Waiver deadline approaching to opt out of School Code mandates

  • Date Posted
    July 16, 2019
  • Category
School districts applying for a waiver from Illinois School Code mandates need to have their applications postmarked by August 15 to be considered this fall. Application forms mailed to the Illinois State Board of Education by the deadline are reviewed and submitted in a report to the General Assembly by October 1.

Most such waivers or modifications remain in effect for up to five school years and may be renewed if the district reapplies.

For the state to grant a waiver of a School Code mandate, a school district must demonstrate it can meet the mandate’s intent in a more effective, efficient, or economical manner; or that the waiver is necessary to stimulate innovation or to improve student performance. If school leaders are applying for a modification of School Code mandates (such as for attendance days), or for a waiver or a modification of administrative rules, there is no submission deadline. But approval must be granted before the modification can be made, and the process of for applying then is exactly the same in as applying for a waiver of a School Code mandate.

The applicant school board may only approve the waiver request following a public hearing on the application and plan. Proper notice of that hearing needs to be posted on the district’s website at least 14 days beforehand, and proper newspaper notice publication is required at least seven days before the hearing. The waiver request must be submitted to the State Board of Education within 15 days of its approval by the school board.

Any requests the state board fails to disapprove are granted, and even rejected waiver requests may be appealed to the legislature, which sometimes reverses the state agency’s ruling.

By law, waivers cannot be allowed from laws, rules, and regulations regarding special education, township treasurers, teacher certification, or teacher tenure and seniority, nor can they be granted if they pertain to ESSA requirements, or Section 5-2.1 of the School Code (eligibility of voters in school elections). Certain student performance data requirements for certified staff evaluations also cannot be waived. Waivers are no longer needed for legal school holiday requests, and most parent-teacher conference schedules.

State law (105 LCS 5/2-3.25g) limits terms of physical education waivers. It provides that an approved physical education waiver or modification may remain in effect for up to two school years and may be renewed no more than two times.

The waiver law was the brainchild of former IASB Executive Director Hal Seamon, and the Association was instrumental in its adoption. More than 6,000 waiver requests have been approved since the law took effect in March 1995, with over 100  new requests each year. In the most recent six-months, out of a total of 57 requests the largest category of applications received included 21 requests seeking waivers from the requirements for non-resident tuition.  The next largest category of applications received – 16  requests, were related to administrative cost cap limitations. Seven requests were related to physical education, and three were related to waiving the costs of driver’s education, while three more pertained to the required publication of a school district’s annual statement of affairs.

ISBE provides a complete overview for the waiver process on its website. Application forms and instructions for waivers and modifications can also be downloaded from the agency website. Any questions can be directed to ISBE’s Division of Regulatory Support and Wellness at 217/782-5270, or