Pritchard’s Perspective 4/23/18

The Youth Council on the floor of the House of Representatives in Springfield.

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.

April 23, 2018

In This Issue:

Legislative Initiatives to Combat Teacher Shortage
Independent Redistricting Reform
Bills Pass the House Last Week
Improving School Safety
Unemployment at Lowest Rate in More Than 10 Years
Youth Council Visits the Capitol

Legislative Initiatives to Combat Teacher Shortage

Our children’s education remains a top priority, which is why the growing teacher shortage in Illinois has been especially troubling. To combat the shortage, several pieces of legislation have been filed by lawmakers and the topic continues to be debated in Springfield.

The Illinois State Board of Education said the 2017-18 school year began with about 2,000 unfilled teaching positions across the state. In addition, Regional Offices of Education report increasingly difficulty finding substitute teachers. The teacher shortage is much more pronounced in rural districts while substitute teacher shortage concerns were most evident in the southern part of the state. The most difficult positions to fill include bilingual, Spanish, special education as well as nurses and school psychologists.

The shortage can be tied to a combination of factors including: educators retiring, leaving Illinois, or the profession; compensation and benefits; the challenges of teaching today’s students; fewer students interested in teaching or able to pass the qualifying tests; and hurdles for out-of-state educators to be licensed in Illinois.

Legislative measures have been filed to address some of these challenges.

HB4167: Establishes a short-term substitute teaching license. Applicants must hold an associate’s degree or have completed at least 60 credit hours from an accredited university. Current law requires a bachelor’s degree for all substitute teachers.

HB4280 and SB2844: Establishes the growing future language-educator program. It would allow high schools to hire high school graduates who are proficient in a language other than English and are pursuing an educator license, to mentor and teach English language learners.

HB4409: Addresses the shortage of school psychologists by removing the requirements that those who already hold a valid Nationally Certified School Psychologist credential must also take state-mandated tests.

HB4956: Requires every Illinois public university with an educator preparation program to offer a three-year degree completion program. The sponsor seeks to reduce the cost of education and time learning material outside of the area of specialty.

HB5153: Streamlines the hiring process for educators at the Illinois School for the Deaf and Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.

HB5005: Assures salaries of teachers employed by the Department of Juvenile Justice are comparable with teachers in area school districts. It also recognizes state teaching licenses without further testing.

HB5627: Recognizes and removes hurdles for out-of-state licensed educators to teach in Illinois.

Independent Redistricting Reform

A House Resolution was filed last week calling for independent redistricting reform. Legislative maps are redrawn every ten years following the U.S. census so that lawmaker’s districts will contain an equal number of constituents. Drawing a fair map is important to help protect voter rights and create a more representative government. The current process of redistricting has been skewed by partisan politics that only creates more polarization.

House Resolution 995 would produce a fair map. It calls for maps to be drawn without regard to incumbency and partisanship, and allows voters the opportunity to choose a candidate based on the issues and policies most important to them.

According to a poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 72 percent of Illinois residents, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, support the creation of an independent commission to draw legislative district maps. I have also placed a poll on my Facebook page to measure opinions regarding independent redistricting.

Bills Pass the House last Week

The House deadline for passing bills out of the chamber has been set for this Friday. Consequently there was a flurry of legislative activity last week. Here is a sampling of some of the bills that passed the House.

HB4104: An initiative of the Illinois Municipal League to overturn a ruling from the Comptroller that all municipal audits had to be made using the accrual method of accounting. The bill will continue the practice of allowing both a cash and modified accrual basis of accounting.

HB4637: Provides a referendum process for voters to dissolve townships in McHenry County through petition or resolution of a township board. The bill also requires townships in Lake and McHenry to dissolve any township road districts that maintain less than 15 miles of road.

HB5771: Requires schools to document and report students with chronic absenteeism. Some schools make little effort to see that students attend school. Absenteeism has been correlated with dropping out of school.

HB4081: Provides a penalty of up to $10,000 for any call center business that leaves the state without providing at least a 120 day notice to the State Treasurer. Many legislators have concerns that the language of the bill would include most businesses and points out the unfriendly business climate in Illinois.

HB4413: Requires that any pension board meeting subject to the Open Meetings Act must be broadcast to the public in real-time over the internet.

HB4846: Seeks to improve public safety by imposing a fine for texting and using a hand-held cell phone while driving. Violation of this offense will result in a fine of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

HB4645: Extends the repeal of the Health Facilities Planning Act and Certificate of Need program until 2029. The act was intended to avoid duplication of healthcare services and ensure public accountability surrounding health care facility operations.

HB5513: Requires the Department of the Lottery to offer a special instant scratch-off game to benefit State police memorials.

HB4870: This bill requires every school to allow a parent or guardian to administer medical cannabis infused products to their student on school premises, unless it would cause a disruption to the learning environment. Current state law prohibits the use of medical cannabis on school grounds even when the student has a prescription for the medication.

