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TRS Board of Trustees Expanded in 2020

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Issue: A law enacted late in 2019 significantly changed the structure of the TRS Board of Trustees. The new statute expanded the size of the Board from 13 members to 15 members. The increase in trustees required an unscheduled election in May 2020 to choose a new “active" TRS member. The other new seat created by the law is filled by a gubernatorial appointment.

Under the System’s normal election cycle, set by law, the next scheduled trustee election is in 2021.

The law also contained an unprecedented twist for a bill governing a statewide election. Beginning in July 2020, when there will be five elected “active" TRS members on the Board, no more than four of those members can belong to a single statewide teacher organization that has more than 10,000 members. The fifth elected “active" trustee must belong to a different statewide teacher organization with more than 10,000 members.

Discussion: Prior to the new law, all four elected “active” trustees were members of the Illinois Education Association, which has more than 10,000 members. With the new law in place, the fifth elected “active” trustee elected in 2020 had to be a member of another statewide teacher organization with more than 10,000 members. The only other eligible statewide teacher organization is the Illinois Federation of Teachers, so the new trustee must be an IFT member.

Beginning in 2020, neither the IEA nor the IFT can have more than four elected “active” trustees on the Board.

In all future “active” trustee elections, all candidates will be required to name the statewide teacher organization to which they belong. After the election, if the candidate with the most votes is a member of the same statewide teacher organization that also counts four incumbent trustees as members, the winner of the election will be the candidate with the most votes who belongs to a different statewide organization, regardless of how many votes that candidate received.

The law also ends eight decades of tradition by allowing the governor to select the Board president from among the trustees. For more than 80 years, the president of the TRS Board automatically has been the sitting state superintendent of schools. The current state superintendent and successors will continue to be “ex officio" members of the Board.

The last time the TRS Board was altered by a change in state law occurred in 2009 when the number of seats was increased from 11 to 13. In 1939, when TRS was created, the Board was composed of five members.​

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