CHICAGO – A proposal that would allow school districts to request reimbursement from the local election authority for expenses relating to the use of school facilities as polling places was approved by the membership of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB).
Another proposal supporting a statewide County School Facility Occupation Tax did not get membership approval.
Representatives from 367 school boards considered resolutions on a variety of public education issues at the Association’s annual Delegate Assembly. The assembly was held Nov. 18 in conjunction with the 2017 Joint Annual Conference in Chicago.
IASB elects new leadership
In addition to setting legislative priorities, IASB delegates elected a new president and vice president. Joanne Osmond, a member of the Lake Villa CCSD 41 Board of Education, is the Association’s new president. She has represented the Lake Division on the IASB Board of Directors since 1996 and served the last two terms as the Association’s vice president. Osmond replaces Phil Pritzker, a member of the Wheeling CCSD 21 school board.
Thomas Neeley, a member of the Morton CUSD 709 Board of Education, is IASB’s new vice president. He has served as the Association treasurer since November 2015 and has been a member of the IASB Board of Directors for 10 years, representing the Central Illinois Valley division.
Osmond and Neeley will serve one-year terms.
Delegates also received the Association’s financial report from Neeley and a written Annual Report from IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy. The Annual Report covered IASB’s outlook for public education in Illinois and reviewed the Association’s efforts to manage the challenges of improving that outlook.
Each resolution is originally proposed by a member district, reviewed by a 21-member Resolutions Committee, and then brought before the Delegate Assembly for any discussion and vote. The adopted resolutions set IASB’s policies and establish the legislative direction of the Association and its 843 member districts.
The committee did not approve the one-percent sales tax proposal, submitted by Sangamon Valley CUSD 9, but was brought for reconsideration by the assembly.
“School districts must look for all sources of revenue, to achieve the elusive goal of equity for all students,” said Sangamon Valley board member Martha Leeper.
“It’s about zip code discrimination, and we have a chance to change it,” said board member Bill Alexander of New Berlin CUSD 16, a co-sponsor of the proposal.
Those opposed to a statewide application of the one-percent tax proposal cited concerns of local control. “The resolution takes the legwork out of it. It is the duty of the board to prove the sales tax to its community. We should allow this to be a local control issue,” said Edmar Schreiber, board member at Bond County CUSD 2 in Greenville.
The Delegate Assembly voted 225-115 against supporting a statewide County School Facility Occupation Tax.
Delegates agreed with the resolution to support legislation amending the School Code to reimburse school districts for costs, including security, associated with providing a polling place for elections. This resolution, proposed by Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville, passed by a vote of 157 to 148.
Some delegates cited the current rancor in politics and the need for safer voting sites. Others said that some districts currently cannot refuse to provide school facilities as polling places, despite the additional burden of attendance issues, staffing, security, and other costs involved in opening schools for elections.
“Public education should embrace the election process,” said board member Tom DeNeal of Harrisburg CUSD 3, who opposed the resolution seeking reimbursement. “We should be teaching young people it is a privilege and a right to vote, not an inconvenience.”
Indian Prairie board member Mark Rising disagreed. “It’s hard for us to protect our students. This does not say we have to stop any current practice. It accomplishes the flexibility needed to satisfy the diversity of districts. It also places the onus on the election commission to look for other, fiscally-sound, polling places.”
Three additional resolutions were approved without discussion. One calls for the Illinois State Board of Education to report discrepancies in state-required test scores, including differences between paper-and-pencil scores and electronic testing, and between electronic testing methods. This resolution was proposed by Altamont CUSD 10.
Another resolution amended a current IASB position regarding the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL). IASB will support legislation that allows a school district to levy an amount less than the PTELL limit, without penalty for raising the levy in the three subsequent years. This would encourage districts to levy only the amount necessary each year.
Delegates also reaffirmed a IASB position on state-authorized charter school funding. IASB will continue to support legislation that creates a new methodology for funding state-authorized charter schools. Two other resolutions that were not recommended were not appealed and therefore did not come up for a vote.
A new IASB Belief Statement, to clarify the School Code to employ competitive bidding practices for technology upgrades and energy savings, was also adopted.
The Association’s Position Statements cover a variety of public education issues relating to the following categories: educational programs, local, state and federal financing of public education, legislative activity, board operations and duties, board-employee relations, local, state and federal relations, and district organization and elections.
These positions can be found online.
The Illinois Association of School Boards is a voluntary organization of local boards of education dedicated to strengthening public schools through local citizen control. Although not part of state government, IASB is organized by member school boards as a private not-for-profit corporation under authority granted by Article 23 of the Illinois School Code.
The vision of the Illinois Association of School Boards is excellence in local school governance supporting quality public education. More information about IASB and its services is available on the IASB website.