SB 7 goes to the governor to become law

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The Illinois House of Representatives has passed Senate Bill 7 – a bill
to reform teacher tenure and rights to strike – by a 116-1 vote. The
bill is a result of negotiations that began in December. It passed the
Senate in mid-April and now goes to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn to be
signed into law. The Illinois House of Representatives has passed Senate Bill 7 – a bill to reform teacher tenure and rights to strike – by a 116-1 vote. The bill is a result of negotiations that began in December. It passed the Senate in mid-April and now goes to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn to be signed into law.

Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel wasted no time in sending out a celebratory
statement, calling it a “historic victory” and planning a public
appearance to comment at Kenwood High School in Hyde Park.  The passage
of this bill will make some of his agenda easier to implement, most
notably lengthening the school day.

The bill elevates teachers’ classroom performance and relevant experience as the factors on which school districts would make decisions about filling classroom vacancies and reductions in force. Seniority would be used as a “tie-breaker” only when otherwise equally qualified teachers compete for jobs.

SB 7 also establishes streamlined and more transparent process – involving mediation, fact-finding and the release of information to the public – for resolving contract disputes in ways that are expected to dramatically reduce the potential for impasses leading to strikes.

Meanwhile negotiations continue on issues raised by the Chicago Teachers Union, which rescinded its support for SB 7 after realizing that language in the bill would create a requirement that could be impossible for its members to meet in voting to authorize a strike.

The bill requires 75 percent of CTU members to approve a strike authorization, but many of its members are inactive and have no vote on contract issues.

The CTU also objected strongly to language that would prevent impasse resolutions on the issues that the union is allowed to “bargain” over with the Chicago Board of Education.

House Majority Leader Rep. Barbara Currie (D-Chicago) noted the CTU concerns and said discussions to resolve them have begun and involve all the stakeholders. “If those discussions are fruitful, I will be very happy to sponsor a trailer bill” to address them “by the end of May.”

Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) insisted that the CTU issues should be resolved before the bill passed, and that SB 7 will not result in improved education in any case.

She listed other factors – for example, funding curriculum alignment, that would improve education. “The intentions are good but the results will not change a thing. I am not going to be a union-buster,” she declared even as she conceded, “I may be the only ‘no’ vote in this chamber.”

As she predicted, Davis alone voted “no” on SB 7.

Other legislators who spoke to the bill had nothing but praise for its potential benefits and for Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester), who led a five-month negotiation involving the teacher unions, school management associations, business leaders and education reform advocacy groups.

Rep. Linda Chapa Lavia (D-Aurora) called SB 7 a “giant step forward” in policy efforts to improve the quality of classroom instruction in Illinois schools. Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville) praised the bill and encouraged his colleagues to support it.

Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) supported the bill but reminded representatives that it does nothing about the problem of resource inequity among Illinois school districts. “We need to come to grips with how to provide each child in a public school the resources they need to be all that they can be,” Lang said. “Let no one go home and send out dramatic press releases –  [because] we have much more work to do.”

Jim Broadway is the founder and publisher of State School News Service.