CTU pulls support from education reform bill: analysis

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“Bargaining in good faith appears to be a bar set too high for these 
so-called educational reformers – Advance Illinois, Stand for Children, 
Illinois Business Roundtable and their millionaire funders,” declared 
the Chicago Teachers Union Thursday.

“Bargaining in good faith appears to be a bar set too high for these so-called educational reformers – Advance Illinois, Stand for Children, Illinois Business Roundtable and their millionaire funders,” declared the Chicago Teachers Union Thursday.

The CTU, which warmly supported tenure and strike reforms passed by the Senate on April 15, wants the legislation stripped of “anti-union” provisions it says were “slipped into the 110-page bill at the last minute.” Otherwise, there will be a rumble.

In SB 7 and SB 630, nearly identical bills that passed the Senate unanimously, are requirements that a strike authorization by CTU must be approved by 75 percent of the union’s members.

The union now says it intended to accept 75 percent of those voting – still a far higher bar than the 51 percent of voting members that is the law for downstate teachers’ unions.

A serious issue is bill language the CTU calls a “two-sentence atomic bomb,” not noticed in mid-April, preventing the bill’s impasse-resolutions from being used to address any items in the statute’s list of issues on which the CTU can bargain.

Effectively, that removes the involvement of the Education Labor Relations Board, any fact-finder or mediator from the process of resolving disputes between the CTU and the Chicago Public Schools board. The CTU sees it as a loss of the right to strike.

The CTU wants the House to remove that paragraph and to fix the 75 percent provision of the reform bill.

Rather than address the question of whether CTU has a valid position in this dispute, opponents of the union are saying the union should have read the bill before supporting it in April.

“We don’t think there’s anything nuclear going on here,” the Chicago Tribune opined. “This is what you pay lobbyists for, right? To know what’s in legislation when it comes to a vote?”

The Education Action Group, a think tank from Michigan, accuses CTU of “reneging” on its

pledge to support SB 7, calling it “a case of why teacher unions are bad for public education.”

Although it is entirely unrelated to the validity of its current position on the reform bills, the CTU has no solid excuse for having supported policy in April that it now considers fatally flawed. There is no excuse for any interest group to support an “agreed bill” before being sure that it should do so.

At the same time, there are two chambers in the General Assembly. Accepting corporate assurances in the chamber of origin that a bill is “okay” does not preclude opposition in the second chamber.

The CTU is reneging on nothing and legislators in the House will either address the union’s concerns or decide – for reasons that will become apparent to everyone – that they need not be addressed.

A huge policy investment has been made in the goal of streamlining dismissal of inept teachers and of making decisions on reductions in force and filling classroom vacancies. The CTU objections will not be allowed to scuttle that investment.

Jim Broadway is publisher of State School News Service, which provides news and analysis on school policy in Illinois.