The Education Year in Review -- 1995-1996
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EDUCATION REFORM LEGISLATION - the Governor's Commission....The Speaker's Plan....State Board of Education Budget....Property Tax Caps Statewide .... Constitutional Amendment....Charter Schools....Other Issues
ILLINOIS EDUCATION - Chicago Schools .... Regional Technology Hubs .... Downsizing the State Board
THE FEDERAL SCENE
SCHOOL BOARD PROGRAMS - Policy Service .... Televised Workshop .... Litigation ..... Management Tools .... Membership Turnover .... Resource Center .... Risk Management Programs .... Liquid Asset Fund
AWARDS AND HONORS - National Leadership .... Burroughs Award .... Cole Awards .... Those Who Excel
IASB DELEGATE ASSEMBLY POSITIONS addressed in the 1996 Spring legislative session.
EDUCATION REFORM LEGISLATION
It being the second year of the 89th General Assembly, the 1996 Spring Legislative Session was supposed to be dedicated to budgetary and emergency matters exclusively. Though few real "emergencies" were on the agenda, leadership in both houses kept a tight rein on substantive legislative proposals, so relatively few were seriously considered. Because it was an election year, the legislative leaders wanted few controversial bills called for a vote, in order to protect incumbents as they run for re-election.
As in 1995, the legislative schedule was a highlight itself. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate began work in February and March and announced plans for concluding business before the Memorial Day weekend. Their plan was a success, as the legislature adjourned for the summer on May 25th.
The Governor's Commission
In March the Governor's Commission on Education Funding unveiled its report on education funding reform. The blue ribbon commission, composed of members of the education and business communities, had divulged little information during the course of its deliberations. All parties interested in school funding reform anxiously awaited the commission's report.
Within 48 hours of the report's debut, however, leaders in the Illinois Senate and House had proclaimed the report's suggestions dead. Meaningful funding reform had again died an expedient, political death.
The commission's plan was three fold. First, a list of basic education finance principles was established. According to the report, the "Recommended Principles of Illinois Quality Education Funding" are to: ensure a quality education system, establish a foundation level of funding for a quality education, grant substantial property tax relief, reduce disparities while preserving local control, streamline categorical funding, promote greater efficiency and innovation, utilize growing and predictable funding sources and amend the Education Article of the Illinois Constitution.
Second, the commission's plan contained a proposal to amend the state constitution by setting an education funding foundation level and mandating that the state pay 50 percent of this amount. The third stage of the plan contained specific recommendations for change to our current school finance system.
The most immediate concern at the time the commission report was released was the proposed constitutional amendment, because there was a deadline for its passage. Critics of the concept claimed that the proposed language was too vague and could only be interpreted as forcing an increase in the state income tax. Though resolutions were introduced in both houses containing the constitutional amendment language, neither measure ever escaped the Rules Committee and the proposal died without even a hearing. Though the specific language may not have been exactly what the Alliance would have preferred, it was appalling to see a true, comprehensive proposal for changing the Illinois school finance system rejected out-of-hand.
The Speaker's Plan
Before anyone could mourn the death of the Governor's commission report, House Speaker Lee Daniels revealed his "Quality First" education reform plan. The original proposal called for 500 million new dollars for elementary and secondary education, but in conjunction with a substantive bill racked with school district mandates, burdensome education programs and unworkable concepts. The bill called for mandatory summer school, mandatory student retention, a high school exit examination that could deny a diploma, and a provision for a "guaranteed" high school diploma that required school districts to pay for the remediation of graduates at the behest of an employer.
The bill was eventually modified to remove most of the mandates. When the bill passed, it still required tests for third and fifth graders, but it was left up to the school district to determine which students needed remediation and how the remediation would be implemented. An exit exam in high school is required, but it does not jeopardize graduation. A strong segment on school safety was added, including search and seizure provisions. Funding for the bill was reduced from the initial $500 million pledge to an amount under $300 million.
The "Quality First" plan did address some school funding items. It authorized the State Board of Education to implement block grant funding programs. A statewide block grant system may be used to replace current categorical funding line items, but the State Board must first hold statewide hearings on the issue. The bill also authorized the State Board to fund a School Safety and Educational Improvement Block Grant Program to provide money for school safety, textbooks and software, teacher training and curriculum development, school improvements and remediation programs. Finally, the bill included a "hold harmless" provision for the Fiscal Year 1997 budget.
