(105 ILCS 5/2-3.25f-5)
    Sec. 2-3.25f-5. Independent Authority.
    (a) The General Assembly finds all of the following:
        (1) A fundamental goal of the people of this State,
    
as expressed in Section 1 of Article X of the Illinois Constitution, is the educational development of all persons to the limits of their capacities. When a school board faces governance difficulties, continued operation of the public school system is threatened.
        (2) Sound school board governance, academic
    
achievement, and sound financial structure are essential to the continued operation of any school system. It is vital to commercial, educational, and cultural interests that public schools remain in operation. To achieve that goal, public school systems must have effective leadership.
        (3) To promote the sound operation of districts, as
    
defined in this Section, it may be necessary to provide for the creation of independent authorities with the powers necessary to promote sound governance, sound academic planning, and sound financial management and to ensure the continued operation of the public schools.
        (4) It is the purpose of this Section to provide for
    
a sound basis for the continued operation of public schools. The intention of the General Assembly, in creating this Section, is to establish procedures, provide powers, and impose restrictions to ensure the educational integrity of public school districts.
    (b) As used in this Section:
    "Board" means a school board of a district.
    "Chairperson" means the Chairperson of the Independent Authority.
    "District" means any school district having a population of not more than 500,000.
    "State Board" means the State Board of Education.
    "State Superintendent" means the State Superintendent of Education.
    (c) The State Board has the power to direct the State Superintendent to remove a board. Boards may be removed when the criteria provided for in subsection (d) of this Section are met. At no one time may the State Board remove more than 4 school boards and establish Independent Authorities pursuant to subsection (e) of this Section.
    If the State Board proposes to direct the State Superintendent to remove a board from a district, board members shall receive individual written notice of the intended removal. Written notice must be provided at least 30 calendar days before a hearing is held by the State Board. This notice shall identify the basis for proposed removal.
    Board members are entitled to a hearing, during which time each board member shall have the opportunity to respond individually, both orally and through written comments, to the basis laid out in the notice. Written comments must be submitted to the State Board on or before the hearing.
    Board members are entitled to be represented by counsel at the hearing, but counsel must not be paid with district funds, unless the State Board decides that the board will not be removed and then the board members may be reimbursed for all reasonable attorney's fees by the district.
    The State Board shall make a final decision on removal immediately following the hearing or at its next regularly scheduled or special meeting. In no event may the decision be made later than the next regularly scheduled meeting.
    The State Board shall issue a final written decision. If the State Board directs the State Superintendent to remove the board, the State Superintendent shall do so within 30 days after the written decision. Following the removal of the board, the State Superintendent shall establish an Independent Authority pursuant to subsection (e) of this Section.
    If there is a financial oversight panel operating in the district pursuant to Article 1B or 1H of this Code, the State Board may, at its discretion, abolish the panel.
    (d) The State Board may require priority districts, as defined in subsection (b-5) of Section 2-3.25f of this Code, to seek accreditation through an independent accreditation organization chosen by the State Board and paid for by the State. The State Board may direct the State Superintendent to remove board members pursuant to subsection (c) of this Section in any district in which the district is unable to obtain accreditation in whole or in part due to reasons specifically related to school board governance. When determining if a district has failed to meet the standards for accreditation specifically related to school board governance, the accreditation entity shall take into account the overall academic, fiscal, and operational condition of the district and consider whether the board has failed to protect district assets, to direct sound administrative and academic policy, to abide by basic governance principles, including those set forth in district policies, and to conduct itself with professionalism and care and in a legally, ethically, and financially responsible manner. When considering if a board has failed in these areas, the accreditation entity shall consider some or all of the following factors:
        (1) Failure to protect district assets by, without
    
limitation, incidents of fiscal fraud or misappropriation of district funds; acts of neglecting the district's building conditions; a failure to meet regularly scheduled, payroll-period obligations when due; a failure to abide by competitive bidding laws; a failure to prevent an audit finding of material internal control weaknesses; a failure to comply with required accounting principles; a failure to develop and implement a comprehensive, risk-management plan; a failure to provide financial information or cooperate with the State Superintendent; or a failure to file an annual financial report, an annual budget, a deficit reduction plan, or other financial information as required by law.
        (2) Failure to direct sound administrative and
    
