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Most drug violations in CPS involve an ounce or less of marijuana. Schools are quick to call police, yet rarely have the resources to offer education, counseling or other non-punitive help to students.

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike rights

This is not a time of holiday cheer for teachers’ unions in Chicago and throughout Illinois. A hastily formed committee of the Illinois House of Representatives will hold hearings in Aurora this week with an agenda threatening to erode tenure and other job protections enjoyed by educators, and even to curtail dramatically the unions’ right to call a strike.

As is often the case with the Illinois Legislature, it is a challenge that arose with little warning.

This is not a time of holiday cheer for teachers’ unions in Chicago and throughout Illinois.

A hastily formed committee of the Illinois House of Representatives will hold hearings in Aurora this week with an agenda threatening to erode tenure and other job protections enjoyed by educators, and even to curtail dramatically the unions’ right to call a strike.

As is often the case with the Illinois Legislature, it is a challenge that arose with little warning.

The committee was formed just two weeks ago. It has eight members, four Democrats and four Republicans, but none represent Chicago. Its charge is to recommend “education reform” legislation that could be enacted no later than January 11, just a month from now.

What kind of reform? The official record is silent. No legislation is pending. No subject matter has been revealed. The only agenda circulating has been provided by interest groups: Advance Illinois, an education reform organization whose board is co-chaired by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar and William M. Daley of JPMorgan Chase & Co., brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley; and Stand for Children Illinois, an affiliate of an Oregon-based group that promotes charter schools.

According to information circulated by these groups, issues affecting the unions will be topics for the House committee when it convenes at 1 p.m. Thursday and again at 10 a.m. Friday in the Lecture Hall at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, 1500 W. Sullivan Road, Aurora.

The Chicago Teachers Union is organizing against the proposals, planning to bring members by bus to Aurora for the hearings.

Thursday’s topics are entitled: “Streamlining Teacher Dismissal, Reforming Teacher Tenure, Linking Layoffs to Performance, and Mutual Consent in Teacher Placement.” Friday morning’s hearing will be about “Strike Reform and Enhanced School Report Card.”

These are not issues the teachers’ unions would want to open up for discussion. But there are reasons, policy-based and political, why they are facing challenges in these respects.

And the challenges are serious.

Although no legislation has been filed, a “confidential draft” of bill language has been in circulation since the weekend. The committee members have it. The school board management alliance members have it. The education reform activists produced it. And the teachers’ unions have had a few days to look it over.

Briefly, here’s what this proposed legislation would do:

Tenure: Currently, teachers outside Chicago receive tenure – a condition of job security virtually for life – after two or, in some cases three years, on the job. The bill would increase that to four years, as in Chicago. But it also would permit tenure to be revoked for any teacher, based on job performance.

In this regard, the proposal is linked to the “Performance Evaluation Reform Act,” which took effect last January 15. The law requires teachers to be judged largely on the academic growth of their students, as measured by standardized tests and other considerations.

The Illinois State Board of Education has not finished writing the rules for the law. But under the proposal to be discussed in Aurora, when it takes effect, the state could revoke the certificate of a teacher or school principal with three or more “unsatisfactory” ratings in any 10-year period.

The bill provides lesser sanctions for poor performance ratings as well. In some circumstances, a school board could just return a teacher to probationary (non-tenured) status. Opportunities for appeals are included in the proposal, but the terms are drafted for quick resolution.

Vacancies: Under current union contracts, when a district reduces its staff, teachers with seniority are protected from cuts. They can “bump” teachers with fewer years of experience. The proposal under consideration empowers school boards to fill vacancies based on the performance ratings of applicants. Teachers’ union contract provisions requiring staffing decisions to be based on seniority would be declared “null” in this proposal.  (In Chicago, teachers can only bump those with less seniority at the same school, and principals have hiring power.)

