May 21, 2019
KEY LEGISLATIVE ISSUES REMAIN
The Illinois General Assembly continues to work toward its May 31 scheduled adjournment, though many of the key issues remain unsettled. Hundreds of bills are making their way through the legislative process, but a Fiscal Year 2020 state budget, accompanying revenue sources, a capital projects proposal, and expanded gaming are still in the discussion phase.
School board members are encouraged to stay engaged with their legislators and weigh in on legislation that impacts their school districts.
BUDGET AND REVENUES
The appropriations committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives have been convening to draft a budget that largely mirrors Governor JB Pritzker’s spending plan. No legislation has emerged yet, and likely will not until the last few days of the session. Reports are that there is not much disagreement on the spending side of the equation, but finding the necessary revenues to support the spending is more difficult.
SJRCA 1 proposes to amend the State Constitution to allow for graduated income tax rates. The measure has already been approved by the Senate with the requisite 3/5 majority vote. A House committee Monday night approved the resolution and a floor vote is pending in that chamber. The proposal will need a 3/5 vote of the House of Representatives in order for it to be placed on the General Election ballot next year. Accompanying bills to set the new graduated tax rates (SB 687), repeal the estate tax (SB 689), and to expand the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) to school districts in all counties (SB 690) are awaiting action in the House Revenue Committee.
SB 7 contains the recreational marijuana legislation. The issue of legalizing such use is still meeting resistance on several fronts, but sponsors continue to hold discussions in hopes of finding a compromise. The bill is pending on the Senate floor. It is estimated that legalization would bring in $170 million for the state.
HB 1260 is the vehicle to carry legislation to legalize sports betting in the state. Always a complicated issue with competing interests from existing casinos, possible new casino owners, horserace tracks, and video gaming parlors, discussions continue in search of a compromise. It is estimated that such legislation would bring in revenues of $200 million.
Though no bills have surfaced yet, it is expected that legislation will emerge to increase the taxes on cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and plastic bags.
CAPITAL PROJECTS PROPOSAL
Initiatives have surfaced in both the House and Senate regarding a comprehensive capital construction bill for the state. The current discussions center on “horizontal projects” (roads and bridges) versus “vertical projects” (buildings and schools). Both the Senate and the House (HB 391) have plans to raise nearly $2.5 billion to pay bonds for the building of roads and bridges. They propose to increase the state taxes on gasoline, diesel fuel, and electric vehicles, as well as increase fees for car and truck registrations and titles, and drivers’ license fees. Meanwhile, the governor announced his plan that calls for spending $41.5 billion on roads, schools, and hospitals over six years. He proposes to double the state gasoline tax and increase other taxes and fees.
Last week a Senate committee approved HB 3053, which contains procedures to arbitrarily reduce the number of school districts by 25 percent. Though the bill received sufficient committee support to be sent to the Senate floor, many Senators raised concerns about provisions of the bill. Discussions have continued among the sponsor, IASB, and other opponents, but the possibility that this bill is called for a final Senate vote is real. More information can be found here.
STUDENT DATA PRIVACY
IASB continues to oppose HB 3606, which addresses the data privacy issue in schools. Throughout hours of negotiations on the bill over the past few weeks, some improvements have been made to the bill. However, there are still enough burdensome requirements and responsibilities for school districts that IASB remains opposed.
NEW GRADUATION REQUIREMENT
At the end of the day last Friday, an amendment was filed to HB 2719 that would require “each high school student” to complete the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as a prerequisite to receive a graduation diploma. IASB opposes the bill, which was placed on a fast track and was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.
There is a provision for a waiver form to be completed by the student declaring that he/she is aware of the FAFSA application but chooses not to file one. The school district would be responsible for providing, verifying, and collecting the waiver forms. The high school principal shall “attest that the school district has made a good faith effort to assist the student”.
Also, the school district “must provide to each high school student any support or assistance necessary to comply with this Section.” It is not clear what this provision means or which party (the student or the school district) deems it “necessary.”
The IASB has pledged to work with the proponents on some compromise language based on these points:
- Not every student will need to complete a FAFSA (students who do not need student loans, do not plan to attend college, plan to join the workforce or the military, etc.)
- Students meeting all of the academic graduation requirements should be allowed to receive their diploma without this unnecessary condition.
- Since there is a provision to non-comply, it would be more workable as an “opt in” provision, instead of creating burdensome paper work for the school district with an “opt out” provision.
- The provision “any support or assistance necessary” is much too broad.
- The additional workload on the principal could be tremendous – creating procedures and carrying out tasks to assure that every student has either filed a FAFSA form or has applied for and received an eligible waiver
- The additional workload to assist students with completion of the FAFSA form could be overly burdensome, both for small districts with fewer staff and for larger districts with hundreds of graduates each year.
- There are concerns about how school districts will handle sensitive data that is required on the FAFSA (it requires household incomes, savings and checking account balances, investments, and information directly from the taxpayers’ IRS 1040 tax form.
MINIMUM TEACHER SALARIES
IASB opposes both bills.
5 CLOCK HOURS MINIMUM
SB 28 would revert back to a prescriptive five-clock hour minimum school day and would cause school districts to forfeit the current flexibility and opportunity for innovation. Though an amendment was adopted in the Senate that made slight improvements, the overall loss of flexibility for school districts requires IASB to remain opposed to the bill.
The House unanimously approved the bill today and it will be sent to the governor for consideration.