Teaching Profession

Details Bedevil Bill on Illinois Teachers

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 17, 2011 1 min read

Ah, the joys of working together.

Last month, a diverse group of representatives from teachers’ unions, advocacy groups, and the Chicago school district agreed to state legislation tying teacher evaluation and tenure to student achievement and doing away with seniority-based layoffs, hailing it as a landmark in collaboration.

Two weeks ago, however, unions led by the 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union withdrew or modified their support for the bill, charging that the actual language did not reflect principles agreed upon during negotiations.

The CTU objects to a part of the legislation that would require 75 percent of the union’s entire membership to vote in favor of a strike, a figure that far exceeds turnout in most union elections. The union’s leaders said they thought the agreement was that 75 percent of those voting could trigger a strike.

Union officials also criticized a provision that they said would take away the right of the Chicago union to appeal to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board over the scope of collective bargaining.

The advocacy groups Stand for Children and Advance Illinois, among others, criticized the CTU, saying it had “undermined the good faith in which [the bill] was negotiated.”

Representatives from other unions involved in the negotiations vowed to fix the legislation.

“The Illinois House can, by making necessary adjustments, ensure that Illinois gets education reform legislation that reflects what was intended and agreed upon in the negotiations,” the presidents of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association said in a joint statement.

The bill, SB 7, cleared the state Senate on April 14 and the House on May 12. At press time, it was headed to Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, who was expected to sign it into law.

Adjustments could be made through a “trailer bill” to follow the completion of SB 7. Lawmakers are in talks to produce such a bill, but its passage is uncertain.

A version of this article appeared in the May 18, 2011 edition of Education Week as Details Bedevil Bill on Illinois Teachers

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