IASB Legislative Report 103-26

Governor Continues Stable and Consistent PreK-12 Education Funding

Governor’s Budget Address

Education Funding
The Governor’s Budget Address on Wednesday was the  focus this week for legislators and staff. With the anticipation of a tighter budget than in previous years, the Governor did warn that he had to make difficult choices this fiscal year. As it relates to PreK-12 education, there were no big surprises or major new initiatives. While there has been a push in previous years to increase annual contributions to the Evidence-Based Funding formula (EBF) to $550 million, the Governor proposed $350 million, which is in line with previous years. With a couple exceptions, Mandated Categoricals (MCATs) were also held flat. The Governor also continued support for multi-year initiatives which he had previously committed, including Early Childhood Grant Funding and last year's Teacher Vacancy Pilot Program. Absent from the budget were funding for the Healthy School Meals for All Program and targeted funding to support schools in educating the influx of new migrant students. The overall theme for education funding was stable, predictable, and consistent PreK-12 funding for next year. For a more in-depth report on the Early Childhood, PreK-12, and Higher Education budget proposals, view Governor Pritzker Presents Balanced Budget for FY2025.

Pension Funding
The Governor’s proposed budget does reflect the full payment of this year’s required $10.1 billion pension payment. One of the key concerns for legislators in this budget area is keeping up with the steep “pension ramp” on these payments which was created in 1994 when pension liabilities hit an all-time high. Legislation was passed at that time to raise the funding ratio to 90% by 2045. Pritzker is now proposing to change that pension ramp in two ways. First, by increasing the target funding ratio from 90% to 100% so that the pensions are fully funded. Second, he wants to add three years to the ramp to give the General Assembly time to hit 100% funding by extending that date from 2045 to 2048.

The Governor also suggested a review and adjustment to the Tier 2 pensionable earning cap to the Social Security Wage Base for TRS employees (and other non-coordinated employee plans) to address the potential federal Safe Harbor issue that has been a concern for school districts ever since the Tier 2 system was created back in 2010. Representative Kifowit has also shown a commitment to address the Tier 2 pension issue with the introduction of HB4098 last spring. It appears there will continue to be an increased focus on addressing Tier 2 pensions this session. The main question being whether there will be a limited focus on solving just the Tier 2 Safe Harbor issue or a more holistic approach to adjusting the Tier 2 benefits system (i.e. lowering the age of retirement, etc).

Committee Reports

This week at the Capitol looked to be very busy with many committees scheduled and many bills posted to be heard. The IASB Governmental Relations team met with legislators to discuss potential issues with bills and clarify intent.  While many committees met, only a handful of bills were heard in each committee.

Elementary & Secondary Education: Administration, Licensing & Charter Schools Committee

HB3286 (Ness) - Teacher Manufacturing Externships
Provides that, subject to appropriation, the State Board of Education (ISBE) shall provide stipends for teachers who participate in externships with a manufacturing company in the state. This is an Illinois Manufacturing Association (IMA) initiative to support career and technical education teachers (CTE). The externships experience is designed to give teachers the opportunity to spend time outside of the classroom and in manufacturing facilities to build their knowledge of the industry. There will be an amendment that will detail how ISBE will disperse the funds to districts who would then provide the funds to teachers.

HB3287 (Ness) - CTE Teacher Shortage Initiative
This is another IMA initiative addressing the CTE teacher shortage. Subject to appropriation, ISBE would pay half the salary of manufacturing employees (based on their manufacturing job salary) while they are employed at a school district on a short-term basis (i.e. a semester) as a CTE teacher. The intent is to give manufacturing workers a glimpse into a career in teaching without sacrificing their manufacturing salary. However, concerns were raised by legislators with these teachers receiving a different, and potentially higher, salary than other teachers at the school. Legislators also had questions about ensuring the manufacturing workers would have the appropriate training to work with students.

HB3287 was heard only as a subject matter hearing and no vote was taken. HB3286 passed out of Committee 8-0, but will come back with an amendment. Both bills will be heard again in committee before being sent to the House floor.

House Elementary and Secondary Education; School Curriculum and Policies Committee

HB4274 (Swanson) - Tick Removal
Requires that a school nurse or other designated person employed by a school district remove a tick from a student in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Public Health. There are additional requirements mandating how long the district must preserve the tick and information that the district must provide to the parents.

