Education Reform Bill Awaits Quinn’s Signature

Gov. Pat Quinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

An education reform bill that could dramatically change the way teachers negotiate their contracts has passed both the Illinois House of Representatives and the Senate, and is now awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature. The Illinois House passed the bill on Thursday, May 12, by a margin on 112-1. In the Senate, it passed 54-0. On Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm, our panel will discuss the bill.

Here is a summary of the reforms:

– Outside of Chicago, education administrators will consider a teacher’s average performance evaluation before laying them off. Years of service will be the tie-breaker in cases where two teachers score similarly. This will replace the policy currently in place: laying off the newest teachers first.

– Beginning teachers would have to earn “proficient” or “excellent” evaluations during two of the last three years of their four-year probationary period before they are eligible for tenure. Three consecutive years of high ratings can grant tenure in three years. Currently, teachers are given tenure after four years unless the school elects not to renew their contracts.

– School boards in Chicago and the suburbs would be able to dismiss tenured teachers more quickly. However, tenure would be “portable,” so a teacher would not lose their tenure in one district if they left for a different district.

– Principals have the authority to fill teaching jobs based on merit, ability, experience and performance, and seniority will be used again as a tie-breaker.

– The state schools’ superintendent can suspend or revoke a teaching certificate based on two unsatisfactory ratings within a seven-year period. They may also give a lesser sanction in terms of professional development training that the teacher must pay for.

– The Chicago School Board would be able to lengthen the school day or school year, but the Chicago Teachers Union would be able to negotiate pay and benefits for members who will work longer days.

– Before they can strike, the Chicago Teachers Union must form a board to look at the final offers on an issue from the Board of Education and the union and examine all parts of it for more than 75 days. Only after that period is complete can the Chicago Teachers Union vote to strike, and they must have 75 percent in favor of the strike.

– An audit of learning conditions will be taken to determine what affects students’ learning in the classroom. Learning conditions will play a role in dismissal decisions for teachers.

– All school board members would have to undergo at least four hours of training a year.

Read the complete Senate Bill 7 here.

Chicago Tonight spoke with a few Chicago Public School teachers back in April to get an idea of what these contract reforms mean to them. Here is what they said:

Katy Clusen:

“I am of two minds because I have seen teachers hold on to jobs who were clearly only holding on to their jobs because of tenure. As I am myself a teacher with tenure, my salary is up there, and I am a target.

I totally understand that part of reform, but at the same time being in the system for a long time does not automatically make you a bad teacher. The things that I know now I did not know when I started at the Chicago Public Schools. It was something that I had to learn. I had to learn about the culture, I had to learn what it meant to be an inner-city teacher.

The whole movement is somewhat disturbing to me because I do feel like teachers are under attack because they have been in

the system a long time. The capriciousness of some principals needs to be acknowledged, and the legislation is not acknowledging that.”

Samantha Godden-Chmielowicz:

“I think that obviously evaluations in teaching are necessary, as they are in any profession, and I would like to see teachers have more say in what their future goals are. A one time evaluation just gives you a simple snapshot and may not reflect the long term relationships in the classroom.

I would like to see less subjectivity of the evaluators. Teachers should be evaluated by more than one administrator before steps are taken. I’d like to see peer evaluations between teachers before disciplinary action steps are taken.

I don’t agree that teachers should pay for their remediation courses, but all teachers should look to improve and change— not in a punishment way, but in a growth way. Teachers should set their own goals, such as: did I do enough parent contact, did I attend enough professional development opportunities and did I improve with my instructional delivery?”

Click here to contact Gov. Pat Quinn to tell him your thoughts on whether or not he should sign the education reform bill.

Callaway Fellow Diana Novak contributed to this report.

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