November/December 2019

Work to Do: New PRESS Issue Outlines Legislation Requiring Board Action

Policy Page by Kimberly Small and Ben Schwarm

The IASB Policy Reference Education Subscription Service (PRESS) Policy Reference Manual (PRM) is a 1,110-plus page encyclopedia of sample board policies, administrative procedures, and exhibits drafted to align with the IASB Foundational Principles of Effective Governance such that local school districts maintain separate board policy and administrative procedure manuals to help distinguish between board documents and staff documents, board work and staff work.

There are three types of materials in the IASB PRM: policies, administrative procedures, and exhibits.

Policies: The board develops policies with input from various sources (district administrators, board attorney, and updates from PRESS Issues and PRESS Plus Issues). The board then formally adopts the policies, often after more than one consideration. This fall, PRESS Issue 102 and PRESS Plus Issue 102 are the largest legislative update issues in history, totaling about 35 policies that will require board action due to new laws passed by the Illinois General Assembly and (to a lesser extent) some regulatory actions. After adoption by the board, each updated policy should have a new adoption date.

Administrative Procedures (APs): APs guide implementation of policies and are developed by the superintendent, administrators, and/or other district staff members. APs are not adopted by the board, which allows superintendent and staff the flexibility they need to keep procedures current – helpful with the number of new laws school districts must implement this year. In addition to the policies that will require board action, about 76 other PRM materials will require superintendent, administrator, and/or other district staff member review. After review by district staff, each AP should have an implementation date. It is important to remember that APs do not require formal board adoption and are not included in a board policy manual.

Exhibits: Both board policies and APs may have related exhibits that provide information and forms intended to be helpful to understanding and/or implementation of either a board policy or an AP. Of the 76 “other PRM materials” mentioned above, 19 are exhibits that will require superintendent and/or district staff member review. Generally, unless directed by the board’s attorney or through PRESS or PRESS Plus instruction, exhibits do not require formal board adoption.

The amount of legislation requiring boards to take action is too great to cover in depth here, but key policy issues will require board action: workplace and student policy implications resulting from the legalization of cannabis, sexual abuse allegations and investigation requirements, sexual harassment prohibitions, implementing a school district supply of undesignated glucagon, minimum clock hours, new curriculum requirements, a new graduation requirement to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a requirement for graduated student records destruction, student detainment by law enforcement officials, mental health awareness training, threat assessment, and more.

Because of the volume of policy implications this year, some boards may have concerns about having policies, such as a cannabis prohibition policy, adopted in time for laws effective on January 1, 2020. Consult your board attorneys about accelerating your district’s local board policy review processes, e.g., first and second readings are not required by law and may be determined locally.

Realizing that the implementation of these new laws presents challenges for local school boards, IASB continues to work in the Capitol to make such requirements less burdensome. Though the number of new school district requirements, policies, and other items that cause school boards to take official action may seem overwhelming, dozens of other such bills were defeated due to IASB advocacy efforts. Dozens more were amended, upon IASB request, to facilitate implementation by the local school board.

The key to success in school board advocacy is local school board participation. It is imperative that local school board members be in contact with their state legislators. When problematic legislation is forwarded, it is important that legislators hear from local school boards so they know specifically how these proposals will impact a local school district. Will it have a fiscal impact? Will it affect the current curriculum? Will it require addition of staff? Will it reduce a board’s flexibility to offer the educational program demanded by the community?

When school board members let legislators know the local effect, it makes a difference.

IASB is always ready to assist school board members in their advocacy. Legislative reports are issued each week of the legislative session to keep members abreast of pending legislation. Position papers, talking points, and analyses are posted on the IASB website to provide updated, comprehensive information on issues. Staff is available to assist with arranging meetings between school board members and legislators either in Springfield or in the local district. Click here to learn more about IASB and advocacy..

Kimberly Small is General Counsel, and Ben Schwarm is Deputy Executive Director, for the Illinois Association of School Boards.