Delivered via email: May 22, 2020
LEGISLATURE NEEDS MORE TIMEThe Illinois General Assembly tried to complete its Special Session Friday, but it looks as if they will not quite get done tonight (Friday). The House of Representatives has scheduled session for Saturday morning. The budget has yet to be approved, though it appears that K-12 education will escape any harsh budget cuts as the currently drafted budget bill funds the school funding formula at the same level as the current year. Though there is no increase in the evidence-based formula, it appears that there are no cuts at this time.
With state revenues down nearly across the board, the legislature looks likely to give Governor JB Pritzker more leeway with which to manage the new budget with the current draft of the Budget Implementation Plan (BIMP), SB 1805 (Bennett, D-Champaign). In addition to giving the governor a larger say in expenditures, the General Assembly is looking to add several changes to specific funds that would allow them to be swept into the General Revenue fund. One area for concern is a potential sweep of $20 million from the School Infrastructure Fund to the General Revenue Fund if there are monies in the fund after distributions have been made.
While the legislature may be giving the executive branch more spending flexibility, it is not going to be totally hands off. In the BIMP, the General Assembly creates a Legislative Oversight Committee to monitor how the governor is using this new flexibility in Fiscal Year 2021.
Regarding education, bills were approved to codify most of the governor's Executive Orders involving remote learning, teacher licensure, teacher evaluations, and student curricular requirements; continue to allow interfund transfers; allow retirees to substitute for up to 120 days; and to make Election Day this November a school holiday.
APPROVED LEGISLATION TO BE SENT TO THE GOVERNOR
SB 1569 (Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield)) codifies many of the provisions previously contained in Executive Orders by the governor, and guidance documents and emergency rules promulgated by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Details of the original amendment were listed in IASB Legislative Report 101-17. All of these provisions are included in the approved bill, and a further amendment added the following provisions which are now included:
- Authorizes Remote & Blended Learning Days by codifying emergency rules in case remote learning is used in future school years and authorizes blended learning days for schools to utilize a hybrid approach of both in-person and remote learning.
- Creates a new section "Remote Learning" that only applies if the governor has declared a disaster allowing the State Superintendent to declare a requirement to use remote learning. Once declared, these days shall be implemented grades Pre-K through 12th and shall be deemed pupil attendance days.
- Provides that in the immediate two consecutive tax years following receipt of a Property Tax Relief Pool Relief Grant, the aggregate extension base (rather than levy) of the school district, for the purposes of PTELL, shall include the tax relief the school district provided in the previous taxable year.
- Makes further clarification regarding the information that must be shared with parents of special education students and their individualized education plan (IEP) that will be considered by an IEP team. It also requires a log to be kept regarding services a student receives and removes language regarding the systems of support school districts may utilize and information that can be used in evaluations. It further requires certain information regarding Response to Intervention be provided by written notice to parents.
- Prohibits a school from withholding report cards for students who have not had dental or eye exams during a gubernatorial declared health emergency.
- Requires a superintendent or regional superintendent to notify the state superintendent of a pending criminal charge against a license holder within 10 days of receiving the information.
- Codifies ISBE rules that waive the edTPA requirement for new teachers in the event of a gubernatorial declared public health emergency.
SB 1857 (Martinez, D-Chicago) contains a provision to extend the expiration date for the ability of retired teachers who receive Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) benefits to substitute teach in a school for up to 120 days per school year without jeopardizing their pension benefits. Without the enactment of such legislation, the number of days such a retiree could work would be 100 days beginning July 1, 2020. The additional 20 days assists school districts in finding qualified substitute teachers during this teacher shortage. The bill extends the expiration date until June 30, 2021.
SB 1863 (Link, D-Vernon Hills) makes numerous changes in the Election Code. Among the provisions, it makes Election Day this November only an official State holiday, so schools must be closed. It also allows persons 16-years or older to serve as election judges.
SB 1937 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill) extends the debt limits for the following school districts: Komarek SD 94, Berkeley SD 87, Schiller Park SD 81, Greenview Community Unit School District 200, Williamsville Community Unit School District 15, Elmwood Park Community Unit School District 401, and Maroa-Forsyth Community Unit School District 2.
HB 2455 (Martwick, D-Chicago) contains language for the omnibus labor/management bill. Details of the provisions were included in IASB Legislative Report 101-18.
SB 264 (Harmon, D-Oak Park) contains the FY '21 state budget. For elementary and secondary education, it holds all school districts harmless to FY '20 distribution levels and adds no new tier money. New funding will be distributed in a manner that even further prioritizes low-wealth school districts. Budget line items are also held flat for Early Childhood Education Grants, Career and Technical Education Grants, and Mandated Categorical Grants.
SB 685 (Harmon) allows the chief county assessment officer to approve certain homestead exemptions without application for the 2020 tax year with certain criteria. It also allows county boards, except Cook, to waive penalties and interest on delinquent property tax payments and extends deadlines for scavenger sales and tax sales during 2020.
SB 2135 (Link) codifies the governor's Executive Order regarding holding meetings of public bodies remotely. In times of emergency declared by the governor, school boards may conduct meetings without having school board members physically present at the meeting sight. Members of the public who are present at the meeting sight must be able to hear all discussion, testimony and votes. The bill also directs the Broadband Advisory Council to study the provision of free access to broadband service by all residents of the state. Finally, the bill suspends the deadline for filing statements of economic interest until August 1, 2020.
HB 2096 (Willis, D-Northlake) is the local government omnibus bill. The legislation contains numerous provisions addressing issues local governments at all levels have faced due to the pandemic. For school districts, the legislation contains a provision that allows bids for contracts over $25,000 for construction purposes to be "communicated, accepted, or opened electronically."