The city's next mayor will retain Richard Daley's role as the single most powerful person when it comes to public education in Chicago. But some of the biggest questions about changing Chicago Public Schools go through the General Assembly rather than City Hall. Since early December, many threads of the mayoral debate about schools, students and teachers have touched upon the "Performance Counts" bill (PDF), backed by the now-powerful Stand For Children group. In draft form, the legislation would curtail teachers' ability to strike, institute a merit pay system, change how teachers are evaluated, and modify the tenure system. The state's progressive education community and teachers unions have pushed back against the proposal, with the Illinois Federation of Teachers even releasing "Accountability For All," a counter-proposal (PDF).
Candidate Miguel del Valle ripped the strike limits in the Performance Counts draft earlier this week on the Southwest Side. "Let’s stop attacking teachers," he said. Emanuel, the mayoral frontrunner, is on board with it. “The bill as constructed in Springfield I’d support,” he recently told the Sun-Times editorial board. During the same session, Emanuel specifically endorsed provisions that would limit teacher strikes. Chicago Teachers Union members have not struck in nearly a quarter-century, since 1987.
Emanuel's editorial board interview with the Sun-Times is at least clarifying in providing his position on Performance Counts; he skipped two education-centric mayoral forums in December. To compare his statements on the draft legislation with Gery Chico's, del Valle's, and Carol Moseley Braun's (as well as State Sen. James Meeks, who subsequently dropped out of the race) check out our video montage from the Chicago Teachers Union forum. Each of the candidates was asked to state their opinion on the House Special Committee on Education Reform, which held a series of hearings about Performance Counts.
Emanuel's strong support for the bill probably eliminates any chance the Chicago Teachers Union would endorse the former White House chief of staff. Liz Brown, a CTU spokesperson, said February 2, the next meeting of the union's delegates, would be the earliest possible date CTU would announce if it will make a mayoral endorsement. Brown said that CTU asked all the candidates to fill out a mayoral questionnaire, and both Moseley Braun and del Valle were asked back for follow-up discussions. The union, she said, now wants to conduct another round of interviews with Moseley Braun, del Valle, Emanuel, Chico, William "Dock" Walls, and Patricia Van-Pelt Watkins. A CTU endorsement for del Valle and Mosely Braun would give either campaign a much-needed shot in the arm.
The Performance Counts legislation, by the way, does not yet have a bill number in the General Assembly, Dave Comerford from the Illinois Federation of Teachers wrote in an email.