State Board of Education Budget
In an election year, no one wants to be the person who cuts education funding. So between the Governor's budget request and the Speaker's education plan, elementary and secondary education received a healthy increase over the FY '96 funding level. As mentioned above, the "Quality First" plan included a "hold harmless" provision so no school district would receive less General State Aid money in FY '97 than it did in FY '96. The final budget also funded a flat grant program under the authority given to the State Board in the "School Safety and Educational Improvement Block Grant Program" provision of the "Quality First" bill. The bottom line -- elementary and secondary education received approximately $288 million over last year's appropriations level. The flat grant line item was funded with $52.6 million distributed to school districts based on Average Daily Attendance (approximately $31 per pupil). Approximately $52 million new dollars (a 2.2 percent increase) were allotted for General State Aid for a projected foundation level of $3,056.
Though no one argued that this was the way to address comprehensive school finance reform, and it certainly does not deal with equitable school funding, every school district will receive more money than it did last year.
Property Tax Caps Statewide
After passing legislation for property tax caps in the Collar Counties in 1991 and for Cook County in 1994, the legislature finally found the votes to address the issue for downstate. Still facing opposition from the Alliance and other organizations representing units of local government, the General Assembly did not impose the caps onto the rest of the state. Instead, a bill was approved that allows the county board of any county to place on the ballot the question of whether the counties' taxpayers want the property tax cap law. If a majority of the county's voters vote yes on the referendum, the property tax cap law will be implemented on the county's taxing districts beginning the following January 1st.
Constitutional Amendments Fall Short
Several proposals were considered to amend the Illinois State Constitution. One measure would have prohibited the legislature from passing an unfunded mandate onto a unit of local government or school district. The proposal, strongly supported by the Alliance, passed the Senate in its original form. The House passed the resolution as well but adopted an amendment. Because of the deadline to have a constitutional amendment approved, the Senate did not have time to consider the House amendment and the proposal died.
Another constitutional amendment, concerning parental rights, would have caused legal havoc among school districts by allowing parents to challenge most any item in a school curriculum that they disagree with. The Alliance joined with others in opposition to the constitutional change and, because of lack of support, the measure was never called for a vote.
Resolutions also were introduced to amend the constitution to change the required vote threshold applying to bills that increase taxes. These would have required a 3/5 majority on any bill that would increase the state's income or sales tax. The resolutions did not receive the requisite support in both houses to be placed on the ballot.
In the end, no constitutional amendment questions went to the voters in the 1996 General Election.
After much debate last year on the "Charter Schools" bill, a bill was passed rather quietly early in 1996. The final bill looked very much like the original Charter Schools bill drafted by the Alliance. The Governor signed the bill into law in April.
Other issues of concern to the Alliance included:
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- Legislation that converts the current two-tiered special education hearing process into a one-tiered system. The passage of the bill was the culmination of a two-year effort.
- Legislation that strengthens the non-residency tuition provision defining legal custody for school attendance purposes.
- Legislation that would have eliminated the election of school board members at the nonpartisan fall election in odd-numbered years and required the offices be filled at the spring consolidated election. The bill was approved in the Senate but was held in committee in the House.
- The mandate waiver process. The State Board of Education approved 142 waiver requests. The General Assembly denied only 18 of the 105 requests forwarded to them.
Chicago Schools Open On Time
In sharp contrast to the long delays that had become routine, Chicago's public schools opened on time this school year, thanks to a compromise worked out between the teachers union and the new school board. Much of the credit was given to Paul Vallas, the district's chief executive officer. Vallas explained that dialogue with the teachers union was vital: "We've developed a good working relationship with them; it's a collaborative effort. It's not confrontational to look at the issues, narrow them down and get them resolved."
Plans were also carried out to double the size of the system's inspector general's office, and the budget department. The announced intent was to ferret out fraud and waste, and to monitor spending more closely. Progress towards both goals was reported by state and local press sources throughout the year.
Regional Technology Hubs Established
The State Board of Education established several regional technology hubs to assist Illinois schools in using classroom technology. The hubs are designed to serve as "one stop" access points, to eventually enable all schools to connect to Internet and other networks through local connections or toll-free phone lines. They also provide technical assistance and professional development to educators.
