Delivered via email: January 9, 2020
EDUCATION REFORM BILL CHANGING
On Saturday, a committee in the Illinois House of Representatives briefly discussed the contents of SB 2170 (Lightford, D-Maywood) – the education reform bill initiated by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus that was highlighted in the last IASB Legislative Report. Due to concerns raised by many education interest groups, changes are being made to the legislation. Senate Amendment #2 to HB 2170 was filed Saturday morning and appears to contain the latest version of the bill. The Senate is scheduled to discuss the legislation in the Executive Committee on Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
Navigating through the redrafting of such a massive initiative, and of finding the proper legislative vehicle that can be advanced in the limited time available, is proving to be a challenge for lawmakers. The “Lame Duck” session must conclude its business by Wednesday at noon. The legislation could go through even more changes and could be amended onto another bill at some point as well.
IASB submitted written testimony on the legislation Saturday morning to the House committee. It will be revised to accommodate any changes in the new version and submitted to the Senate before Sunday’s hearing. Some specific provisions are cited in the testimony, specifically pointing out concerns and ways to improve implementation of new requirements. The opening narrative sums up the significant fiscal concerns of the legislation. In part, it states:
The Illinois Association of School Boards appreciates the concepts of this amendment in its attempts to address the educational needs of our most at-risk students. We do have some concerns about the implementation of some of the programmatic provisions, and especially of the fiscal challenges it could present to local school districts. School board members from across the state have laid out clear positions in our opposition to unfunded mandates that fall upon local districts. We commit to working with the sponsors and supporters of this legislation in finding solutions to these concerns so a viable, properly funded law can be enacted.
We understand that the intent is for funding to be made available through the funding formula to cover the costs of these new requirements. We support that effort but need to assure that such funding is available and is delivered to the districts. Funding for all new requirements should be made part of the criteria in the evidence-based funding formula.
Given the tight fiscal restraints the state is under, funding for all of these provisions could be challenging. It must be made clear throughout the legislation that if full, specific funding is not appropriated and received by the school district then the district is relieved of these new requirements.
OTHER LEGISLATIVE ACTION
SB 2075 (Lightford), which lowers the compulsory school attendance age from 7 to 5 years old, was considered in committee Saturday. However, the bill was amended to remove all substantive provisions thus making it a “shell bill”.
HB 5548 (Lilly, D-Chicago) is the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus omnibus healthcare bill. The IASB has concerns about a provision that would require school districts to provide trauma counselors and another potentially complicating Medicaid reimbursements to school districts.
Senate Amendment #3 to HB 2685 (Belt, D-Chicago) contains provisions for the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Economic Equity Act. It impacts employer hiring practices and policies regarding the hiring of individuals with criminal backgrounds. IASB has concerns as there are already several current laws that prohibit a school district from hiring individuals with certain criminal convictions. Thus, school districts should be removed from this legislation. HB 5871 contains identical language.
LATEST ON ESP UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
The issue of education support personnel (ESP) being eligible for unemployment insurance benefits may re-emerge in legislation over the next few days. Whether or not this provision will be expanded, or made permanent, is on the table. It has come to IASB’s attention that school districts have been getting bills from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) for ESPs being laid off. IDES has indicated that this is a mistake and districts should not respond to these requests. An email from IDES explaining the issue will be sent to school districts on Monday morning.