academic policy by, without limitation, hiring staff who do not meet minimal certification requirements for the positions being filled or who do not meet the customary qualifications held by those occupying similar positions in other school districts; a failure to avoid conflicts of interest as it relates to hiring or other contractual obligations; a failure to provide minimum graduation requirements and curricular requirements of the School Code and regulations; a failure to provide a minimum school term as required by law; or a failure to adopt and implement policies and practices that promote conditions that support student learning, effective instruction, and assessment that produce equitable and challenging learning experiences for all students.
        (3) Failure to abide by basic governance principles
    
by, without limitation, a failure to comply with the mandated oath of office; a failure to adopt and abide by sound local governance policies; a failure to abide by the principle that official action by the board occurs only through a duly-called and legally conducted meeting of the board; a failure to abide by majority decisions of the board; a failure to protect the privacy of students; a failure to ensure that board decisions and actions are in accordance with defined roles and responsibilities; or a failure of the board to protect, support, and respect the autonomy of a system to accomplish goals for improvement in student learning and instruction and to manage day-to-day operations of the school system and its schools, including maintaining the distinction between the board's roles and responsibilities and those of administrative leadership.
        (4) Failure to conduct itself in a legally,
    
ethically, and financially responsible manner by, without limitation, a failure to act in accordance with the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Illinois and within the scope of State and federal laws; laws, including a failure to comply with provisions of the School Code, the Open Meetings Act, and the Freedom of Information Act and federal and State laws that protect the rights of protected categories of students; a failure to comply with all district policies and procedures and all State rules; or a failure to comply with the governmental entities provisions of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, including the gift ban and prohibited political activities provisions.
    (e) Upon removal of the board, the State Superintendent shall establish an Independent Authority. Upon establishment of an Independent Authority, there is established a body both corporate and politic to be known as the "(Name of the School District) Independent Authority", which in this name shall exercise all of the authority vested in an Independent Authority by this Section and by the name may sue and be sued in all courts and places where judicial proceedings are had.
    (f) Upon establishment of an Independent Authority under subsection (e) of this Section, the State Superintendent shall, within 30 working days thereafter and in consultation with State and locally elected officials, appoint 5 or 7 members to serve on an Independent Authority for the district. Members appointed to the Independent Authority shall serve at the pleasure of the State Superintendent. The State Superintendent shall designate one of the members of the Independent Authority to serve as its chairperson. In the event of vacancy or resignation, the State Superintendent shall, within 15 working days after receiving notice, appoint a successor to serve out that member's term. If the State Board has abolished a financial oversight panel pursuant to subsection (c) of this Section, the State Superintendent may appoint former members of the panel to the Independent Authority. These members may serve as part of the 5 or 7 members or may be appointed in addition to the 5 or 7 members, with the Independent Authority not to exceed 9 members in total.
    Members of the Independent Authority must be selected primarily on the basis of their experience and knowledge in education policy and governance, with consideration given to persons knowledgeable in the operation of a school district. A member of the Independent Authority must be a registered voter as provided in the general election law, must not be a school trustee, and must not be a child sex offender as defined in Section 11-9.3 of the Criminal Code of 2012. A majority of the members of the Independent Authority must be residents of the district that the Independent Authority serves. A member of the Independent Authority may not be an employee of the district, nor may a member have a direct financial interest in the district.
    Independent Authority members may be reimbursed by the district for travel if they live more than 25 miles away from the district's headquarters and other necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties. The amount reimbursed members for their expenses must be charged to the school district.
    With the exception of the Chairperson, the Independent Authority may elect such officers as it deems appropriate.
    The first meeting of the Independent Authority must be held at the call of the Chairperson. The Independent Authority shall prescribe the times and places for its meetings and the manner in which regular and special meetings may be called and shall comply with the Open Meetings Act.
    All Independent Authority members must complete the training required of school board members under Section 10-16a of this Code.
    (g) The purpose of the Independent Authority is to operate the district. The Independent Authority shall have all of the powers and duties of a board and all other powers necessary to meet its responsibilities and to carry out its purpose and the purposes of this Section and that may be requisite or proper for the maintenance, operation, and development of any school or schools under the jurisdiction of the Independent Authority. This grant of powers does not release an Independent Authority from any duty imposed upon it by this Code or any other law.
    The Independent Authority shall have no power to unilaterally cancel or modify any collective bargaining agreement in force upon the date of creation of the Independent Authority.
