The education beat

The education beat

Tuesday, Jul 3, 2018 </b>

* This petition is undoubtedly doomed

When school districts outside of Chicago negotiate contracts, they do so with the assurance that the state will pick up the tab on pensions. To control growing pension costs, lawmakers capped salary bumps at 6 percent in 2005. This year, the cap tightened to 3 percent.

Illinois’ teachers unions have collected more than 15,000 signatures on petitions urging state lawmakers to reverse that measure.

State Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) chairs the House K-12 appropriations committee, and was involved in budget negotiations.

“I mean, things like this are tough conversations. But you know there’s also a manner in which we also have to look at the long-term viability of our state,” he says. “Not everybody’s in favor of raising taxes for the things we want to pay for. Sometimes we do have to make relatively tough decisions, and this fits into that category.”

Senator Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) says districts are free to offer bigger raises, but will have to kick in pension costs for any amount that exceeds the cap.

* And the Dispatch-Argus editorializes in favor of expanding the spiking limit

As leaders continue to grapple with how to create more meaningful change, here’s some low-hanging fruit lawmakers must pluck:

Immediately expand the effort to reduce pension spiking for all public employee pensions, local and state.

* Meanwhile, on to the teacher shortage

Nearly 80% of Illinois districts report problems with teacher shortages. In Moline, the applicant pool for Special Education positions is sliced in half. Knoxville can’t get any applicants for its openings.

“You may have classrooms that are manned by a substitute teacher because you have no applicants,” [Regional Superintendent Angie Zarvell] continued.

With fewer applicants, experience and quality also decline. Some districts won’t fill openings. That could mean larger class sizes or not offering the class.

This is all part of a downward spiral that hurts teacher morale and security.

* And

Gov. Bruce Rauner last week signed one new law, HB5627, that is supposed to ease Illinois’ teacher shortage by making it easier for out-of-state and retired teachers to get into Illinois classrooms.

Jontry said Illinois schools are still facing a teacher shortage. He said he expects fewer school districts across the state to have a school bus driver in the fall.

As we’ve seen over the past few years as the economy has strengthened it’s become much more difficult to find part-time bus drivers for the low pay most districts and private providers offer.

* More on the bill Gov. Rauner signed

Restrictive certification requirements and a lack of candidates has made it difficult to fill some positions, said Todd DeTaeye, Moline-Coal Valley School District Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Human Resources.

“It is becoming more of a challenge to find qualified bilingual teachers, special education teachers, foreign language teachers, and school psychologists,” Mr. DeTaeye said. “When we do find qualified teachers in these areas, the pool of candidates is not nearly as deep as it has been in the past.”

Senate Bill 863 will make it easier for out-of-state teachers to work in Illinois. The legislation allows teachers to become licensed in Illinois if they have completed a comparable state-approved educator program, or hold a comparable and valid license with similar grade and subject credentials from another state.

* Back to pensions with Stand for Children Illinois

Last year, we raised the alarm (again) about the unfair TRS Federal Funds Rate. It proved a tough issue for school districts to plan around. Should they hire certified teachers to improve student outcomes, but pay a nearly 40% pension surcharge on those federally funded dollars? Or, should they purchase educational materials that might not have the biggest impact on students but would avoid the pension surcharge, giving them more bang for their buck? Creative accounting is not supposed to be in the job description for school leaders, but the federal funds rate put them in that position.

Last summer, after years of difficult decisions and budgetary jiu-jitsu for school district leaders, education advocates’ hard work paid off when Springfield passed and enacted a law that returned an additional $80 million annually to the classrooms of underserved students. By removing the pension surcharge, districts are now empowered to make decisions in the best interests of their students, not their bottom line.

– Posted by Rich Miller  





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