Sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping begins Aug. 5
This year, the Legislature is providing families with some relief as parents and students do their back-to-school shopping.
Senate Bill 157 (P.A. 102-0700) is a comprehensive package of tax relief measures that address many costs families face. This new law provides for a 10-day sales tax reduction (reduced to 1.25% from 6.25%) for back-to-school shopping from Aug. 5-14. The 5% reduction, which represents the full portion of the tax collected for the state’s purpose, may be applied to clothing purchases and all traditional classroom school supplies. The law also addresses the taxes Illinoisans pay on groceries and gas, provides property and income tax rebate checks, and an increase and expansion of the earned income tax credit.
Click here to learn more about what is and is not included in the sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping.
Student loan assistance program approved for human service professionals
Social workers, youth service professionals, and other human service providers serve many of our state’s most vulnerable residents. Unfortunately, the industry is experiencing a shortage in employees. In an effort to grow the workforce for these vital jobs, those who complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree in human/social services may soon have access to student loan repayment assistance.
Senate Bill 3925 (P.A. 102-1089) will provide loan repayment assistance to eligible service professionals who practice in a community-based, human service agency that contracts with or is grant-funded by a state agency.
The legislation received unanimous approval in the Senate and House and took effect immediately upon its signing in June. The program is subject to appropriation in the State budget.
Senator DeWitte supports bill that protects students from child predators
An important new layer of transparency and protection will be provided at schools when a new law passed this year takes effect on July 1, 2023.
House Bill 4316 (P.A. 102-0702) strengthens state statutes to ensure that teachers who previously engaged in sexual misconduct do not slip through the cracks and find work in another school district. Specifically, the new law requires that when there is an allegation of sexual misconduct that is found to be credible, superintendents must notify the school board and parents. It also requires school districts to conduct employment history reviews on all new hires to ensure teachers did not get fired from another school for sexual misconduct.
The bill complements legislation I passed last year that also enhances protections for students. Senate Bill 2357 (P.A. 102-0552), which was signed into law one year ago, mandates that local school boards must alert the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) when they learn that an educator has been convicted of a crime involving abuse or neglect of a child, and helps ensure we are putting quality teachers in our classrooms. Both of these bills reaffirm that having a high-quality teacher workforce is of paramount importance in the State of Illinois.
Strengthened driver education standards coming to Illinois schools
Vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of death and serious injury among American teens, and this year the Legislature adopted legislation that strengthens the mandated curriculum for drivers education in Illinois. The new, more rigorous standards approved through House Bill 4716 (P.A. 102-0951) take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
The new standards, which apply to classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction, will follow the “Novice Teen Driver Education and Training Administrative Standards” written and developed by the Association of National Stakeholders in Traffic Safety Administration. The new standards respond to a feeling by the Illinois High School & College Driver Education Association that the current drivers education standards are outdated, weak, and not tied to measurable outcomes. The new standards have been researched in programs throughout the country and are steeped in best teaching practices.
School threat and safety drill measures protected through new law
While the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an important tool that provides for transparency in school district operations, lawmakers took action this year to exempt sensitive school safety procedure documents from public viewing. Specifically, documents that will be shielded include items produced by school threat assessment teams, including emergency and crisis response plans for unexpected situations that threaten student safety.
House Bill 4994 (P.A. 102-0791) states that procedures created under the School Safety Drill Act cannot be inspected, copied, or shown to the public. While the documents cannot be viewed by the general public, the new law also requires that threat assessment and crisis response procedures be filed with a local law enforcement agency and the regional office of education.
DeWitte helps improve student safety hotline
As lawmakers, we must do everything we can to ensure the safety of school children. To provide an additional tool to school officials and law enforcement, legislation was recently signed into law that refines and improves a statewide hotline that can receive reports from the public regarding potential self-harm or criminal acts directed at schools, teachers, or students. Calls into the hotline would be confidential.
Senate Bill 3936 (P.A. 102-0752) is an initiative of the Illinois State Police (ISP). It requires the ISP to work collaboratively with the other state agencies to help prevent planned attacks at schools and identify individuals struggling with mental health issues who have considered attacking individuals in a school setting.
The hotline builds on Illinois’ Safe2Help program, which provides students with an avenue where tips can be assessed and utilized by ISP and other law enforcement, and, when appropriate, in the courts.
Career exploration and development activities added to schools
Illinois students will soon have access to enhanced career exploration and development activities through legislation that was signed into law this year. House Bill 3296 (P.A. 102-0917) provides an opportunity for school districts that enroll older students to develop and implement career exploration and career development activities in accordance with a postsecondary and career explorations framework adopted under the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act of 2016.
These activities aim to prepare students to make informed plans and decisions about their future education and career goals, by providing students with opportunities to explore a wide variety of high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand career fields. Through the new law, programs must be in place by July 1, 2025. There is a provision in the law that allows school districts to opt-out of offering the program.
The legislation also requires participating school districts to implement College and Career Pathway Endorsements beginning in 2027. The endorsement demonstrates students’ readiness for college and careers and completion of instruction and professional learning experiences in a selected career interest area. The endorsements also incentivize career exploration and development, particularly in high-demand career fields such as manufacturing, health sciences, technology, agriculture, and education.
Senator DeWitte sponsors measure to improve Invest in Kids scholarship program
The Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program provides funds that allow lower-income students in underperforming schools to improve their chances for academic success by moving to a different school. Since the tax credit program was originally passed in 2017, every legislator has heard numerous success stories about how the program changed the life of a child for the better.
There was a period of time when discussions were taking place to eliminate or significantly reduce the Invest in Kids Program, but a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers worked hard to ensure the program not only remained whole, but was expanded.
This year the Legislature added a new layer of stability for the scholarship program, by creating year-to-year priority placement for students who have entered the program. Through House Bill 4126 (P.A. 102-1059), parents and students will no longer have to worry about receiving a scholarship one year and not the next, because once a student moves to a new school through Invest in Kids, they receive priority placement in subsequent school years.
This program has been a tremendous success. Since the first scholarships were issued in 2018, over $250 million in donations have funded more than 28,000 scholarships.