I’m opting to ride Amtrak to Springfield for opt out even though my union doesn’t support us.


Wednesday will be the first Springfield Lobby Day that I’ve traveled there by Amtrak. In the past I drove with others or rode a union bus.

My union doesn’t support HB306, State Representative Will Guzzardi’s bill that clarifies and strengthens parent rights to opt their children out of the terrible PARCC test.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers and their Chicago affiliate do support it. It makes IEA President Cinda Klickna’s explanation to me about their failure to support the bill  even more of a puzzle.

I wrote the IEA leadership and our IEA lobbying department asking if they would meet with me and a group of parents to at least discuss the bill.

Klickna said she would be out of town. She offered nobody else as an alternative.

Director of IEA Government Relations, Jim Reed, said he would meet if he wasn’t at a legislative committee meeting and offered that we could meet with our IEA region’s lobbyist.

Klickna suggested that I lobby for funding and against pension cuts.

Readers and fellow activists will recognize this comment as the snide piece of work it is.

Tomorrow I will lobby for parents, kids and against high-stakes testing. All of which is in accord with the policy of my national union, the National Education Association. And should be the practice and policy of the IEA.

Jim Broadway writes:

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Inc. (PARCC), a non-profit developer of high-stakes tests that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts, got paid $1,226,557.00 by the Illinois State Board of Education this fiscal year. All in one lump sum, no waiting.

That’s more than the organization’s total income in 2013.

Broadway adds:

Who are these anti-PARCC voices? Actually, I receive email from educators for and against PARCC (but by far more from those who are against having the test administered this school year). An organized effort to make it possible for parents to let their kids “opt-out” of  the test without punishment is also under way.

A leader in the effort is a group called “Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education.” Raise Your Hand was established in Chicago in 2010 and has focused mainly on issues unique to the Windy City (such as the closure of 50 schools in a single year). But PARCC has stimulated membership growth in all corners of the state.

Raise Your Hand Executive Director Wendy Katten tells me members of the group from Chicago and from other counties plan to be in Springfield Wednesday to meet with legislators and hold a news conference on the topic of HB 306, a bill to let students opt-out of a state test. Here is the pivotal paragraph of the bill:

“A student is not required to take a particular State assessment under this Section if that student’s parent or guardian requests, in writing, that the student be excused from taking the State assessment. The State Board of Education shall, by rule, (i) determine the form of the request; (ii) ensure that no student, teacher, school, or school district is negatively impacted, through grades or evaluations, due to a student being excused from taking a State assessment; and (iii) ensure that students who are excused from taking a State assessment are offered supervised instructional or enrichment opportunities during the time the State assessment is being administered.”

Raise Your Hand supports the bill. State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), sponsor of HB 306, recently told news mediaabout the bill and introduced a parent who said she was threatened that she would have to pay a fee for her children to attend a Chicago charter school if the children did not take the PARCC test.

Another Chicago group called “More than a Score” has also protested what it calls “bullying” by ISBE. The group offers parents “useful advice” and documents to help parents opt their children out of PARCC and other state tests.

Guzzardi’s bill is on second reading in the House. Numerous “impact notes” have been filed on the bill, but only one says it would cause negative impact. ISBE’s note alleges HB 306 would jeopardize $1 billion or more in federal funding. While that may be true in a technical sense, it is beyond the fringe of our reality.

HB 306 was filed in late January. It was approved by the House PK-12 committee on Licensing Oversight by a 3-2 vote, a partisan roll call with Democrats voting in the affirmative. Co-sponsors of the bill, Democrats whose legislative districts are in or near Chicago, were joined recently by Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Edwardsville).

The bill has until April 24 for the House to vote it over to the Senate where it would need to be approved by the Senate Education Committee and passed by the full Senate before it would go the Rauner’s desk – where it would be vetoed. Could three-fifths of both chambers vote to “override” a veto in the fall? Probably not.

Whether the Guzzardi bill survives an expected veto from Governor Private Equity is not the point.

Parents already have the right to opt out. And the opt out movement is large and growing.

Guzzardi’s bill simply clarifies and spells out parent rights.

However, if the state’s largest teacher union isn’t willing to stand (or even meet) with parents against bad education practice, what does it say about its leaders?


3 thoughts on “I’m opting to ride Amtrak to Springfield for opt out even though my union doesn’t support us.

  1. It says that IEA is hopelessly out of touch with the needs of students, parents, and educators. And, like Mayor 1% and Governor Private Equity, they do not care.

  2. The ride to and from Springfield is really pretty nice.  I’ve ridden the train past St Louis to Joplin MO, home of the real ragtime music to visit relatives.  The bit past St Louis is very bumpy as I remember.Obviously, your relationship with Cinda hasn’t improved since the IEA convention. Ha, ha!Mary RichieWe lobbyists from WLSU of IRTA have already started working on studying ways to improve Illinois revenue, and are training more people to help lobby.  What’s IEA doing to educate its members?

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