An article published on November 19, 2019 by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune has alerted Illinois lawmakers, parents, and school personnel of the widespread use of seclusion rooms for isolated timeouts. The use of these rooms, which has now been halted by the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) and Governor J.B. Pritzker, has been legal in Illinois for over twenty years. The students who are most frequently placed in these rooms have an emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disability, and special education advocates are calling for an end to this practice. These rooms were introduced as a legally-sanctioned separation method to prevent students from harming themselves or others, but the investigative article found that students are often unlawfully placed in these rooms for minor behavioral infractions. The report also found that parents and school administrators did not have knowledge of the full scope of isolated time-out use for their students.
In September, the Department of Labor announced a final revised “Overtime Rule” set to take effect on January 1, 2020, that raises the “standard-salary level” from $455 to $684 weekly to an annual total of $35,568. This will entitle anyone making less than this standard salary to receive fifty percent more in hourly wages for any hours worked in excess of forty in one week because they are no longer “exempted” from the overtime pay requirement in the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Rule is expected to allow 1.3 million previously-exempt workers access to overtime pay. Workers who make more than this threshold can still receive overtime pay if their roles do not include substantial decision making such as administrative, professional, or executive jobs.
The annual Illinois School Report Cards under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) were released on October 30. The report cards are now focused on student growth under ESSA which was signed into law four years ago. This will be the second Report Card released in Illinois under the new reporting guidelines under ESSA that requires states to evaluate schools on a variety of indicators of success, rather than just by student achievement. These report cards will rank schools from “Exemplary” to “Lowest-Performing” and report school spending this year as well as student performance data.
After two years of deliberation, public comment, and litigation, the Department of Education has released its final regulations for an overhaul of borrower defense to repayment claims. On August 30, 2019, the Department of Education released a press brief outlining new regulations set to take place on July 1, 2020. The new rules maintain that they are in place to create “streamlined and fair procedures that ensure basic due process for both borrowers and institutions.” Touting an anticipated savings of $11.1 billion dollars in savings to taxpayers over a ten-year span, the new regulations will likely make it more difficult for students to have their student loans forgiven. However, because of a missed deadline by the Department of Education, an Obama-era rule that favors borrowers by offering a transparent process for handling their claims, as well as automatic forgiveness of loans for some borrowers, is effective until that time.