"Technology is one of the most powerful tools we have to improve student learning," explained State Superintendent of Education Joseph Spagnolo. "Yet Illinois lags far behind most states in the use of technology in classrooms."
The technology hubs are located in regional offices of education and operated in collaboration with adjacent regional offices. Services at the hubs are directed by a governance group with advisory representatives from client school districts, local businesses and community groups. These hubs began providing services to schools in January.
Technology program funding was increased by $15 million to begin installation of a T1 cable line for each school district, allowing direct Internet access for schools. Governor Edgar had proposed this idea in his budget message in the spring.
The legislature also funded infrastructure initiatives aimed at developing a statewide network that would connect all 46 regional offices of education and the educational service centers for Cook County with the State Board.
The Governor and General Assembly provided state funding, as well, to extend grants and technical assistance to 35 low-wealth school districts in Illinois. The funds were to be used to aid in the development and implementation of technology plans to boost student learning.
Education Reform Bill Provides for Downsizing of State Board
The General Assembly reached agreement on noteworthy school reforms, along with improved funding, agreeing to make changes in state requirements for testing and remediation, and to reduce the size of the State Board of Education.
Lawmakers voted to require diagnostic achievement tests in grades three and five for mathematics, reading and writing. The existing IGAP tests are to be replaced with the new assessments beginning in the 1998-99 school year.
Controversy had centered on whether the bill should contain mandatory student retention or summer school for students with low scores on the diagnostic achievement tests. These provisions were scrapped after Senate education leaders came to share school management lobbyist's concerns about cost and implementation problems with these mandates.
As mentioned, the "Quality First" provisions adopted would require a high school exit exam but without jeopardizing graduation. Lawmakers also approved a provision to allow school boards to offer quality guarantees of the academic skills and performance of high school graduates. Thus, an employer might return a former student to high school for remediation paid for by the graduating student's district, but only if the district agrees.
The State Board of Education's membership, meanwhile, was reduced from 17 to 9 under another provision of the reform bill. Regional representation is required, but with the members and chairperson to be appointed by the Governor, thus bringing the board more directly under the Governor's control.
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THE FEDERAL SCENE
After months of wrangling over a Fiscal 1996 federal budget, including the threat of 22 percent cuts in education programs, Congress passed an appropriations bill that restores federal education funding to the 1995 levels. Core programs like Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Chapter 2 were fully restored. Title I received a $14 million increase. When the budget debate began in the summer of 1995, the federal education budget was targeted for up to $4 billion in cuts. That proposal represented an unprecedented 18 percent reduction in federal funding to education. It would have meant eliminating the $403 million Goals 2000 education reform program, and the federal Education Department, while slashing $1.1 billion from the $7.1 billion Title I program. The average school district would have lost at least 20 percent of its federal education funds under the plan.
Instead, Congress eventually adopted a status quo budget for education for Fiscal Year 1996. The plan included a two percent cut from the previous year's education budget.
The plan provided $350 million for the Goals 2000 program, to help 12,000 schools raise academic standards and achievement.
It was estimated that the $14 million increase in appropriations for Title I grants to local schools would help seven million children learn the basics in 50,000 schools.
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SCHOOL BOARD PROGRAMS
Policy Reference Education Subscription Service (PRESS). The three-year-old policy subscription service called PRESS was a valuable resource tool for a growing number of administrators and school board members in 1996. Subscribing school districts continued to receive a Policy Reference Manual, along with periodic and timely policy revisions and updates, thus enhancing school board leadership and effectiveness. PRESS is the first comprehensive policy service to combine policy statements with required procedures, explanations and full legal citations. PRESS helps districts maintain their policy manuals while providing a useful encyclopedia on policy and legal issues. The service ended the fiscal year in 1996 with nearly 450 current subscriptions, another big increase over the previous year.
The IASB-customized policy service continued to offer valuable direction to districts in adopting broad policy statements that represent "the law." Districts using the service are encouraged to streamline their policies, leaving most procedural matters to the superintendent and administrative regulations.
Televised Workshop. For the sixth year in a row, IASB worked with Western Illinois University in providing an interactive workshop by satellite television.
The workshop, broadcast live to participants at nearly 50 locations around the state, was designed for school board candidates and served as an introduction to the roles and responsibilities of board service.
Litigation. This was a very successful year for IASB's litigation efforts. Three cases in which IASB participated as a Amica Curiae (friend of the court) had favorable results. IASB is waiting for decisions in two other cases.
