The new law

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Mayor

SUPERBOARD The mayor appoints five people to a Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, to serve through June 30, 1999. City Council approval is not needed. Under the original School Reform Act, the mayor chose 15 members from slates compiled by a grassroots nominating committee.

REGULAR BOARD Beginning July 1, 1999, the mayor will appoint seven members to serve four-year overlapping terms. City Council approval still will not be needed.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE The mayor appoints a chief executive officer to assume the powers of the superintendent through June 30, 1999, and sets his or her salary. The mayor may designate the board president as chief executive, an option Mayor Richard M. Daley declined. Beginning in 1999, the board will select a general superintendent.

School Board

PRIVATIZATION The board may hire outside contractors to do work currently done by board employees. Staff who are affected may be laid off upon 14 days written notice. The contracts must include terms providing that principals direct, “to the maximum extent possible,” workers assigned to their schools as a result of such contracts.

NEPOTISM The board must develop a policy to prevent nepotism in the hiring of personnel or selection of contractors.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST When a board member steps down, he or she is prohibited for one year from being employed by the board, a school or a local school council. In addition, neither the board nor its purchasing officer may contract with a company from which the former board member receives more than $1,500 in annual compensation.

ADVISORY COUNCIL The law creates a local school council advisory board for the trustees. An 18-member interim board is being assembled, and it will devise a selection process that will yield a widely representative permanent panel.

LEARNING ZONE The board will oversee any “learning zones” that are created under legislation passed this year to free schools of state regulations, on an experimental basis. The original law called for creation of a separate Learning Zone Commission.

Chief Executive

ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM The system’s CEO must appoint a chief operating officer, a chief financial officer, a chief purchasing officer and a chief educational officer, with the approval of the superboard.

NEW POWERS The law struck all references to subdistricts and subdistrict councils and transferred their powers and duties to the general superintendent, or CEO. These include initiating action against failing schools, breaking LSC deadlocks over principal selection, and evaluating principals, in conjunction with LSCs.

Local School Councils

TERMS Parent and community members will be elected or, in the case of teachers, appointed to staggered terms of four years each. To begin staggered terms, half the members elected and appointed in 1996 will serve for only two years; members will be asked to volunteer for such terms.

NEW POWERS Local school councils will approve receipts and expenditures for schools’ internal accounts. They will vote on requests for the use of school auditoriums and classrooms for “public lectures, concerts and other educational and social activities.” And they will approve fund-raising activities by non-school organizations that use the school building.

TRAINING Incoming members must undergo three days of training within six months of taking office or be removed. Training shall be provided through Chicago-area universities at the direction of the Dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in consultation with the Council of Chicago-area Deans of Education. The board is not required to pay for the training.

INFORMATION Principals are required to give LSCs copies of audits of internal accounts, and any pertinent information generated by reviews of programs or operations.

Teacher, principal dismissal

The law streamlines the dismissal process. However, principals still must document cases against teachers, and LSCs must document cases against principals.

BOARD’S ROLE The general superintendent rather than the board will now approve or disapprove a principal’s dismissal charges against a teacher and an LSC’s dismissal charges against a principal. However, the board will determine, subject to judicial review, whether a teacher or principal is fired. State hearing officers, who previously made that determination, now will only provide findings of fact and make recommendations.

WARNINGS Written warnings are no longer required for conduct that is “cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal or which in any way causes psychological or physical harm or injury to a student. . . .” Instead, the general superintendent may move the case directly to a dismissal hearing, bypassing the 45-day remediation period required in other cases. Also, formal written warnings are no longer required for a “material breach of the Uniform Principal Performance Contract,” except that an LSC must notify the principal in writing of the nature of the alleged breach at least 30 days before it votes to request dismissal.

TECHNICALITIES A number of provisions are aimed at preventing the board from losing a dismissal case on a technicality, such as missing deadlines.

HEARING OFFICERS To hear a Chicago case, a state hearing officer must have at least five years experience in educational labor disputes. Further, the board and union may agree to pick an arbitrator who is not on the state’s approved list so long as he or she has the required qualifications.

Job protection

RESERVE TEACHERS The legislation removes all job protections for “reserve” teachers, those teachers who lose their positions at a school because of declining enrollment or a change in the school program. Previously, the law allowed Chicago teachers to stay employed in the system for at least an additional 20 school months. However, the Reform Board has voted to retain reserve-teacher protections as a matter of board policy.

LAYOFFS, RECALLS The legislation prohibits unions from negotiating layoff procedures and directs the board to establish layoff and recall procedures that take into account “qualifications, certifications, experience, performance ratings or evaluations and any other factors relating to an employee’s job performance.” Again, the board has voted to continue the previously negotiated layoff and recall procedures for teachers, which are based largely on seniority.

CAREER SERVICE Career service workers no longer have civil service protection, meaning they can be dismissed without cause. However, they continue to be covered by employment discrimination laws.

Accountability

ACCOUNTABILITY COUNCIL The board, in consultation with the State Board of Education, will establish a Chicago Schools Academic Accountability Council to develop and carry out an evaluation system.

