The following is part of my presentation on the panel on union voice at the Save Our School conference this weekend in DC:
In 2009, to qualify for Race to the Top, Illinois Governor Quinn established a committee to create the state’s application. In charge of that committee was the newly hired Executive Director of the IEA, Audrey Soglin.
Soglin had been hired as IEA Executive Director to replace her mentor Jo Anderson, who had gone to Washington as Arne Duncan’s senior advisor in the Department of Education.
For a mere $500 thousand dollar grant to the state in Race to The Top money, Audrey’s committee wrote legislation that made teacher evaluation based on Value Added Measurement a mandatory part of bargaining for every school district in the state.
For our district, this was a real disaster. We had years earlier created through local bargaining a teacher evaluation system that had a peer coaching component, was driven by the concept of teacher improvement and mentoring and provided a clear road map for moving out those rare teachers who simply could not or would not improve.
Audrey’s law did away with all that.
And it laid the basis for Illinois Senate Bill 7.
Let me talk a bit about Illinois Senate Bill 7.
Over the past several years, the midwest has been ground zero. Although it seems everybody is claiming to be ground zero. And perhaps they are. But in the midwest we have seen direct attacks on collective bargaining by Republican governors and legislatures: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.
But Illinois is a Blue state. Among the bluest of the blue. A Democratic Governor, and both chambers of the General Assembly controlled by Democrats. And Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Mayor of Chicago.
In Illinois the attack on collective bargaining has been different.
Same wine. Different bottle.
Same dream. Different beds.
In 2010, the story is now widely known, Jonah Edelman, head of a corporate reform group out of Oregon Stand for Children came to Illinois and spent $300,000 on campaign contributions to 9 state legislators, all who won.
Immediately, Democratic Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, who is also Democratic Party state chairman, established a House Education Reform Committee.
IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin was invited to meet with the committee along with Edelman and Ty Fahner, President of the corporate Civic Committee and together they drafted Senate Bill 7.
In all of Illinois (outside of Chicago, since most of this was already true for Chicago) rights of tenure and seniority were removed from collective bargaining and teacher evaluation would be largely based on value added measures.
In Chicago, we know, that special rules were created for collective bargaining including the now famous 75% threshold as a strike authorization requirement – which the Chicago Teachers Union blew out of the water with a 98% strike authorization vote
When the IEA directed locals went to Springfield to lobby for Senate Bill 7 in May of 2011, we were the only local who by a vote of our governing board, went to Springfield to lobby against it.
When we met with our state representatives, they became thoroughly confused.
“But your union told me to vote for it.”
“But we’re telling you to vote no.”
But it passed the Illinois General Assembly.
And when it did pass in 2010, the IEA and the NEA spun SB7 as a model for the nation.
Today, it is universally accepted as a major setback for teachers in Illinois. In less than a year we went from being the only local to representing the majority view. At the last state convention of the IEA, a resolution was overwhelmingly passed directing Audrey Soglin to prepare a report documenting the negative impact of Senate Bill 7 on teachers in Illinois.
In wrapping this up, I have heard talk in recent days about a different kind of teacher unionism: something about “results-based unionism.”
Back in the 90s, Bob Chase, who was then president of the NEA talked about “new unionism.”
Like “New Coke” this didn’t go over well. Not because teachers aren’t interested in results or the new. But too often this sounds like the old, the old of concessions redefined as victories, and collaborativeness which is just concessions redefined.
In light of the current corporate assault, fighting back would produce the kind of results and would be the kind of new those of us who have been in classrooms for years and those of us who are just starting out, would be looking for.