Teachers support education reform package that puts kids first

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Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) discusses education reform bill at a statehouse news conference on April 14. Looking on are Karen Lewis, president of the Chiocago Teachers union and Ken Swanson, president of the Illinois Education Association

Watch footage from the April 14 press conference.

(News release issued April 14, 2011 by IEA, IFT and CTU)

Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) discusses education reform bill at a statehouse news conference on April 14. Looking on are Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers union and Ken Swanson, president of the Illinois Education Association

A broad-based coalition, including the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), the Illinois Education Association (IEA), and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), announced today its support of historic school reform legislation that will help schools keep the best teachers in the classroom and improve learning conditions for students.

The diverse group that developed the legislation, led by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), engaged in unprecedented collaboration that led to unanimous support. The presidents of the three public education unions issued statements pledging the support of their organizations:

“This is an historic piece of legislation that exists today because of everyone’s commitment to putting politics aside and doing what’s in the best interest of our kids. We want the best teachers with the most experience teaching our kids,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery.

“We are proud that bold reforms we supported are a part of this bill. From day one, our organizations came to the table and advocated for changes that put Illinois kids first and ensured our teachers can do what they do best: teach,” said IEA President Ken Swanson.

“We are proud that we were successful in making sure experience and performance are respected. We have made the process for teacher dismissal more efficient and fair. We also have made certain there will be more accountability for everyone involved in the education of our students; not just teachers, but administrators and school board members as well,” said CTU President Karen Lewis.

Key reforms that were championed by the Illinois teacher unions in their “Accountability for All” and included in the bill are the following:

Implement a new Survey of Learning Conditions that will provide a reliable instrument to measure a school’s progress through teacher, student and administrator feedback that will be made public. Require school board member training that will ensure they are qualified in critical areas of responsibility including financial oversight, education and labor law, and accountability.

Ensure lay-off decisions are made taking experience and performance into account. Granting tenure to teachers who are performing in the classroom and provide a way to expedite obtaining tenure if a teacher truly excels in the classroom

Streamline the dismissal process for underperforming teachers while protecting teachers’ due process through the addition of a highly-qualified evaluator. Improve the mediation process to include a more public disclosure of the final contract offers while protecting our members’ right to collectively bargain and have a voice at the table so they can keep advocating for our kids.

The three presidents also praised the work of Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D- Maywood), who presided over more than 40 meetings that lasted anywhere from two to 10 hours each, at which the contents of the bill were debated, decided and ultimately agreed to by all participants.

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