K-12 Bills Beyond Budget Elephant In The Room

Mar 9, 2017

Property taxes, PE, police, twins, tampons, Title I funds, teacher evaluations, lactating students and lottery dollars — these are a few of the legislative measures working their way through education committees in the General Assembly.

 

HB 3082 Sponsored by Rep. Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates) limits property tax increases. Any school districts with reserves of 50% or more of its operating budget would not be allowed to raise taxes for the next levy year unless voters approve the increase. Some regard this measure as an alternate approach to a property tax freeze. It has not been called for a hearing yet.

HB 440 Sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), this bill provides that physical education may (rather than shall) be provided to pupils. It remains in committee, having failed to get enough votes to move, but this initiative is hugely popular with Republicans and school districts in the Chicago suburbs.

HB 3260 Sponsored by Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights), this bill tackles the thorny question of whether siblings in the same grade (e.g. twins or triplets) should be placed in the same classroom or separated. If it becomes law, schools would be required to handle each family on a case-by-case basis, taking input from the parents or legal guardians. The measure sparked a debate in committee, with several legislators expressing strong opinions based on personal experiences. It passed on a vote of 12-5 and moves on to floor debate.

SB 791 Sponsored by Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), this bill would allow students to substitute the entirety of grades 11 and 12 with vocational or technical education courses. It has not been called in committee, but people are watching to gauge the reaction.

HB 2369 Sponsored by Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago), would require public schools, including charter schools, to provide reasonable time and space accommodations for any student who is a mother to breastfeed her infant or to express milk, without suffering any academic penalty. It hasn’t been called in committee, but it’s being closely tracked.

SB 704 Sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), this measure continues Lightford’s longtime effort toward ending the “school to prison pipeline.” It would require certain school districts to transfer the funding they use for school-based law enforcement personnel to other evidence-based and promising practices designed to promote healthy learning environments, such as restorative justice programs, school psychologists, social workers, drug and alcohol treatment, wraparound services, and training for school staff on conflict resolution.

SB 1740, also sponsored by Lightford, is an initiative from the Chicago Teachers Union and Illinois Federation of Teachers. Educators are watching this legislation because it potentially undoes significant parts of Performance Evaluation Reform Act, a Lightford-sponsored teacher evaluation bill that became law in a previous session. Where that bill had four rankings for teachers, this bill makes only two (essentially a pass/fail evaluation) and removes student growth as a criterion. Lightford has not yet called the bill in committee, nor talked about it on the record, because she’s still meeting with stakeholders.

this bill is an initiative from the Chicago Teachers Union and Illinois Federation of Teachers. Educators are watching this legislation because it potentially undoes significant parts of Performance Evaluation Reform Act, a Lightford-sponsored teacher evaluation bill that became law in a previous session. Where that bill had four rankings for teachers, this bill makes only two (essentially a pass/fail evaluation) and removes student growth as a criterion. Lightford has not yet called the bill in committee, nor talked about it on the record, because she’s still meeting with stakeholders.

HB 213 Sponsored by Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago), this “school choice” bill began with the idea of using state lottery proceeds to fund a school voucher program. After a tepid reception to that idea, Ford filed a gut-and-replace amendment that amends the Illinois Lottery Law to say that any money transferred from the State Lottery Fund to the Common School Fund shall be supplemental to, and not in lieu of, any other money due to be transferred to the Common School Fund by law or appropriation. The new version received unanimous “yes” votes in committee and is headed to the House floor.

HB 656 Sponsored by Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria), this bill is designed to correct one of those only-in-Illinois anomalies. It is a little tricky to explain, and consequently died in the 99th session. This session, however, it has garnered substantial bi-partisan support. Currently, school districts pay into the Teacher Retirement System 0.58 percent of the teacher’s salary. But when districts hire a teacher using Title I funds (federal dollars earmarked for low-income students), they pay 39 percent of the teacher’s salary – a massive surcharge to cover the unfunded pension liability rate. That rate is set to increase to 45 percent on July 1. This bill would reduce it that contribution to the “normal” pension costs, roughly 7 percent of the teacher’s salary. Both this bill and its Senate version sponsored by Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) cleared committees easily and have moved to the floor.