In April, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Chicago Park District in a case in which the IASB co-sponsored an Amici Curiae brief in support of the Park District's position. The case involved two plaintiffs who suffered serious injuries after diving off concrete sea walls into Lake Michigan. The decisive issue was whether the Park District owed a duty of reasonable care to the injured plaintiffs. If no duty existed, there could be no liability for the injuries. Land owners are not ordinarily required to foresee and protect against injuries from dangerous conditions that are "open and obvious." The Supreme Court held that the Park District owed no duty to the plaintiffs because diving into uncharted water is an open and obvious danger. By reaffirming the "open and obvious" doctrine, the Supreme Court avoided the devastating consequences of having to "accident-proof" school premises. Bucheleres v. Chicago Park District, Il. Supreme Court, No. 78760 (1996).
In a January decision, the Illinois Supreme Court considered the scope of a school district's liability for a serious eye injury sustained by a student during a basketball game. The lower court ruled that the district was liable if it failed to tell the student he could provide his own eye goggles, even though the district had no duty to supply the equipment. IASB participated in an Amici Curiae brief arguing that a duty to warn a student to provide his own safety equipment creates an onerous and confusing burden. The Supreme Court ruled for the district. Palmer v. Mt. Vernon Township High School District 201, Il. Supreme Court, No. 78875 (1996).
The Court of Appeals refused to uphold an arbitrator's remedy reinstating a probationary teacher to a third probationary term. IASB filed a statement requesting that the Illinois Supreme Court affirm this decision. IASB argued that since the School Code allows a school board "at its option [to] extend such probationary period for one additional school term," an arbitrator may not order a board to extend the period. The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal. Midwest Central Education Association v. IELRB and Midwest Central Unit School District No. 191, Il. Supreme Court, No. 80707 (1996).
IASB joined other interested associations in an Amici Curiae brief seeking Supreme Court review of a tort action brought under the Structural Work Act. The case presents the issue of whether the Tort Immunity Act bars actions under the Structural Work Act as well as numerous other theories of liability. Epstein v. Chicago Board of Education.
The Court of Appeals ruled that a teacher's physical conduct toward a student, in violation of a warning resolution, was remediable. In June, IASB filed a statement requesting the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse this decision. This case-one that received national attention in a 20/20 broadcast-is of importance to every school official in Illinois. In its statement, the IASB likened a warning resolution to a "line drawn in the sand." The IASB warned that for such notices to be meaningful, courts cannot require that imaginary line to be repeatedly redrawn, each time farther back. IASB urged the Illinois Supreme Court to return the integrity to warning resolutions by finding that when a teacher ignores a warning to cease physically abusing students, the conduct is irremediable and a discharge should be upheld. Golub v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Il. App. First Dist.
Management Tools. IASB member districts received a variety of management tools from their association during the year. Two publications of the State Board of Education were mailed to all school board presidents: State, Local and Federal Financing for Illinois Public Schools and the annual Teacher Salary Study. Many districts also obtained bulk supplies of IASB pamphlets on school funding for distribution to local constituents.
Membership Turnover. New members were chosen to occupy 43 percent of all school board seats filled in Illinois in the November 1995 election (see accompanying chart). IASB business office records show 1,753 incumbents were re-elected and 1,370 new board members were added to the IASB membership list. IASB routinely mails each new board member a packet of publications and materials about board service, along with an IASB Associate membership invitation. Probably the most important item in the packet was the manual, The Effective School Board Member, published by IASB. The book answers many of the basic questions about the job of the board member. Other items included sample IASB periodicals and brochures, a publication on school finance, a note to the family of the new board member, and reprinted chapters from a book on becoming a better board member.
Resource Center. The IASB Resource Center serves staff and member school boards with prompt research assistance.
New in 1996 was expansion of the Resource Center's catalog data base (cataloged records grew by 78 percent, from 795 records to 1,415), and the creation of two new data bases. One new data base deals with school design and architecture, and another provides an index of newspaper articles obtained from the Association's account with the Illinois Press Association' clippings service. In addition, the Center honored a growing number of direct requests for the use of IASB materials by Illinois school districts.