FAILING SCHOOLS The CEO no longer has to wait at least a year to take harsh action—e.g. replacing the LSC, principal or faculty—against a school that is not living up to its school improvement plan or is violating laws or board rules. In addition, the CEO may take immediate action against a school that is determined to be in “educational crisis,” as defined by board guidelines.

INTERVENTION The legislation creates a four-year pilot program for board-supervised intervention at “chronically underperforming schools.” The program provides for findings of fact and a public hearing before intervention may proceed. Under intervention, the CEO will select a new principal to guide the school for no longer than two years; the new principal will select all staff. In addition, the board can fire the old staff. Five percent of a school’s state Chapter 1 money will be used for employee performance incentives.

While the board is not required to adopt this pilot program, school officials have said they will intervene at schools that fall into the category of “does not meet expectations.” One hundred forty-nine Chicago schools have failed to meet state achievement expectations for three years running.

Principals

CONTROL By giving principals the authority to supervise, evaluate, suspend and otherwise discipline all school employees, the law extends principals’ control to their schools’ maintenance and lunchroom staffs.

SCHEDULE Principals now have the authority to “determine when and what operations shall be conducted” within school hours and to schedule staff within those hours.

However, the new teachers union contract contains language that would require elementary schools to pay teachers more for working more than 6 hours and 45 minutes each day. In addition, a waiver would be required to adjust the normal working hours of 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

STAFF SELECTION Principals no longer are required by law to select career service staff from union eligibility lists or to accept reserve teachers. However, school officials have said they will continue the previous reserve-teacher and career-service practices. Also, the law allows principals to use non-teachers for library duties and school-sponsored extracurricular activities.

Engineers, food service

NEW BOSSES Principals now are the bosses of chief engineers and lunchroom service managers. Principals also will evaluate and discipline maintenance and lunchroom staffs.

NUMBERS The law paves the way for staff cuts by making clear that the board may assign chief engineers and lunchroom service managers to more than one school.

Unions

WAIVERS Unions no longer have the right to reject waivers of their contracts, so long as 51 percent of members at a school approve the waiver. The new law also removes the prohibition on waivers of salaries, benefits or other forms of compensation.

ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS They no longer are represented by the teachers union, giving principals more freedom to select and change assistants.

BARGAINING PROHIBITIONS Chicago school unions may not bargain over charter schools, privatization of services, layoffs or reductions in force, class size, staffing and teacher assignments, class schedules, academic calendar, hours and places of instruction, pupil assessment policies, pilot programs, and educational technology. The Reform Board has voted to maintain class-size limits as spelled out in the last contract.

STRIKE PROHIBITION School unions may not strike during the 18 months following the effective date of the act, which was May 30.

Money

STATE CHAPTER 1 The board now may use annual increases in state Chapter 1 money for the school system’s basic budget. The law says schools must receive at least $261 million in state Chapter 1 each year for local, discretionary spending, which is the amount appropriated for 1994-95.

BLOCK GRANTS The board now has more flexibility in the use of state money. All categorical state funding will be put into one of two block grants. Money in the “general education” block grant may be used “for any of the board’s lawful purposes.” Money in the “educational services” block grant is more restricted in that the board is obligated to provide the services for which the original categorical funding was created. Included are bilingual education, special education, preschool for at-risk youngsters, and several other programs. Even so, the board is encouraged to seek waivers of state spending requirements.

PROPERTY TAX RATES For the next four years, the board’s separate property tax levies—for the education fund, playground fund, teacher pension fund, etc.—are collapsed into one, giving the superboard the ability to shift money from, for instance, playgrounds regular classrooms.

FINANCE AUTHORITY The Chicago School Finance Authority’s budget oversight powers are suspended until 1999. As a result, the Reform Board does not have to adopt a balanced budget or abide by the authority’s rules.

TEACHER PENSION FUND The law imposes the same “catch-up” funding requirements that were approved last year to bolster several public employee pension funds, including the one for teachers outside Chicago. The state must ensure that the assets of all these funds reach 90 percent of their liabilities by the year 2046. However, unlike the state, the Chicago School Board does not have to begin increasing pension contributions until 1999, which is when the superboard goes out of business.

Corruption, waste

WHISTLE BLOWERS No disciplinary action may be taken against an employee or local school council member for disclosing evidence of (1) a violation of any law, rule, regulation or policy or (2) waste, fraud, mismanagement, abuse of authority or a “danger to the health or safety of a student or the public.” Violation by the board, LSCs, school employees or unions constitutes a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by imprisonment of up to a year.

INSPECTOR GENERAL During the tenure of the superboard, the Inspector General will report to the board instead of to the Finance Authority. If the current Inspector General steps down, his replacement will be named by the mayor. The Inspector General now may investigate board and LSC members, and school projects managed by the Public Building Commission, as well as board employees and contractors. Investigations must focus on waste, fraud or financial mismanagement. He also now has authority to subpoena witnesses and compel them to turn over books and papers pertinent to investigations. Refusal to comply constitutes a Class A misdemeanor.