Major Issues Looming as Time Marches OnWith just over two weeks left until scheduled adjournment on May 31, the Illinois General Assembly has a great deal of work left. The two most pressing issues appear to be the introduction and passage of a state budget and the decennial task of redistricting. The process, also known as remapping, is constitutionally required and designed to correctly apportion legislative districts based on the latest census data. However, the redistricting process can create hard feelings among members of the General Assembly who might not be pleased with how their districts are going to look for the next 10 years. Both of these vital issues are currently being addressed in behind-the-scenes meetings that will likely produce legislation that will be quickly supported by a majority in the House and the Senate.
House Bill 3223 and Senate Bill 654Not only are there large statewide issues still up for discussion, many important bills that would impact public education at the local level are awaiting final action. In the Senate, House Bill 3223 (Moeller, D-Elgin) is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee. The bill would mandate additional services for students who are expectant parents or parents or students who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. While providing services to these students is vitally important, the additional burdens placed on schools in House Bill 3223 will make providing services more difficult. The bill also contains a provision that could lead to unprecedented legal action against a school district.
Another bill that is well-meaning but misses the mark is Senate Bill 654 (Peters, D-Chicago), currently on the House Floor. An amendment to SB 654 has been filed, but not yet adopted, that would require 30 minutes of daily unsupervised recess in Kindergarten through 5th Grade. While the amendment is an improvement on the original proposal of one hour or recess for Kindergarten through 8th Grade, there are still many stipulations in the amendment that will not give school districts flexibility. For a recess to count under this proposal, it would have to be at least 15 minutes in length. The inclusion of this language would keep “brain breaks” of less than 15 minutes from counting towards the daily requirement. Increased unsupervised play time could lead to the need for additional staff.
The Illinois Association of School Boards continues to work on these issues and many more that will impact your schools. At the end of session, bills can move rapidly and change quickly requiring a quick response from our members to help turn back additional burdensome mandates.
Bills Passed the SenateSB 817 (Simmons, D-Chicago) provides that a school uniform or dress code policy adopted by a school board or local school council shall not include or apply to hairstyles, including hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture.
SB 2088 (Belt, D-Cahokia) adds, as a goal of the Whole Child Task Force, recommending legislation, policies, and practices to prevent learning loss in students during periods of suspension and expulsion, including, but not limited to, remote instruction.
Bills in Senate Committees Week of May 17HB 2778 (Burke, D-Oak Lawn) allows school districts to have whole-day school improvement days four times a year in lieu of improvement days with students in attendance.
HB 3114 (Delgado, D-Chicago) creates a State Education Equity Committee to address systemic inequities and ensure each and every child is equipped to reach their full potential.
HB 3223 (Moeller, D-Elgin) allows a student who is a victim of gender-based violence to transfer schools immediately if the student’s continued attendance at the original school poses a risk to the student’s mental or physical well-being or safety. It also provides that a student’s disclosure of his/her status as a parent, expectant parent, or victim of gender-based violence be a mitigating circumstance in any suspension or expulsion proceeding. Many other requirements for school districts are included, affecting homebound instruction, student absences/truancy, staff training, review/revision of policies and procedures, complaint procedures, confidentiality, and student accommodations and services.
HB 3281 (Ortiz, D-Chicago) allows school districts to teach a unit of instruction on the process of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Bills in House Committees Week of May 17
SB 508 (DeWitte, R-West Dundee) provides that a taxing district's aggregate extension base shall be adjusted whenever an assessment increase or decrease due to the issuance of a certificate of error, a decision of the board of review, or a decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board results in the overextension or underextension of taxes for the last preceding levy year.
SB 517 (Loughran Cappel, D-Plainfield) creates the High-Cost Special Education Funding Commission to make recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly for an alternative funding structure in this state for high-cost special education students that is aligned to the principles of the Evidence-Based Funding formula.
SB 814 (Lightford, D-Hillside) creates a new teacher induction and mentoring program that aligns with the Illinois Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards and requires school districts with their bargaining representative to make a choice between their current mentoring program and the one set forth in this bill. It also establishes a competitive grant program for principal mentoring programs and ties professional growth to the areas addressed in the Illinois Performance Standards for School Leaders.
SB 1747 (Bush, D-Grayslake) establishes Energy Transition Zones to encourage green energy enterprises with tax incentives effective January 1, 2022. Also provides for a de-certification of Enterprise Zones if 80% or more of the businesses receiving tax incentives fail to submit required information to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).