Delivered via email: May 20, 2020
LAWMAKERS BEGIN WORKWith the House of Representatives working out of the Bank of Springfield convention center in downtown Springfield to better provide social distancing, the Illinois General Assembly reconvened in legislative session Wednesday. The Senate worked out of its regular chambers in the State Capitol. The scheduled three-day session comes after a more than two-month layoff as the state followed stay-at-home orders issued by Governor JB Pritzker.
Legislative leaders hope to approve a Fiscal Year 2021 state budget, some essential provisions to allow the state to access federal funding, and any emergency legislation necessary to respond to issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the state's economic shutdown. For education, that includes codifying many of the provisions that were contained in the governor's earlier executive orders.
Budget bills were postured so that once there is an agreement on Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations, a bill is available that has met the constitutional requirements for passage. The House sent a shell bill (HB 64) over to the Senate; the Senate likewise sent a vehicle bill to the House (SB 264). The agreed budget language will eventually be amended onto one of these bills and voted upon again in each chamber. An amendment was filed – but never adopted – that indicated that K-12 education funding would be held flat for FY '21. But for now, no one knows for sure what the education FY 2021 funding will look like.
SB 1569 (Rezin, R-Morris) has an amendment filed that contains many provisions regarding K-12 education. As currently drafted, the amendment would:
- Extend the life of Financial Oversight Panels that were due for expiration.
- Remove the requirement for standardized assessments if the U.S. Department of Education provides a waiver of such.
- Define school employees as essential workers for providing early childhood programs under the ISBE grant program.
- Allow for up to 5 remote learning planning days as pupil attendance days for calculation of length of school term.
- Waive the 5 clock-hour requirement for school attendance during the Covid-19 crisis.
- Allow school districts to utilize E-learning days for remote learning days
- Mirror the governor's executive order requiring remote learning when schools are closed due to a public health emergency.
- Stipulate that creating remote learning programs does not create any additional employee bargaining rights or removal of any rights.
- Extend the expiration date for allowance of school district interfund transfers by one year.
- Mirror the governor's executive order allowing for automatic renewal of teachers licenses that were set to expire June 30, 2020 for one year.
- Mirror the governor's executive order waiving certain requirements for student teacher applicants during a public health emergency and allows student teachers to complete student teaching requirements through remote learning.
- Waive student curricular mandates regarding Patriotism and Representative Government curriculum, Physical Education, and others during a declared disaster.
- Mirror the governor's executive order regarding teacher evaluations that were not finished before schools were closed in March. The default evaluation is "proficient" for unfinished evaluations, though those teachers who's last evaluation was rated "excellent" will be evaluated "excellent" for 2019-20.
- Waive the timelines connected to teacher remediation plans except if the parties mutually agree otherwise in writing.
SB 1863 (Link, D-Vernon Hills) has an amendment filed to make numerous changes in the Election Code. Among the provisions, it makes Election Day this November an official school holiday. It also allows persons 16-years or older to serve as election judges. The amendment has yet to be adopted.
SB 1937 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill) has an amendment filed that would extend the debt limits for the following school districts: Komerek SD 94, Berkeley SD 87, and Schiller Park SD 81.