Teachers support education reform package that puts kids first

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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Comments

  1. mike hastings says:

    Unfortunately, at this point, I don’t get it. How does SB7 make me a better teacher? I have the 87 page bill. I sure hope someone has sorted it out better than the Chicago Tribune.

  2. bmurray, for accuracy of IEA’s “spin”, I have relied upon talking to to the 2 IEA representatives in the room when the bill was written as well as reading the bill myself. I do believe there is sufficient protection for veteran teachers. The intent of section 24-12.C.5 page 36 line12 through page 37 line 10 of the Engrossed version of the bill, is to give the local association the power to prevent administrators from arbitrarily lowering overall evaluations. I agree that the bill is not easy reading. Too many, including newspapers, are relying on heresay and printing inaccurate information about the contents of the bill.

    • Confused and concerned says:

      Bob, thank you for your calm and thoughtful response. After reading my comment, it came off as very “snippy”. This was unintended. I respectfully disagree that veteran teachers are sufficiently protected. Unless I have a different version of the Bill than you have (not snippy, really hoping I have wrong Bill), the words “must consider” and “may agree to” are used several times in the section that you referenced. There is nothing that says the committee has any real power at all. If the committee finds a trend that veteran teachers are receiving lower ratings than in the past, the committee can submit a report to the board of ed and exclusive bargaining representative stating this. Can this report save anyone? I can’t find where it says it can.

      Long story short, I really hope that someone can find something in this Bill that will actually protect a good veteran teacher from being dismissed in order to save money. I can’t tell you how much I hope I’m wrong about this. Please prove me wrong! I want my children taught by the best teachers, not the cheapest.

    • Confused and concerned says:

      Bob, thank you for your calm and thoughtful response. After reading my comment, it came off as very “snippy”. This was unintended. I respectfully disagree that veteran teachers are sufficiently protected. Unless I have a different version of the Bill than you have (not snippy, really hoping I have wrong Bill), the words “must consider” and “may agree to” are used several times in the section that you referenced. There is nothing that says the committee has any real power at all. If the committee finds a trend that veteran teachers are receiving lower ratings than in the past, the committee can submit a report to the board of ed and exclusive bargaining representative stating this. Can this report save anyone? I can’t find where it says it can.

      Long story short, I really hope that someone can find something in this Bill that will actually protect a good veteran teacher from being dismissed in order to save money. I can’t tell you how much I hope I’m wrong about this. Please prove me wrong! I want my children taught by the best teachers, not the cheapest.

      • Confused and concerned says:

        After some very helpful and informative conversations as well as reading the bill again, I am far less confused and concerned. I have a much better understanding of how hard our leadership fought in order to provide good teachers with as much protection as possible.

  3. sandra bridges says:

    MANY THANKS…..for the cooperative spirit in passing this bill. Others should look to Illinois as an example of a sincere attempt to solve problems with fairness and consideration for all.

  4. Marilyn, I’m not sure what Sen. Murphy is referencing because there is a provision in the law to prevent administrators from arbitrarily lowering evaluations to save money. This was clearly stated by Brent Clark, the Executive Director of the State Superintendents’ Association. Contrary to the spin given by the news media, there is no “easy fire” provision. There is still the 90 day remediation process; there is still the possibility of a hearing in front of a hearing officer which can take 120 days. The process was just streamlined to keep dismissal from drawing out to a one or two year process; that will make it cheaper. Perhaps that is what Murphy was refering to. The State Superintendent has always had the right to suspend or revoke a teacher’s certificate due to incompetence. For the first time incompetence is defined. A teacher still has the right to appeal to the State Teacher Certification Board which is comprised of a majority of teachers.

    • Confused and concerned says:

      Bob, what makes you think the IEA’s spin is any more accurate than the media’s spin? If you read the bill word for word, you will see that Marilyn is correct (you also won’t have to rely on any “spin”). There is no teeth in this bill to protect good veteran teachers. There is a lot of nice language that makes it appear that teachers are protected… but once you get past the facade, districts can dismiss good veteran teachers based on 2 subjective evaluations. If many vetran teachers get dismissed, the only protection we have is to look at the list and say “Wow, you dismissed a lot of veteran teachers. That is not right.” and then the district can say they dismissed teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations… and those teachers are still dismissed.

      Did anyone who is heaping praise actually read the Bill? I did and I am… confused and concerned.

  5. Marilyn Querciagrossa says:

    “The kids in the state of Illinois — the entire state of Illinois — have a chance to get a better education because of this bill,” added Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, who predicted the legislation would help school boards save money and make sure the “better teachers stay and the lesser teachers go.”

