What’s up with the CTU and SB7 – the former “Performance Counts” bill?

Yesterday at a Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting, the membership voted to rescind their leaders’ endorsement of Senate Bill 7 and fight it instead.

What’s going on here?

First, let’s step back a few paces.

Back in mid-December of last year, several business-backed “education reform” groups tried to push through a piece of teacher-bashing legislation called “Performance Counts” during the Christmas and New Year holidays. They must have expected that teachers would be caught flat-footed and that no one else would care enough to fight it.

They were wrong. A lot of people turned out in far west suburban Aurora for the hearings, and we were able to slow the process down.

Still, there was a great deal of pressure to come up with some kind of bill. We were told that something would be passed, so people could either be part of it or sit on the sidelines.

The way things work in Springfield (and probably everywhere else) is that when there is an effort to pass a law that has strong opposition, some legislator will pull together a working group including folks on different sides of the issue, and they will hammer out a compromise bill.

Everyone involved feels a great deal of pressure to sign on to the final product. Often some participants quickly regret agreeing to what’s usually not a very good deal for at least one side, and then, more often than not, the language is changed as it moves through the legislative process anyway.

CTU, the IEA, and the IFT were able to get rid of only a few of the worst elements of the original “Performance Counts” bill, but they did agree to endorse the proposal that became SB7.

Shortly after doing so, CTU leaders and CORE (the caucus to which the current CTU leadership belongs) began to regret having agreed to the final proposal. And yesterday, the CTU membership voted to rescind their endorsement.

Here’s what CORE said about SB 7 in an e-mail sent just before the House of Delegates meeting:

We know that President Lewis worked tirelessly and fairly to get a bill that we could all live with, but lawyers and outsider groups like Advance Illinois and Stand for Children did not play fair by adding last-minute language. Now, we have a bill awaiting a vote in the House that will hurt our ability to fight for our rights:

1. Two or three omitted words mean that courts could require a nearly unanimous vote of our members should the Board force our union into a strike situation.

2. Some slippery language about bargaining procedures could let the Board delay strike action until well into the school year – when it would be more disruptive to teaching and learning.

3. One sentence of legalese on page 107 of the bill could negate the hundreds of grievances CTU has filed on behalf of teachers illegally fired last summer.

What now?

The fight is on in Springfield. It will be an uphill battle, but we just won on vouchers, so, who knows???

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.