Statutory Waivers Under the New School Funding Bill
As reported in an earlier alert, the State’s new school funding bill, Senate Bill 1947 (Public Act 100—0465), provides new mandate relief. School districts have been eligible to petition the General Assembly for waivers from many of the mandates in the School Code (a “statutory waiver”) and from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) administrative rules and regulations. Historically, statutory waivers could be requested when necessary to stimulate innovation or improve student performance. Under S.B. 1947, districts are now also eligible to request a statutory waiver where the district can address the intent of the mandate in a more effective, efficient, or economical manner. Waivers can remain in effect for five years and have no renewal limitations. Under the new legislation, ISBE may approve, deny, or modify a statutory waiver request unless a majority of the legislative leaders ask for further review by the full General Assembly. S.B. 1947 also provides additional mandate relief specific to physical education and drivers’ education.
Historically, waivers from the physical education (P.E.) mandate have been treated differently than other waivers. Prior to the adoption of this new legislation, a P.E. waiver could only remain in effect for two years and could only be renewed two times. Over the past 22 years, 827 waivers from the P.E. mandate were granted by ISBE and/or the General Assembly, out of 877 requested waivers.
The specific P.E. waiver provisions were deleted from the waiver statute by S.B. 1947. P.E. waivers are now treated in the same manner as all other statutory waivers under the School Code. A district’s statutory waiver from the P.E. mandate may be in effect for five years and there is no renewal cap.
S.B. 1947 also amended Section 27—6 of the School Code, which imposes P.E. requirements. Students are now only required to participate in P.E. three days per week, as opposed to five days. Students in grades seven through twelve participating in interscholastic or extracurricular athletic programs may be excused from P.E. on a case by case basis at a school district’s discretion. Previously, only eleventh and twelfth-grade students were eligible for an exemption. These provisions are applicable to all districts and do not require districts to petition for a waiver.
Some districts choose to meet the driver’s education requirement by outsourcing this instruction to a third party commercial driver training school. The School Code previously required that school districts wishing to contract with a commercial driver training school request a waiver. From March 1995 through March 2017, 623 requests for a waiver of the drivers’ education mandate were made and 585 waivers were granted by ISBE and/or the General Assembly.
Under the new Section 27—24.2, districts may now outsource their drivers’ education training to a commercial driver training school without having to request a waiver. To do so, the district must approve the contract with the commercial driving training school at a public hearing. Either or both classroom instruction and practice driving may be outsourced under this provision.
The requirements imposed on a commercial driving training school under contract to provide drivers’ education for a school district remain the same as they were under the School Code previously: the driver training school must hold a license under Article IV of Chapter 6 of the Vehicle Code and each instructor employed to teach the district’s students must hold a valid Illinois teaching license.
S.B. 1947 does not address any procedural requirements relating to the outsourcing of drivers’ education, other than the necessity of a public hearing and certain reporting requirements. Section 10—22.34c of the School Code, which imposes requirements on the outsourcing of non-instructional services, does not apply to drivers’ education because drivers’ education is an instructional service.
However, S.B. 1947 does not set aside any requirements imposed by an already-existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA), district policies, and the Reduction in Force (RIF) provisions of the School Code. Therefore, districts must also look at the terms of their CBA, any relevant district policies, and the School Code RIF provisions to determine what staffing mechanism measures they will have to take to outsource drivers’ education. We recommend consulting with legal counsel to navigate this issue.