“The final bill, after it was already passed, contained some language that was never negotiated or agreed to,” Chicago Teachers Union Staff Coordinator Jackson Potter said of Illinois Senate Bill 7.
The education reform bill is being called a remarkable compromise between Springfield law makers and Illinois teachers unions. However, some of those unions pulled their support after the bill passed. It passed unanimously in the Senate, and 112 to 1 in the Illinois House of Representatives, but some unions, especially the Chicago’s Teachers Union, are unhappy with the final language which creates special provisions for Chicago.
“There was some redrafting of language in the 11th hour, and the parties were given a very short window of time to look at the language,” Potter said.
He said it effectively takes away Chicago teachers’ right to strike, a touchy subject in light of recent events in Wisconsin. The CTU withdrew its support, along with their state branch, the Illinois Federation of Teachers. However, the Illinois Education Association remained neutral on the legislation. IEA President Ken Swanson says that while they support Chicago teachers’ position, they do not represent it.
“They need to take care of some things that are unique and only apply to Chicago,” he said in a video statement on the IEA web site.
One suburban teacher says they should pay more attention to Chicago's problems.
“We watch carefully what goes on in Chicago because what they try there, they'll try on us next,” said Fred Klonsky, an art teacher at Carpenter Elementary school in Park Ridge.
However he said he is more concerned about the section of the bill which measures teacher ability. He said it is based on a false premise that teacher ability can be measured based on student achievement.
“But student achievement is not the results of the effort of an individual teacher,” he said.
However individual teachers will be judged on this basis, and student achievement, not seniority, will determine tenure.
The CTU says the bill should put less focus on measuring teachers and more on improving the classroom.
“We'd like to see legislation that does more of that and talks more about children and what they need,” Potter said. “This legislation unfortunately didn't do that.”
Potter said the CTU cannot change its position on SB 7 until it addresses their members’ concerns. The legislature is already working to address those problems. They said the language regarding Chicago teachers’ bargaining rights was unintentional, and they’re drafting a trailer bill to amend it.