2017-18 Legislative Session K-12 wrap up

After scrapping plans to come back in an extraordinary session to modify state law regarding special elections, it appears the state legislature has concluded its business for the 2017-18 legislative session.  Let’s take a look back on the major proposals dealing with K-12 education and examine what made it into law and what did not.

If you are interested in the fate of a bill and you do not see it listed below consult the WASB Bill Tracking Chart.  Also, for more information on any of the legislation listed below, click on the topic headings.

Bills Signed Into Law

2017-19 State Budget 

  • Increases per pupil categorical aid by $200 in 2017-18 and an additional $204 in 2018-19.
  • Fully funds the sparsity aid program under current eligibility criteria and adds a  feature whereby a district that qualified for sparsity aid in one year but did not qualify the following year would receive 50% of its prior year allocation.
  • Increases funding for the high-cost pupil transportation aid program by $5.2 million per year, expands eligibility and adds a feature whereby if a previously qualifying district becomes ineligible for aid, the district would receive an amount equal to 50% of its prior year allocation.
  • Limits when school district referenda can be held to only on regularly-scheduled election days (spring primary or election or partisan primary or general election) and limits school districts to two referenda questions per year.
  • Ends the ability of school districts to utilize the energy efficiency revenue limit exemption.
  • Increases the family income eligibility limits for entry into the statewide voucher program from 185% of the federal poverty level to 220% of the federal poverty level.
  • Read more: WASB Key Budget Provisions for Schools

Low Revenue Ceiling/Sparsity Aid

  • Increases the low revenue ceiling from $9,100 per pupil to $9,400 per pupil, beginning in the 2018-19 school year, and increases the revenue ceiling by $100 per pupil each school year thereafter until it reaches $9,800 per pupil in the 2022-23 school year.
  • Increases the payments to each school district eligible for sparsity aid from $300 per pupil to $400 per pupil, beginning in the 2018−19 school year.

School Safety Grants

  • Creates a $100 million grant program for school safety-related expenditures, including facility upgrades and staff training. The package also includes new requirements for school safety plans and reporting to law enforcement by school staff who hear students make threats of violence in or targeted at a school.

Summer School Funding

  • Expands the online summer or interim session classes that qualify for state aid to include classes the school board determines fulfill either the statutory graduation requirement in health education or its own requirements for graduation.

Narcan in Schools

  • Protects certain school employees from civil liability for administering an opioid antidote (Narcan) in an emergency.

Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse

  • Specifies in state law that it is immoral conduct for a DPI licensee to assist a school employee, contractor, or agent to obtain a new job in a school or school district if the licensee knows or has reason to believe that the person committed a sex offense against a student or a minor.

Board Member Salary Refusal

  • Authorizes a school board member or school board member-elect to refuse the position’s salary without a tax penalty.

TB Screening for School District Employees

  • Maintains requirement for a physical exam, but requires only the completion of a Tuberculosis (TB) screening questionnaire instead of a chest x-ray or TB test conducted by a physician as a condition of school district employment.

Nomination Papers & 2nd Class Cities

  • Restores local control over the signature requirement for the nomination of candidates to the school board in school districts that contain territory lying within a 2nd class city.

Bills That Failed to Pass

Referendum Restrictions

Aside from the limitations on scheduling referenda that were mentioned above and were approved as part of the state budget, the following referenda restriction bills failed to pass this session:

  • Eliminate recurring operating referendums and limit the duration of successful non-recurring operating referendums to 5 years.  (SB 195, AB 268)
  • Reduce a school district’s general school aid payment by 20% of the excess revenue approved by any operating referendum and allow a school board to rescind revenue limit increases that have been previously approved by referendum.  (SB 193, AB 285)
  • Require the DPI to provide matching funds (at a 50% match rate) for deposits that a school board makes to a long-term capital improvement trust fund (Fund 46).  (SB 192, AB 279)
  • Prohibit a school board in a unified district from voting on a resolution to exceed a school district’s revenue limit at a school board meeting that is not a regularly scheduled monthly meeting, and would also prohibit voting in a common or union high school district on a resolution to exceed a school district’s revenue limit at a school district special meeting. (SB 191, AB 282)
  • Require school district referendum resolutions and ballot referendum questions to disclose the total cost of the referendum, accounting for debt service and interest cost.  (SB 187)

Publication of Proceedings

  • Allows any city council, village board, school district, or technical college district to, in lieu of publication in a newspaper, publish its proceedings by posting a copy on its Internet site and in at least one public place.

School Start Date

  • Eliminates current law prohibition on school districts beginning fall classes before Sept 1 beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

Weapon Threats 

  • Makes it a Class I felony to make a threat to use a dangerous weapon on school premises.

Right to Carry

  • Repeals the state’s gun free school zones law; allows individuals to obtain “basic” concealed carry licenses without completing firearms training, thus enabling them to be exempt from provisions in the federal gun free school zones act prohibiting possession of firearms within a school zone; require school boards to post school buildings and grounds to prohibit possession of firearms by concealed carry license holders in those places: and reduce penalties for persons who possess firearms in school buildings and on school grounds in violation of such postings.

Voucher Transparency

  • Requires that a person’s property tax bill include information from the local
    school district regarding the amount of any net reduction in state aid to the district as a result of pupils enrolled in voucher programs.

Testing Mandates/Opt-outs

  • Requires each school board to annually provide parents or guardians with a copy of or instructions on how to access a summary of the required pupil examinations administered under state and federal law.
  • Requires, upon request of a parent or guardian, a school board to excuse a pupil enrolled in any grade from 3 to 12 from taking any examination required under state or federal law, except the civics test that is a requirement for high school graduation.

“Teacher Protection Act”

  • Modifies the law regarding information that must be distributed to or made available to teachers, how school and school district performance reports categorize suspension and expulsion data, pupil discipline, pupil behavioral records, the reporting of certain information between law enforcement agencies and schools, and teacher contracts, leave, and other benefits.
  • This bill was ultimately amended down to only require teacher contracts to permit termination without penalty under certain circumstances.

Competitive Bidding Mandate

  • Requires school districts to use the competitive bidding process on all construction projects above $75,000.

Suspension/Expulsion for Firearms Possession 

  • Provides local discretion over school disciplinary decisions involving a pupil who brings a firearm onto school grounds.

Education Savings Accounts

  • Creates education savings accounts for low income gifted & talented pupils.

Construction Notification Mandate

  • Requires a school board to make certain notifications to “interested parties” regarding planned construction projects.