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Senate Bill 7 two years later. The legacy of Jonah Edelman.

March 11, 2013

Jonah Edelman’s Aspen tape. Note reference to Bruce Rauner in the opening.

Long-time readers of this blog know the story of Senate Bill 7.

Two years ago a corporate school reformer with deep pockets came into the state. To show he was serious, he dropped a couple hundred thousand dollars on some state legislative races.

That got him some attention.

Attention from Democratic Party Boss Michael Madigan. And from both of  the state’s teacher unions.

The reformer was Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children.

The candidates he backed won their races. And Madigan responded by establishing a committee on school reform. The result was Senate Bill 7.

Jonah told the whole story at a conference in Aspen. It caused him some embarrassment when his Aspen talk appeared on this blog and then went viral. And it embarrassed the states teacher union leadership as well, since it showed how they too-willingly went along with Edelman and Stand for Children.

More importantly, the state’s teachers have paid an awful price: losing their tenure and seniority rights and having their performance reviews tied to test scores.

While then-IEA President Ken Swanson and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel hailed SB7 as a national model, IEA members voted at the last state convention to direct the Executive Director Audrey Soglin to prepare a report documenting the negative impact Senate Bill 7 has had on Illinois teachers.

One goal of SB7 was to undermine the ability of the teachers to strike. In particular, the bill targeted Chicago teachers with a requirement that any strike authorization vote need approval by 75% of all members.

Edelman was sure that the CTU would never be able to meet that threshold and considered it a de facto no-strike law.

He was wrong, of course. The CTU strike authorization vote garnered approval by 90% of those voting.

While the 75% requirement did not apply to other districts in the state, it was intended to have a chilling effect on Illinois teacher locals.

But just as Chicago upended Jonah Edelman’s plans, Chicago also established a model of militancy throughout the state.

Since Senate Bill 7, the number of suburban and downstate teacher strikes in Illinois have doubled.

It is Jonah’s legacy.

Daily Herald:

An education reform package pushed through the state legislature in the spring of 2011 was hailed as nothing short of historic — among its components, limiting teachers’ ability to strike.

Or so its authors thought.

But two years after Senate Bill 7’s passage — and a year after its implementation — many more strikes are occurring, making them a lasting part of the education reform package’s legacy.

Seven suburban school districts have gone on strike this school year, inspired in part by a Chicago Teachers Union walkout in September that was provoked by the new law.

The legislation mandated that 75 percent of Chicago Teachers Union membership must authorize a strike, creating a rallying point for Chicago teachers. Goaded by the idea they would never muster that much support, 90 percent of the highly organized CTU membership ultimately approved a walkout.

“CTU said, ‘OK, you put these tough restrictions on us, you pretty much fractured our right to bargain and we were successful in still being able to,'” said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat who negotiated the reform legislation.

It’s a ripple effect of sorts that suburban educators, union officials and lawmakers alike say carried the strike mentality through school districts across the region.

“Now,” Lightford said, “you have other groups saying if it worked for them, it’ll work for us.”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Donahue permalink
    March 11, 2013 2:34 pm

    A big reason for the increase in strikes is the state funding. General State Aide is currently funded around the 2008 school year. General State Aide has been level funded the past 2 years, but it has been prorated. This year it is prorated at 89% of the FY11 level. Next year it is expected to be around 82% of FY11 putting in back around 2004 or 2005 levels. Throw in teachers having to do more with accountability and larger class size, and this in an awful environment to be negotiating contracts in.

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