-April. For the majority of legislation still pending, the end of March will be the deadline to move bills out of committee and on to the floor. The scheduled deadline to pass bills out of the first chamber is April 12th. While these deadlines lead to a flurry of activity, they are deadlines by rule only which can be, and often are, extended.

Click here to read the complete Alliance Legislative Report 101-07, including bill action from the past week and bills scheduled for committee next week.