(via the Illinois Federation of Teachers)
The first half of the 101st General Assembly concluded today, and what a session it was for our union and our members! Since February, the House and Senate approved dozens of bills – including IFT initiatives – that will benefit public education and our communities at every level.
This could not have happened without the powerful advocacy of IFT members and our dedicated union staff. Our collective efforts in 2018 to elect lawmakers who share our values and Governor JB Pritzker, who has proven he will work with us to create the future we all deserve, made this possible. Compared to the last four years, the difference is crystal clear.
Here are some highlights of our collective success.
3% liability cap repeal
The IFT worked diligently all session to repeal the 3% liability cap implemented in the FY2019 budget. In a huge win for members, we successfully repealed the harmful cap and restored it to the previous 6% threshold.
This law depressed salaries for members of TRS and SURS by forcing the employer (rather than the state) to pay the pension liability for any pay increases over 3%. Employers used the threat of higher pension costs as an excuse to keep wages low for all employees, not only those approaching retirement.
A responsible budget
For the first time in four years, lawmakers and Governor Pritzker have passed a balanced budget that will support our vision of a better-educated, more equitable, and prosperous Illinois. The newly approved budget will:
Make the full FY2020 payment to the pension systems;
Increase Evidence Based Funding for education by $375 million (plus other funding);
Expand early childhood education programs;
Increase funding for universities and community colleges by 5%;
Boost MAP grants and scholarship programs;
Provide increased funding for state operations and back pay for state employees;
Provide more than $1 billion to pay down our backlog of bills and slash interest costs; and, more.
Fair Tax on the 2020 ballot
In a huge step forward for working men and women, both chambers passed SJRCA 1, which will allow voters to amend the Illinois Constitution and pave the way for a Fair Tax.
The proposed Fair Tax would generate $3.4 billion each year in much-needed funding for public schools, higher education, and state services by asking the wealthiest Illinoisans to pay their fair share while giving 97% of us some relief. Under the proposal, only those earning more than $250,000 per year will see any tax increase, and millionaires will pay the most.
The question will now appear on the ballot in November 2020.
Legislation headed to the governor:
Addressing the teacher shortage
Working with Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), we helped pass SB 1952, a bill that includes several IFT-supported measures designed to stem the state’s critical teaching shortage, including:
Eliminating the basic skills test requirement;
Allowing student teachers to be paid; and,
Refunding to educators who teach for one year in a Tier 1 district the $300 cost of the EdTPA test.
PSRP recall rights
In a long fought victory for PSRPs, the IFT helped to pass HB 921 (Rep. Stuart, D-Collinsville). The bill gives paraprofessional and school-related personnel the same recall rights as teachers in the event of layoffs. This IFT-initiated bill passed with a nearly unanimous vote in both chambers.
Restoration of the instructional day
The IFT advocated strongly for the passage of SB 28, which restores the definition of instructional school day and year. The bill also expands e-learning pilots to districts after a public hearing and school board vote.
Organizing rights for research assistants
HB 253 changes current law to allow graduate research assistants to unionize, just as teaching assistants can.
SB 1213 will allow for an appeals process for educators who receive an “unsatisfactory” evaluation.
Other important legislative progress includes:
Labor and employment
SB 1226 abolishes the State Charter School Commission and gives oversight of state authorized charters to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
HB 2272 provides that the governing bodies of contract schools in Chicago are subject to the Open Meetings Act and FOIA.
HB 2078 increases the statewide minimum educator salary to $40K by the 2023-24 school year.
HB 423 pauses the basic skills test for teacher candidates until 2025.
HB 35 restores Grow Your Own Teacher (GYO) control over the program and creates a dual credit pipeline to allow students to enter teacher prep programs sooner.
SB 1460 provides for priority distribution of Illinois Teaching Excellence funding to Tier 1 districts.
HB 1472 allows a teacher to return to work in subject shortage areas without impairing retirement status.
SB 1584 increases the number of days a retired CPS teacher can substitute teach without a pension penalty.
SJR 41 establishes a joint advisory council to study how Illinois can maximize the number of students completing credit-bearing courses or programs and earning degrees. The council will be coordinated by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). Council membership will include IFT representatives.
For details about any of these measures, check Under the Dome.