Growing Risk Management Programs. As of June 30, 1996, the Workers' Compensation Self-Insurance Trust (WCSIT) has more than 400 members for which it provides coverage, and has earned nearly $12 million in contributions. In addition, the WCSIT experienced a 96 percent renewal retention rate through July 31, 1996. This phenomenal rate is attributed to the unique package of benefits in addition to the competitive workers' compensation coverage that WCSIT provides its members.
In March 1996, the WCSIT Board of Trustees added to its coverage package by approving a guaranteed dividend plan to qualified members until the year 2000: Qualified WCSIT participants who are members of record on September 15 of the following year will be guaranteed dividends of at least 20 percent of their annual audited paid contributions (premium) amounts for the 1995-96 program year and the following three years. In the 1999-00 program year, the dividend amount will be reviewed and determined by the WCSIT Board of Trustees depending on the available surplus at that time.
Qualified WCSIT members also receive School District Treasurer's Surety Bonds as a benefit of membership in any amount up to $10 million to protect the faithful performance of their districts' treasurers. An additional benefit of membership is the School Board Legal Liability coverage program (school board errors and omissions coverage) that provides coverage up to $2 million to qualified participants. WCSIT members also receive specialized loss control services as an additional benefit of membership.
The WCSIT has emerged to be one of the most financially successful workers' compensation pools available to Illinois school district today, as the WCSIT has paid a total of $5.8 million in dividends and distributions to its members since its inception in 1982. In addition, the WCSIT has never asked for additional assessments from its members in its 14-year history and has waived the possibility of assessing its members through the 1996-97 program year. As of May 31, 1996, the WCSIT holds a healthy surplus of $16.5 million (unaudited amount).
The Illinois School District Agency (ISDA) provides property/casualty coverage to more than 160 school districts across Illinois. For the 1996-97 program year, the ISDA experienced a 96 percent renewal retention rate and received approximately $5 million in contributions. In addition to receiving competitively priced property/ casualty coverage, ISDA members receive specialized loss control services and access to low-cost property appraisals.
Both the WCSIT and ISDA programs are designed specifically for Illinois school districts by school districts. Each pool is controlled by a board that is composed of Illinois school district administrators, school board members and business officials. Together, these school district representatives voice what their peers want in workers' compensation and property/casualty coverage. In an effort to keep Illinois school districts informed of insurance-related issues that affect their operations, the WCSIT and ISDA publish PRSIM Points, which is a four-page newsletter that is distributed three times a year to school districts across the state.
Working together to provide sound and viable coverage to Illinois school districts, the WCSIT and ISDA are endorsed by the IASB and are administered by Hinz Professional Insurance Program Managers, Inc. (HPIPM), which assists Illinois school districts through its Chicago and Springfield offices. WCSIT and ISDA are the sole financial sponsors of the state superintendent's breakfast each year at the Joint Annual Conference, where they bestow WCSIT and ISDA's risk management team award. This award signifies a school district's remarkable stride in risk management for the year. The 1995 winner was Waterloo C.U. District 5.
The unemployment compensation claims control service sponsored by IASB and managed by the Gibbens Company is used by 273 school districts. During the fiscal year ended June 30, the program processed 2,180 claims for unemployment benefits from former employees of participating districts. By protesting 1,139 of those claims and having 960 (94.77 percent) of them denied, the program reduced the liability of its member districts by $2.4 million.
Liquid Asset Fund. The Illinois School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus now boasts 422 actively participating school districts and community colleges that had over $320 million invested at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Endorsed by IASB, the Fund offers school districts a variety of vehicles for investing school funds and is a source for short-term borrowing through tax anticipation warrants and notes. In addition to the liquid fund there is a fixed fund (including CDs and commercial paper). Together the two funds totaled $862 million at year's end, up from $824 million last year.
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AWARDS AND HONORS
National Leadership. IASB Past President Barbara Wheeler continued to serve as NSBA Secretary Treasurer.
Thomas Lay Burroughs Award. At the 1995 Joint Annual Conference in November the State Board of Education announced two winners of the fifth annual Thomas Lay Burroughs Award: Leland G. Beckley and Barbara K. Purdy. Beckley is president of the Blue Ridge C.U. District 18 Board of Education, and Purdy is president of the Brookfield Township High School District 208 Board of Education. The award recognizes the state's outstanding local school board president and is named in honor of the late chairman of the State Board. Three IASB Directors were among the Burroughs Award finalists: William Jenner, O'Fallon; Renee Kosel, New Lenox; and Merv Roberts, Lincolnshire.
