Teaching Profession

A Bargain of a Bill in Illinois?

By Sean Cavanagh — April 25, 2011 1 min read

A measure working its way through the Illinois’ Statehouse would make big changes to teachers’ job protections and collective bargaining rights. But unlike in some other states, unions actually helped shape the plan, rather than protest it in the streets.

The measure, approved 59-0 by the Democratic-controlled Senate this month, would require districts to consider performance and job qualifications, not just seniority, in decisions on teacher layoffs and recalls.

It also would create a streamlined process for districts in Illinois, traditionally a union stronghold, to dismiss tenured teachers. And it would set new requirements for teachers to receive positive evaluations before they’re granted tenure—with the possibility of accelerated tenure for educators with sterling reviews.

The bill has yet to face a vote in the House, where Democrats also hold a majority.

The measure comes as Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana have enacted Republican-backed laws to curb collective bargaining for educators and other public workers. Those laws drew massive protests from unions, who complained they were shut out of the process.

In contrast, unions helped shape Illinois’ bipartisan bill. The legislation would make teacher certification, qualifications, ability, and “relevant experience” determining factors in filling new and vacant positions. Seniority would only be a tie-breaking factor.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association, and Chicago Teachers Union have backed the measure. IFT President Dan Montgomery said the bill ensures that teachers’ job experience and performance are respected—and that the process for dismissing them, long criticized as slow and cumbersome, is “efficient and fair.”

The proposal reflects “everyone’s commitment to putting politics aside and doing what’s in the best interest of our kids,” he said in a statement.

Teachers’ unions “took a very pragmatic approach here, and negotiated in good faith,” said Jonah Edelman, the chief executive officer of Stand for Children, a national organization that supports the bill. “There really is more common ground than one might think.”

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A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2011 edition of Education Week as A Bargain of a Bill in Illinois?

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