    (h) The Independent Authority may prepare and file with the State Superintendent a proposal for emergency financial assistance for the school district and for the operations budget of the Independent Authority, in accordance with Section 1B-8 of this Code. A district may receive both a loan and a grant.
    (i) An election for board members must not be held in a district upon the establishment of an Independent Authority and is suspended until the next regularly scheduled school board election that takes place no less than 2 years following the establishment of the Independent Authority. For this first election, 3 school board members must be elected to serve out terms of 4 years and until successors are elected and have qualified. Members of the Independent Authority are eligible to run for election in the district, provided that they meet all other eligibility requirements of Section 10-10 of this Code. Following this election, the school board shall consist of the newly elected members and any remaining members of the Independent Authority. The majority of this board must be residents of the district. The State Superintendent must appoint new members who are residents to the Independent Authority if necessary to maintain this majority. At the next school board election, 4 school board members must be elected to serve out terms of 4 years and until successors are elected and have qualified. For purposes of these first 2 elections, the school board members must be elected at-large. In districts where board members were previously elected using an alternative format pursuant to Article 9 of this Code, following these first 2 elections, the voting shall automatically revert back to the original form. Following the election, any remaining Independent Authority members shall serve in the district as an oversight panel until such time as the district meets the governance standards necessary to achieve accreditation. If some or all of the Independent Authority members have been elected to the board, the State Superintendent may, in his or her discretion, appoint new members to the Independent Authority pursuant to subsection (f) of this Section. The school board shall get approval of all actions by the Independent Authority during the time the Independent Authority serves as an oversight panel.
    Board members who were removed pursuant to subsection (c) of this Section are ineligible to run for school board in the district for 10 years following the abolition of the Independent Authority pursuant to subsection (l) of this Section. However, board members who were removed pursuant to subsection (c) of this Section and were appointed to the Independent Authority by the State Superintendent are eligible to run for school board in the district.
    (j) The Independent Authority, upon its members taking office and annually thereafter and upon request, shall prepare and submit to the State Superintendent a report on the state of the district, including without limitation the academic improvement and financial situation of the district. This report must be submitted annually on or before March 1 of each year. The State Superintendent shall provide copies of any and all reports to the regional office of education for the district and to the State Senator and Representative representing the area where the district is located.
    (k) The district shall render such services to and permit the use of its facilities and resources by the Independent Authority at no charge as may be requested by the Independent Authority. Any State agency, unit of local government, or school district may, within its lawful powers and duties, render such services to the Independent Authority as may be requested by the Independent Authority.
    (l) An Independent Authority must be abolished when the district, following the election of the full board, meets the governance standards necessary to achieve accreditation status by an independent accreditation agency chosen by the State Board. The abolition of the Independent Authority shall be done by the State Board and take place within 30 days after the determination of the accreditation agency.
    Upon abolition of the Independent Authority, all powers and duties allowed by this Code to be exercised by a school board shall be transferred to the elected school board.
    (m) The Independent Authority must be indemnified through insurance purchased by the district. The district shall purchase insurance through which the Independent Authority is to be indemnified.
    The district retains the duty to represent and to indemnify Independent Authority members following the abolition of the Independent Authority for any cause of action or remedy available against the Independent Authority, its members, its employees, or its agents for any right or claim existing or any liability incurred prior to the abolition.
    The insurance shall indemnify and protect districts, Independent Authority members, employees, volunteer personnel authorized in Sections 10-22.34, 10-22.34a, and 10-22.34b of this Code, mentors of certified or licensed staff as authorized in Article 21A and Sections 2-3.53a, 2-3.53b, and 34-18.33 of this Code, and student teachers against civil rights damage claims and suits, constitutional rights damage claims and suits, and death and bodily injury and property damage claims and suits, including defense thereof, when damages are sought for negligent or wrongful acts alleged to have been committed in the scope of employment, under the direction of the Independent Authority, or related to any mentoring services provided to certified or licensed staff of the district. Such indemnification and protection shall extend to persons who were members of an Independent Authority, employees of an Independent Authority, authorized volunteer personnel, mentors of certified or licensed staff, or student teachers at the time of the incident from which a claim arises. No agent may be afforded indemnification or protection unless he or she was a member of an Independent Authority, an employee of an Independent Authority, an authorized volunteer, a mentor of certified or licensed staff, or a student teacher at the time of the incident from which the claim arises.
    (n) The State Board may adopt rules as may be necessary for the administration of this Section.
(Source: P.A. 98-1155, eff. 1-9-15.)