Cole Awards. Five Illinois newspapers received recognition in the 1996 Robert M. Cole competition for best coverage of local school board issues. The contest is sponsored by IASB and conducted by the Illinois Press Association. Among the larger newspapers, the Cole Award plaque went to the Rockford Register-Star; while among the smaller newspapers, The Elburn Herald won top honors for the second straight year. The Dispatch, in Moline, and the Courier-News, in Elgin, finished second and third, respectively, among the larger papers. Large paper First Honorable Mention went to the Rolling Meadows Review. No other winners was named for smaller papers this year, aside from the top honor.
More than 95 different newspapers have received recognition in the 16 years IASB has sponsored the competition. The awards are named in honor of the Association's first full-time executive director.
Those Who Excel. Many school board members were honored by the State Board of Education this year for their outstanding contributions to the schools. The 29 board members receiving Those Who Excel awards were:
Sanford Alper, Niles Township High School District 219; Roger Angelly, Harrisburg C.U. District 3; Jeff Basler, Oregon C.U. District 220; Kathy Benard, Lombard District 44; Patricia Bounds, Frankfort C.C. District 157C; Tony Brunson, Rich Township High School District 227; Sheila Collins, Brookwood District 167; Susan Collins, Moline District 40; Donald Debolt, Stewardson-Strasburg C.U. District 5A; Susan Farmer, Township High School District 211, Palatine; William Frazier, Mt. Vernon District 80; Thomas Hannigan, Mundelein Community High School District 120; David Harvey, Marseilles Elementary District 150; Jill Hruban, Mt. Prospect District 57; David Lauschke, Alton C.U. District 11; Hallie Lemon, Monmouth Unit District 38; Stan Morgan, Bismarck-Henning C.U. District 1; Pete Novacich, Granite City C.U. District 9; Richard Percy, McLean County Unit District 5; Marge Persico, New Lenox District 122; David Ransom, Libertyville Community High School District 128; Michael Rosenberg, Skokie District 69; Howard Schone, Scott-Morgan C.U. District 2; Don Shaffer, Edwardsville C.U. District 7; William Steinke, Naperville C.U. District 203; Robert Swade, North Berwyn District 98; Donna Swanstrom, Crete-Monee District 201U; Barbara Untch, Woodridge District 68; and Ronald Voelker, Altamont C.U. District 10.
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IASB DELEGATE ASSEMBLY POSITIONS ADDRESSED IN THE 1996 SPRING LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Delegate Assembly resolutions provide Association leadership and staff with direction. Some prompt the introduction of new legislation, others establish positions for or against measures contained in existing legislation. Some resolutions call for other action-typically dealing with the federal government, the State Board of Education, or member districts.
IASB resolutions directly address hundreds of pieces of legislation each year in Springfield. Space does not allow the listing of all of the bills from the 1996 legislative session. But here is a summary of actions taken by IASB, working through the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance in 1996, regarding key Delegate Assembly positions:
Position 1.07-Safety for School Children/ Position 6.11 Railroad Crossings - HB 3436 makes many school bus safety changes, including requiring that a school bus must stop at railroad crossings, even when no children are on board, and raising the fine for persons ticketed for stopping a vehicle on railroad tracks. HB 2773 adds primary or secondary schools, either public or private, to the list of schools where a 20 miles per hour speed limit may be established. Both HB 3436 and HB 2773 were passed by both houses. HB 3439 and SB 1760 would have authorized the Illinois Commerce Commission to comprehensively revamp the system of highway and railroad traffic control signals and warning devices to improve railway safety. The bills were held in committee pending further study.
Position 1.08 - Health Education Instruction - HB 2664 contains a provision that allows school districts to offer one semester of health education as a part of physical education courses from grades 5 through 10. The bill passed both houses.
Position 2.01-Priority and Support/ Position 2.37 School Finance Reform - The Governor's Commission on Education Funding released its report in March. Many of the concepts in IASB Position Statements were addressed in the report. The report was never addressed officially by the legislature and the proposals to amend our state constitution, HJRCA 34 and SJRCA 84, were held in the Rules Committee.