HB5109: Creates a forgivable loan to students studying Community Behavioral Health Care when they practice in underserved areas following graduation. The sponsor believes this will help address the need for mental health and substance abuse professionals.

HB4745: Allows the Department of Public Health to avoid procurement delays in purchasing the equipment and technology necessary for Newborn Metabolic Screening.

HB5021: Provides the Board of Higher Education with authority to confiscate student records from an institution that proposes to discontinue operations. Such records are the only proof of classes taken, grades and other information about the student’s educational experience.

HB5267: Requires law enforcement to provide a full report of the investigation of the crime to the Attorney General’s Office within 15 days of a request for the report. The following information can be redacted from reports: names of confidential sources and informants, locations from which law enforcement conduct surveillance, and information related to issues of national security the law enforcement agency provided to or received from the United States or other federal law enforcement agencies.

HB4944: Reduces in half the number of safety tests needed each year for vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds (flatbed trucks and step-vans). The owner will save time and money.

Improving School Safety

In response to the growing number of mass shootings, the legislature is discussing various initiatives to reduce violence and increase protection for especially children. One recent bill that passed out of committee would reduce funding for school safety officers and instead hire more social workers, counselors and behavior therapists. Advocates believe this is the best investment to improve safety and would also reduce the number of students arrested rather than disciplined.

Investing more in psychologists and social workers is a good idea, but it shouldn’t stop there. The Illinois Terrorism Task Force’s School Safety Working Group recently submitted 13 recommendations designed to help make Illinois schools safer. Their assessment divides the recommendations into three different categories: behavioral threat assessment, hardening of facilities, and response protocols in schools. The specific recommendations include things such as: Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams, Information Sharing Among Schools, Priority List for Hardening of School Facilities, and Active Shooter Drills in Schools. You can read their recommendations in more detail here.

It is essential that we consider all aspects of school safety, and not prioritize one idea over another. Safety comes with everyone paying attention, and looking out for each other.

Unemployment at Lowest Rate in More Than 10 Years

The 4.6 percent unemployment rate in March reported by the Illinois Department of Employment Security is the state’s lowest level since before the Great Recession. The last time Illinois experienced this level of unemployment was in January 2007.

While manufacturing generated new jobs last month, other sectors of Illinois’ economy continue to stall including the retail sector. The manufacturing job expansion was an encouraging sign for Illinois and was up 900 jobs from February levels. Illinois’ jobless rate remains slightly higher than the national average of 4.1 percent for the same month as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Youth Council Visits the Capitol

My Youth Advisory Council traveled to Springfield last week to visit the State Capitol, meet with lawmakers, and witness the legislative process. Unlike most school visits to the capitol, the council’s two-day experience allowed students to question legislative leaders, discuss news reporting and learn more about specific legislation.

The Council has been preparing for the visit since last fall as they engaged in monthly meetings with a focus on local as well as state government, careers in public service and how to influence public policy. There are 25 students in the council from nearly every public and private high school in my legislative district.

Top image caption: The Youth Council on the floor of the House of Representatives in Springfield.

Have a great week and call my District Office to share your opinions or if I can be of assistance.

Bob Pritchard

District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to

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Robert W. Pritchard (R-Hinckley) is the Illinois State Representative for the 70th district, serving the residents in portions of DeKalb, Boone, and Kane Counties. Bob has been serving in the Illinois House since 2003. Pritchard, affectionately known as Bob, has been serving in the Illinois House since 2003. Biography Bob was born February 2, 1945. He grew up on a farm outside Hinckley, Illinois where growing corn and soybeans instilled in him hard work and a sense of dedication. Bob and his family continue to their hard work by farming. He is married to his wife Mary, Associate Dean at Northern Illinois University, and has two grown sons, Matthew and Gregory. Education Bob majored in communications from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) earning both his bachelors and masters degree. Bob’s passion for farming and his education in communication gave him the unique opportunity to enjoy working in both fields. Professional Life Beginning as a Radio and TV broadcaster for a local area stations, Bob delivered the farming updates and local weather reports. Bob took advantage of his skills and has worked for universities as well as filled marketing, public relations, and community relation roles at DeKalb Genetics Corporation and Monsanto. Community Leader Before becoming a member of the Illinois House of Representatives Bob was an energetic and busy contributor to the communities of DeKalb County. Getting his hands dirty in all parts of local government, Bob served on the Hinckley-Big Rock Board of Education. Bob was never far from his roots in the farming community, and was elected to a leadership position for the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. He also served as chairman for the DeKalb County Board. Legislative History Bob has diligently worked for the betterment on a wide gamut of issues from early childhood and education, healthcare, conservation and the environment, job creation, and protecting the manufacturing industry. The values of hard work and dedication that were instilled in Bob from his years of farming are reflected in his mentality of representing his constituents.

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