Strikes: The proposal does not outlaw teacher strikes, but it puts in place a process that would appear to make them almost impossible. It revises the “impasse procedures” under the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act, including the creation of “Fact Finding Panels” with enormous authority.

A panel would have subpoena power. It could demand information and force the parties to identify all issues of dispute. It could hold hearings or mediate. Ultimately, it could force the parties to make “final offers” and set in motion a resolution process the teachers could not avoid. Not to bargain “in good faith” would be grounds for suspending a union as bargaining agent.

A well-positioned legislator said he thinks the anti-strike provisions are largely aimed at avoiding a strike in Chicago when the current union contract with CPS expires in 2012.

The draft language would also outlaw specific subjects of contract negotiation in Chicago alone. Specifically, it would:

  • Eliminate the union’s ability to bargain with the district over the length of the school day. (Chicago has one of the shortest school days of any urban district.)
  • Prevent the union from bargaining with the district on merit pay offered on top of teachers' base salaries – a legal move that could make it easier for the district to implement the $34 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant it received from the federal government in September.
  • Bar CPS from negotiating with teachers on layoffs due to budget deficits, declining school enrollment, and school closures.

Essentially, the draft being circulated is the starting point for discussions aimed at curtailing statutory benefits the teachers’ unions fought for years to obtain. Fending off these attacks will be a challenge, and time is short. The legislature could act on the reforms as early as January 3.

There is a larger context to all of this.

The state’s fiscal crisis – an accumulated deficit approaching $15 billion – will require, in the view of most observers, a significant income tax increase and sales tax base expansion. The political stress on legislators is unlike anything they have faced in recent memory.

A common theory is that “reforms” of many kinds – in education, Medicaid, workers compensation and other concerns, especially desired in the House and Senate Republican caucuses – will have to be passed in a package in order to get 60 votes in the House and 30 in the Senate for any avenue to bring in more revenue.

Other recently created committees dealing with such issues are also holding hearings this month.

Jim Broadway is publisher of State School News Service, which provides news and analysis on school policy in Illinois. Catalyst Associate Editor Rebecca Harris contributed to this report.

21 comments

Rod Estvan wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Jim Broadway's conclusion on the larger context of the "confidential draft" bill I think is completely correct, it is about the fiscal crisis. I have no disagreements with Mr. Broadway's depiction of the bill, but there are a few things that are left out of is discussion I think because of space.

For only teachers in the city of Chicago a whole number of issues are prohibited from the collective bargaining process, that are not currently prohibited. The CTU or charter school based unions will not have any right to bargain over "differentiated or alternative teacher compensation plans as a supplement to the base salaries provided by a collective bargaining agreement."

The CTU can not bargain over layoff procedures in any way. The will be the exclusive right of the CPS Board. The CTU may not define the "length of the school day or work day" in its contract, that is the exclusive right of the CPS Board to determine.

Another section of the draft bill that applies to all school districts in Illinios requires that all School boards must use performance based evaluations as the primary basis for laying off teachers and a seniority based layoff system can not be written into any contract with a teacher's union. This could make the current case, in the 7th Cir Court of Appeals, moot.

As Mr. Broadway correctly points out the provisions in the draft bill relating to strikes make them almost impossible. Over all the CTU under this legislation could become a union in name only which very limited ability even to get salary increases because the newly created three-member fact-finding panels that will have great power must consider:

(a) if CPS has the money to finance and
administer the salary proposals at issue, and these money can not be based on any assuption of new money coming to CPS, and (b) consider if any salary increase proposal limit's what CPS sees as its educational mission. That mission can include privitization of schools or additional charter schools. CTU and all teacher unions in the state are also prohibited in any way from bargaining over privitization of schools or the use of a third party for one or more services otherwise performed by employees in a bargaining unit.

I have many reservations over the level of control the bill grants school boards in relation to layoffs. I can see nothing in the bill which would allow the ISBE to enforce special education classroom size provisions if a school district targets special education for extensive cuts. All ISBE could do would be to go after the school district after the fact and then try to force the school district to re-hire special education teachers. Given the fiscal problems of Illinois and CPS the lack of ISBE power to force school districts to maintain special eduation staffing levels is a very great concern.