This was the only bill heard in this Committee this week. IASB Governmental Relations staff and the Illinois Principals Association testified in opposition of the bill and raised concerns that removing a tick may be best left to the medical professionals and not mandated for staff to remove it. Working directly with the parents and guardians in a case like this is key to serving the students in the best way possible, but districts need flexibility in handling these situations. The Illinois Association of School Nurses were also opposed to the bill.

The initiative is one of 56 mandates filed this session. The continual burden of adding more mandates to existing staff must be addressed. The bill was not voted upon, and Governmental Relations staff will continue to work with the sponsor to amend the bill.

Senate Labor Committee

SB2568 (Villa) - Single Vendor 403(b) Requirement
This bill would require that all districts who offer 403(b) plans to move to a single vendor option, which must be chosen through a competitive bidding process. The single vendor must be selected by the collective bargaining unit, or if the district has multiple collective bargaining units, through a committee of those bargaining units. The competitive bidding process for the single-vendor would need to occur at least once every seven years.

IASB, in partnership with IASA and IASBSO, has raised several concerns with the bill and met with the sponsor to share those concerns and testified in opposition to the bill. Some of the concerns include that as plan sponsor, the school board must have the final authority to approve any 403(b) plan, that the single vendor option would limit 403(b) options for our school districts employees (many of which currently offer multiple 403(b) options to employees), and that a competitive bidding process would not be appropriate for selecting these retirement services and tools.

While the bill passed out of committee on partisan lines, 12-4, the sponsor will be bringing an amendment back to committee in a couple of weeks. We will continue to work on this bill over that time.

Senate Executive Committee

SB2665 (Porfirio) - Open Meetings Act addition  
Amends the Open Meeting Act and expands the allowable reasons for a board member to attend a meeting by other means to include if the member is prevented from physically attending because of performance of active military duty as a service member.

The bill passed out of committee on a vote of 11-0, and will head to the Senate floor for second reading.

Senate Education Committee

SB3166 (Koehler) - Illinois School Student Records Act change
The bill amends the Illinois School Student Records Act (ISSRA) and requires certain student records that are currently maintained in a student’s temporary record (five years) to be maintained in the student’s permanent records (60 years). Those student records include, “reports of psychological evaluations, including information on intelligence and personality, academic information obtained through test administration, observation, or interviews, elementary and secondary achievement-level test results, special education records, and records associated with a plan developed under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”

The sponsor’s intent is to help former students who apply for housing and other state services later in life as adults by being able to access school records. Notably, the individual often needs to identify the age of onset of a disability and old school records can help in that process. While IASB opposed the bill as written given the challenges of maintaining those records for an additional 55 years, IASB staff are working with the sponsor and other stakeholders on an amendment would address the sponsors concerns, but in a way that is manageable for school districts.

SB3237 (Belt) - 2004, 2005, 2006 School Construction Grant List
This bill is another attempt to help the school districts on the 2004, 2005, and 2006 School Construction Grant lists that anticipated receiving state funding which was never allocated. The bill provides that to receive a school construction grant award adjustment, a school district on the 2004, 2005, or 2006 School Construction Grant List must initially apply and be approved during the first three application cycles after June 30, 2024. This initiative stems from the work of the School Construction Task Force’s recommendations in their final report.

The bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee with a vote of 13-0 and will be heard on the Senate floor for second reading.

Two other bills passed out of committee unanimously and will head to the Senate floor for a vote.
  • SB3110 (Edly-Allen) makes changes to the statute that deals with a vacancy on a regional board of school trustees.
  • SB3164 (Edly-Allen) ISBE has restrictions on developing, purchasing or administering standardized tests in prekindergarten through grade 2 assessments, with very limited exceptions (i.e. to determine eligibility for special education, bilingual services, etc.). This bill will add eligibility for advanced academic programs to that list of limited exceptions.

Advocacy Ambassadors to Meet March 1

On Friday, March 1, from noon until 1 p.m., the Advocacy Ambassador group will hear a current legislative update, including the Top Three Things You Need to Know. In addition, an overview of the General Assembly’s website, including how to look up a bill or legislative member, or search for committees will be demonstrated. A group discussion will follow as members take a deep dive into the key legislative issues over the next couple of months. The number of Advocacy Ambassadors continues to grow with 69 members from 18 IASB divisions represented. There is still room for you! Fill out the application and be a part of this important mission.