Position 2.04-Funding Mandated Programs - A major effort was made to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit the legislature from passing unfunded mandates onto units of local government and school districts. SJRCA 3 was approved by the Senate, was amended and approved by the House, but was not sent back to the Senate in time for concurrence. Several other mandates failed this spring: HB 2537 called for a unit of instruction on the Irish Famine; HB 3231 called for a unit of instruction on Hispanic-American History; and HB 3564 required a AYouth Civil Service Corps@ to be established in every school district.
Position 2.11-Funds for Computer Technology/Position 2.23 Capital Funding for School Construction - HB 3364, SB 1438, SB 1788, and SB 1827 all called for programs for the state to provide funding for school district construction and technology improvements. None of the bills advanced from committee.
Position 2.12-Contracting Driver's Education - SB 1892 would have eliminated the requirement that high schools offer drivers education courses and would have allowed licensed commercial driving instructors to be used. The bill was held in the Rules Committee.
Position 2.15-Mobile Home Taxation - SB 1526 addressed the definition and taxability of mobile homes to place fairer assessments on these dwellings. The bill was held in committee.
Position 2.17-Utility Taxes - HB 3461 and SB 1232 would have exempted school districts from liability for the taxes imposed under the various utility tax laws. The bill was held in committee.
Position 2.19-School Aid Revisions/Position 2.33 Caps of Levy Growth - Several versions of property tax cap language appeared on various bills this year. Eventually SB 1511 was approved by both houses. The bill allows the county board of any county (not currently under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law) to place on the ballot the question of whether the county's taxpayers want property tax caps in the county.
Position 2.26-Local District Income Tax - SB 1292 would create the Local Option Income Tax Act to authorize school districts to impose, by referendum, an income tax. The bill never advanced beyond committee.
Position 2.28-Property Tax Base - Several bills (including HB 2640, 2650, 3182 and 3678) were introduced that would have caused an erosion in the property tax base of a local school district. Most bills addressed homestead or senior citizen exemptions. No such bills were approved this year.
Position 2.29-Standing on Tax Appeals - SB 1516 addresses property tax appeals in Cook County by allowing taxing districts to bring assessment complaints to the board of review. The bill passed both houses.
Position 2.30-Tax Increment Financing - The TIF issue was often discussed this year but no bill was approved. SB 1322 would have prohibited the creation of any new TIF districtsCthe bill was defeated on the Senate floor. Meetings also centered around HB 375 in hopes of tightening the current TIF language, but no compromise was reached by session's end.
Position 2.42-Life Safety Funds Project/ Position 2.57 Life Safety Fund Use - HB 2938 would have eliminated the requirements that repairs and reconstruction of school property be made on the basis of regulations adopted by the State Board of Education and would have allowed the local school district to decide life safety fund use, subject to a backdoor referendum. The bill was held in committee.
Position 2.46-Cook County Prior Year EAV - SB 1510 would have removed the prior-year Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) provision for Cook County taxing districts. The bill was held in committee.
Position 2.51-Non-Public School Funding - HB 3533 would have created the Educational Choice Act to start a pilot voucher program in Chicago that would have allowed parents to use a $2,500 voucher at the public or private school of their choice. The bill was approved by a House committee but was never called for a vote on the House floor.
Position 5.01-Board Rights/ Position 5.17 Probationary Teacher Dismissal/ Position 5.18 Tenure Repeal - SB 1520 would have provided that, for teachers who have not entered upon contractual continued service, the length of their probationary period before receiving tenure would no longer be determined under the School Code, but instead would be determined by the school board. The bill was held in committee. HB 2844, SB 1498 and SB 1725 all authorized employment of speech and language pathologists as professional personnel in special education programs, even without a certificate. Instead, they would need only a Master's Degree, provided that the district certifies that a chronic shortage of certified personnel exists. These bills did not advance but this provision eventually was approved in both houses of the legislature as part of SB 1019.
Position 6.13-School Holidays - The initial language of HB 2596 contained provisions that would have eliminated all of the legal school holidays and made them commemorative. This provision was deleted from the bill before the bill passed.
Position 7.01-Consolidated Election Law Revisions - HB 2857 would have permitted a county, by resolution six months before the consolidated election, to merge the consolidated and nonpartisan elections. The bill was held in committee. SB 1883 would have changed the election of all offices (including school board seats) filled at the nonpartisan fall election in odd-numbered years to the spring consolidated election. This bill passed the Senate but was held in committee in the House.
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