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'Trailer' Bill Secures Union Support for Ill. Teacher Law

Illinois is the latest state to pass legislation making major changes to teacher evaluation, tenure, and dismissal process—this time through a PR-friendly effort in which politicians, unions, and school administrators came together to hash out details rather than through a fraught legislative battle. Sean Cavanagh at State EdWatch has more on the details of the bill, SB 7.

But for you Teacher Beat wonks, it's interesting to consider that this train nearly went off the rails before it reached the station.

Shortly before the bill's passage, the Chicago Teachers' Union accused lawmakers of slipping in language it didn't agree to during deliberations, while its parent union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said it couldn't support the bill unless changes were made. The Illinois Education Association, citing similar technical concerns, changed its position on the bill from supportive to "neutral," though it expressed optimism that most issues could be resolved.

In the end, lawmakers passed a "trailer bill" to fix most of the provisions in SB 7 that the unions objected to, in the form of an amendment to HB 1197. Among other things, this bill:

•Deletes language that could have been interpreted to curb the role of the state education labor-relations board in resolving impasse procedures.
• Clarifies that in Chicago, only 75 percent of those teachers with voting rights need to vote in the affirmative to authorize a strike (i.e., it excludes nonvoting members).
• Clarifies that impasse over the scope of bargaining would be handled differently from impasse over the shape of a contract.

The strike language is still not quite what CTU envisioned; it wanted only 75 percent of votes cast to count toward a strike.

For now, it's back to Kumbaya, as evidenced by this statement by the CTU and IFT.

An important question remains: As tenure and evaluation standards get harder to meet in Illinois, will the unions continue to support these changes? Stay tuned.


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