Tomorrow kicks off Illinois' latest battle over school reform. Members of the Illinois House Special Committee on Education Reform, formed just weeks ago, will convene in Aurora on Thursday and Friday for two legislative hearings, both of which are expected to be controversial.
Last week, we reviewed some of the topics members are likely to discuss, including changes to teacher tenure rules and performance evaluations. In a characteristically useful primer, Catalyst Chicago got its hands on the "confidential draft" bill now circulating among the members. According to their reporting, the right for teachers to strike is also on the table. "The proposal," the magazine notes, "does not outlaw teacher strikes, but it puts in place a process that would appear to make them almost impossible." Champions of strike bans like Advance Illinois, Stand for Children, and the Tribune argue that it would "stop teachers union leaders from holding kids hostage to their bargaining demands." Teachers looking to secure their voice in the workplace clap back. IFT President Daniel Montgomery points out that in 869 school districts across Illinois, there have only been an average of four strikes per year since 2005, the result of current laws that require a 10-day intent to strike notice and prior mediation services. And teacher demands can center around issues like class size and school security that make for an improved learning environment.
Speaking of Stand For Children, the group has hired several high-powered lobby shops to represent them in the halls of the state capitol. From the state's disclosure site:
Bill Filan is the former Issues Staff director for House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). Mike Kasper is a lawyer for the Illinois Democratic Party, which Madigan chairs. These folks aren't messing around.