Rod Estvan

Teacher Evaluations?? wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Are they going to use the teacher evaulations that were based on personal politics and and petty politics too???? This is just a flood gate for principlas to abuse employeees!!

Curtis wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Finally putting a stop to the crazy CTU and its lazy members.

Lazy? wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

I guess I am one of those lazy people? Thanks!! Do you work at CPS?? DO you know some of the principals and managers who are politically connected????? Do some research!

Police and Firemen? wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Once again I ask...are they doing these emergency meetings for Police and Firmen unions??? I dont see too many of them loosing their jobs!!

Jane Averill wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

No question that so called reformers, even liberal democratic ones, are working in the interests of the right wing in this country who have been working for decades to undermine and destroy unions. Teachers unions are one of the few strong institutions in this country that protect the rights of the people they represent. They are also the main institutions that have been successful in improving education quality, as comparisons between places with and without unions show.

democrats wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

They are as bad as the rest. I remember our union saying "VOTE FOR OBAMA"....what a joke! Politicians always claim they are looking out for the little man..However, when the little man goes to college and gets himself a masters degree (takes out 60k in loans) and helps children...he is treated like the a greedy scum.....

Rod Estvan on police and fire issue wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

The Illinois General Assembly passed a very major pension reform bill that impacted uniformed police and fire service employees. Yes, police are being laid off. Numerous suburbs have laid off police, the city of Chicago has effectively reduced the police force by 1,000 positions by not hiring more and training more police.

Here is the reality of the situation, local governments are now broke all over Illinois. Year, after year of padded payrolls are now no longer afordable. Our county government is going to cut all budgets by 21%. The crisis is universal.

All of this does not mean that the proposed education bill will in anyway solve the current problem. My understanding is that the education reform bill along with Medicaid reform, workers compensation, and other issues are part of a deal with Republicans to support an income tax increase that will be time limited or in legislative phasing have a 'sun set." The combination of the cost savings generated by reducing teacher bargining power, entitlement cuts, and tax increases are projected to basically stablize the state. I have my doubts and expect any new Mayor will utimately have to raise property taxes and seek changes to the existing tax caps through the General Assembly.

Rod Estvan

Lisa wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Where is the accountability of the superintendents, principals, and parents?Teachers are such easy targets. I can't wait until they make the profession so unappealing that no one wants to join it. I am all for homeschooling. Let the parents keep the kids all day and then give them a test to check their accountability. Not everyone knows advanced math or reading strategies that help students. I love when they blame teachers for student achievement without ever taking the family setting, socio-economic status, age of parents, and how educated the parents are themselves into account. Has anyone heard of the "Million Word Deficit?" If not, do some research. Education begins at birth by the child's parents. How did teachers become ultimately responsible for children whom they had no say in how they were raised? The greater focus should be on ending poverty. This would drastically change the forecast of American education. But, that would mean that the rich would have to part with some of their money, and politicians would have to vote on issues that might make people angry.

Police Firmen vs Teachers wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Yes all public employees are facing cut backs I respect police and I know they have had their share of cut backs. However, so have teachers. I know Firemen and Police have a much more DANGEROUS JOB. They deserve the money they get probably more than teachers.

I am talking more about respect.
Have Police, Firemen, had this happen to them?

1) Creating private police forces where public police failed? ie charter schools

2) are they posting their reviews onlne-ie California and new york teachers reviews ARE NOW ONLINE

3) Basing police salary on crime rate in their district or blaming the fire Department for fires-performance based salary idea

4) Completely "cutting" the you know what's off their unions -taking away senority rights, tenure, etc? Emergency Meeting that this article is about

5) being taken over by big business who have no experience like Bill Gates Foundation?

