Illinois Boards in Power Struggle Over Teacher Recertification
A state judge has temporarily halted the implementation of changes in the way Illinois renews teacher licenses, following a lawsuit contesting the process used to approve the policies.
The plaintiffs—12 of the 19 members of the state teacher-certification board—contend that the state board of education, in voting last month in favor of a new set of licensure-renewal requirements, wrongly ignored the certification board's input.
Although the certification board often plays only an advisory role in teacher-credentialing matters, last year's legislation calling for improved licensure requirements stipulated that the new policies be determined "jointly" by the two bodies.
But when the issue came before the state education board, the panel went with a set of proposals favored by state schools Superintendent Glenn W. "Max" McGee instead of a version that included recommendations from the certification board.
"It was supposed to be done jointly," said George King, a spokesman for the Illinois Education Association-NEA, "and at the last minute, [the state school board members] did their own thing."
The IEA and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, state affiliates of the two national teachers' unions, are financing the suit. The plaintiffs include five IEA members, five IFT members, a school administrator, and a higher education official. Members of the certification board are chosen by the groups they represent.
The suit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, where Judge Moshe Jacobius promptly issued an order barring the state school board from moving ahead with the policy changes for 30 days. A court hearing was scheduled for early this week in the hope of reaching an agreement.
Though the state superintendent and the certification board largely agree on the kinds of training teachers should get credit for in renewing their licenses, they disagree on how much each activity should count for. For example, the certification board suggests that educators be credited for 50 hours of professional development for supervising a student-teacher, while Mr. McGee proposes 25.
All teachers would need to complete the equivalent of at least 120 hours of professional development every five years.
State education officials said last week that the lawsuit was ironic because it delays the next phase of the approval process for the proposed rules: the 45-day public-comment period.
"That would have let teachers, administrators, and others voice their concerns," Kim Knauer, a department spokeswoman, said of the comment period. "Unfortunately, that's up in the air right now."
Vol. 19, Issue 25, Page 11