    In order for school boards to save money, “better teachers” will have to equal cheaper, younger teachers and “lesser teachers”, of course, will be those higher up on the salary schedule. This does not bode well for veteran teachers in Illinois. It will be a simple matter for administrators to fabricate poor evaluations for veteran teachers and, thanks to the new “easy fire” provisions, they’ll not only lose their jobs, but they’ll be in jeopardy of losing their certificates.

  6. Marla Ervin-Hardesty says:

    I, too, praise the work that has been done and am also afraid for the 55+ teachers. There are so many excellent teachers that are 55 and older who could lose their jobs because of this proposal. This could be a punishment for them because the district is hurting in funding. With a state that is broke and not paying its bills in a timely manner, I could easily see this happening. I have mixed feelings about this proposal.

  7. Mary Harrington says:

    I praise the work that has been done but I am afraid for the 55+ teachers and their job security. Please protect them from the chopping block due to their high salaries. Please utilize this model for fair funding reform in Illinois. Thanks

  8. David Murray says:

    I am still unclear why an organization from Oregon, Stand for Children, who is composed of CEO’s, billionaires, and millionaires is pouring unprecedented money into our Illinois elections? What is the motivation? Why are people like Sam Zell (CEO Chicago Tribune) so enamoured with the way I run my classroom? I could understand if an organization composed of former educators with 10, 20, 30 years of classroom experience put forth some ideas, but corporate bosses who have never spent a day in front of students? Also, why do they receive a seat at the table with negotiations with OUR (Illinois) legislators? Who are they? My guess is that this is an organization that wishes to privatize public education for profit. There is a lot of money to be made in this industry for private companies.

  9. Tony Malay says:

    Thank you Ken, Audrey, Jim, Mitch, Bob, Cinda and the rest of our exceptional IEA Leadership Team. It is because of your commitment and leadership that we had a seat at the table and or voice has been heard. It is very fitting that the NEA RA is in Illinois this year so our colleagues from across the nation can see first hand how to react to attacks on public education. The IEA approach has led to productive outcomes when faced with destructive proposals. Illinois will be used as a model. Educators included in reform…what a novel idea

  10. James Beal says:

    Once again the IEA has just laid down for the legislators.

    IEA needs to think before acting. 4 year tenure rule was an utter failure. This one too
    will be manipulated to keep cycling new teachers through our schools and to keep costs down.

    Is it really too much to ask to have a TEACHERS union THINK?

    Union? Ha! Legislative dupe is more like it.

  11. I am proud of the IEA for working with our brothers and sisters in the IFT & CTU! Thank you Ken, Audrey and Mitch (and anyone else) for all your efforts and especially for sacrificing yet another holiday season this past December! While the legislation is not perfect, there are some things included we have been fighting for for a long time (i.e. tenure portability & school board member training). It’s easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions, but the proof is that the final product is NOT “performance counts”! This is a step forward in our effort to make sure that every child has a great PUBLIC school! Keep up the fight!

    • I agree with Bryce. This makes me proud to be a part of IEA as there has obviously been a lot of thought put into what we need in order to be the most effective in our schools instead of just the opposition rhetoric of what can we take away from those educators who are not “fixing” all of our students.

  12. Thanks Ken, Audrey and Mitch. Education Reform is here, and we thank you for having a seat at the table for the IEA. I attended the legislative meetings in December in Aurora. This could have been so much worse if you, AFT and CTU had not worked together to save our collective bargaining rights. It is much better to be a part of a solution rather than have the solution thrust at us without our voices having been heard. Reform is here, but there is much strength in the three unions working together toward the same goal: doing what is best for all of the children in Illinois.

    • Thomas Tully says:

      Job well done!! I was also at the Education Reform hearings in Aurora and heard the legislation that was going to be jammed down our throats.
      Ken, Audrey and Mitch congratulations on being proactive and unified with our union partners. Negotiating anything always takes compromise from all parties.
      I fully support your efforts and appreciate all of the core values that were preserved by the leadership team!!!!!!!!

      • I hape you will keep in mind the pension decisions that are being made and think about the teachers that have spent many years working with children and protect their rights to a pension.

  13. Val Dranias says:

    Thank you to Ken, Audrey, Mitch and everyone else who worked so diligently to protect our interests in the ed reform talks. It is an historic piece of legislation,. Today, we are NOT Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Etc. We are ILLINOIS and the unions have stood together to protect our rights and to improve education for our kids. We now have protection and recall rights for non-tenured teachers, portability of tenure and we’ve kept seniority as a component of RIF and we continue to have our collective bargaining rights. It’s not perfect but it could have been so much worse.