6) having the the boy scouts coming in to take over patrols because they are being paid less- Teach for America

7) Emergency Legislative meeting to restrict their union- Tomorrow in Aurora

8) Was the Chicago Police department ever taken over by a NON POLICEMAN- Huberman (no teaching experience) Duncan (never taught a real classroom)

9)

I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THE POLICE AND FIREMEN

HOWEVER PLEASE tell me I am interested. I know these comparisons are a bit harsh. However, in laymen's terms this is what is happening to teachers. Why are we the scapegoat for the poverty and low funding for schools?
Again God Bless the Police and Firemen...they need to be put in our schools!! We need them!

dave wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

not sure if the classroom depicted is real or if it's a stock photo-
if real, the teacher should be taught how to hang the flag. It's hanging
backwards.

Unions are over wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

This bill sounds the death knell for all unions, especially CTU. Amazing how to kill one sorry union they'll burn the entire state. Once the state is bankrupt, these businessmen can bust every contract, so police and fire will lose everything, too. All private - like that place where they let people's houses burn down because they didn't pay $75 to the private fire companies. Don't laugh - it's coming.

unions wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Its funny..when the world is 100% controlled by buiness and we are making 8 bucks an hour working 7 days a week. the unions will be back!! dont worry!! Anyone ever read Dickens??? Gives you a little idea of workers with no rights or control!

alexander wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

two ways for folks to watch the hearings online:

watch it live -- for $75
http://www.blueroomstream.com/subsciption.htm

catch up on the hearing, hour by hour, in the web archive here -- for free
http://www.blueroomstream.com/12-16-2010.htm

aspallato wrote 3 years 42 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

When politicians become involved in developing educational policies with the intent of breaking the power of teachers unions and turning teacher in to second class citizens by taking away their hard won labor rights won in the this past century is just , for the lack of a beeter word, EVIL.

John Peters wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago
ssmith wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Unions in education have been dead for years. It's not a model that fits the non-manufacturing sectors. Folks going into the profession know the salaries going into it. In few, if any other endeavors does one find the protectionism that these positions have provided...and at a significant cost to the taxpayers in the long run. Well has run dry folks, time to wake up and join the real world.

then eemith the real world is wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

that there will be LESS for our children and more prisons. CPS teachers are not fighting for their pay, they are fighting for a proper teaching environment and rights for children.

if we have no money in the USA wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Ok we can cut teacher salaries but why are we cutting taxes if the well is dry? This makes no sense.....Let the rich have more money so a teacher making 50k a year can get a paycut???Is this fair?? The rich have to remmber their money can often be directly tied to tax payer money. Example, a boeing executive...his money is DIRECTLY from the governement...I dont see anyone BEGGING us to cut boeing salaries??

parent wrote 3 years 40 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

So, does this mean the CTU couldn't strike over pay?

Ed Ames wrote 3 years 17 weeks ago

Illinois lawmakers considering plan to limit tenure, strike righ

Well; Chicago Public Schools no longer has a Union. What's the need in paying Union dues when there is nothing the Union can do. It is ashame that Lightfoot would condon an idea like this. Who wants to teach in Illinois anymore. This is a sad day for teachers in Illinois.Have anyone ever heard of taking away tenure from people who have accured it. It should have been in the area of none tenured teachers. It's just a ploy to make people retire. At a lot of schools you have young Principals who do not like their staff. The want to clean house. Now they will be setting traps for tenured teachers. They won't see any fault in teachers that are new to their schools. Atll schools there are Principals that hate some of their teachers. Karen Lewis has been on the side with the enemy. How could she go and side with the other side. She doesn't get a vote the next time; either. Mr. Emanuel; Mr. Quinn; Mr. Duncan; Mr. Obama; no votes from teachers the next time. Why couldn't you be the ones to support their teachers. Instead; you talk about teachers as if it's some kind of funny joke. Remember experience is the best teach. It is sad. It is sad. My advice for Principals work with your staff. Because they are doing you too.

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