Charter expansion. Where is the IEA?

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Look closely at the picture above of those attending the press conference Friday at the Thompson Center in Chicago. They were there to oppose the actions of the Illinois Board of Eduction in seeking and receiving a $43 million federal grant to open 48 more charter schools, half downstate and half in Chicago. The federal grant provides start-up money with all future costs coming from local dollars that would otherwise go to local public schools.

The Illinois Education Association, one of two state teacher unions in Illinois, was not present at the press conference.

The press conference and protest took place with plenty of notice.

On Thursday I posted on Facebook a notice I received from Illinois Jobs With Justice and Raise Your Hand.

In protest, NIJwJ along with Raise your Hand and other parents and citizens organizations will hold a press conference at the Thompson Center in the Blue Room on the fifteenth floor at 8:45 that day. Please join us there.

Progress Illinois, the website of the SEIU reported:

Elected officials at the press conference included state Reps. LaShawn Ford, Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) and Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) as well as Chicago Ald. David Moore (17th) and Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Representatives from the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago League of Women Voters, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Northern Illinois Jobs for Justice and other groups were also at the press conference.

But not the IEA.

A representative of the Illinois Federation of Teachers was present.

But not the IEA.

What is the problem? I know the IEA opposes expansion of charter schools. I know that they were a past lobbying voice for a bill to limit the power of the Charter Commission. The bill died but I assume IEA lobbyists will continue to support the effort to limit the power of the Charter Commission or do away with it.

But it seems that when it comes to uniting with others to fight a common foe, IEA would rather go it alone. If they didn’t know about the press conference, why didn’t they? How out of the loop are they?

If they couldn’t make the press conference, where is the statement from the IEA’s Communications Director supporting opposition to this secret charter expansion that will cost districts – and therefore members – plenty.

Where is the message to local leaders? To members?

An IEA activist and Grassroots Political Activist shared his frustration with me:

IEA formed a Charter School Task Force. We met with IEA recommended legislators from both parties in their home offices to discuss the legislation. Talking points focused on the removal of local control. Democratically elected local school boards were being asked to spend tax dollars on charter schools that non-elected entities, i.e. Charter School Commission/ISBE were deciding to foist on their school districts. ( I will tell you it was interesting how the GOP folks we talked to expressed discomfort with our then newly elected governor and agreed with our basic point, yet they ultimately voted with the Governor.)

At our Grassroots Political Activists election training last weekend, we were told of IEA’s support for the bill limiting authority to authorize charter schools to local school boards. We were told to expect and be prepared to get members to make calls.

That never happened.

The Charter School Task Force has been disbanded.

And as we saw earlier this week IEA was no where to be found and apparently wasn’t even in the loop to know about this action.

Here’s a few of my frustrations and observations. IEA wants to play the “inside game or the seat at the table” and doesn’t want to organize its members to take meaningful action. Cinda will say that most of our members are not there yet and I would agree with that to a point, but then aren’t leaders supposed to lead? Also IEA doesn’t want to form any sort of alliances with independent non-union groups like Raise Your Hand or Jobs with Justice. 

I’ve often said in my own local, when asked why the “union” wasn’t doing anything to deal with a particular issue, beside the obligatory “you are the u in union speech” that when parents got upset about the issue and went to the board, the issue would become a priority. The reluctance of IEA to engage with and support parent groups who are finally seeing the damage being done by corporate reformers is one of my biggest frustrations.

This IEA activist is on to something.

The IEA seems to pit sitting at the table against creating a united effort among all those who have a vested interest in the outcome.

Lobbying isn’t just something done with legislators in Springfield.

What else explains their refusal to go outside of unions in the We Are One coalition when fighting for pensions. Annuitant groups and the Illinois Retired Teachers Association were not part of the WAO, and no other coalition was formed.

In fact current and former IEA leaders put out sniping messages about IRTA even as we were fighting for our pension lives.

Not until the courts combined the lawsuits and forced them all to work together did it happen. And even then the sniping continued.

How crazy is it that the IEA won’t unite with others unless there is a court order?

4 Replies to “Charter expansion. Where is the IEA?”

  1. Dear Fred,

    The I.E.A. is where the I.E.A. always is….. hiding and hoping no one will notice. The I.E.A. has not effectively represented the interests of teachers for a while now. Senior leadership protects its own perks by throwing some of us under the bus. (Remember Senate Bill 7 and trying to negotiate away retiree rights?) Things that are important to the rest of us don’t seem to matter much to them. If we complain, we are called “disloyal!” No wonder most retirees don’t want anything to do with the I.E.A.

    Retirees are not a part of I.E.A.’s calculus. It seems to exist only as a venue for ex- leadership individuals to continue to be part of the club. Other than that, retirees are just a chip to be bargained away. I believe that is the main reason so many retirees have left the I.E.A. for the I.R.T.A. It also might explain the repeated verbal attacks on the I.R.T.A. by those who claim I.E.A. retired leadership.

    Now that the courts have denied the strategy of giving away retiree rights to appease our enemies, active members stand in the bulls eye. They will have to fight the same battle over pension rights again because the I.E.A. would not fight for us. If we had really stood together, the fight would be over. Pension rights would be protected for all.

    Instead, The I.E.A. tried to sell retirees out to avoid some pain for themselves. It didn’t work. The union has been diminished because of their own unwillingness to fight.

    Active teachers now face a choice. They can either: 1) force change upon the I.E.A. to make it act like a union by changing it’s leadership, or 2) form a new union that actually behaves like a union, defending attacks against it’s membership. A third choice, 3) (to do nothing), might well result in the end of teaching as a profession.

    How sad that the I.E.A. has come to this….

  2. Heather Steans was the only Democratic and the only Chicago legislator to sign a letter of support for this grant, and there were just a handful of Republicans plus all the pro-charter groups (Stand for Children, DFER, Advance Illinois and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools) who supported it. Write to your state representative and state senator and ask them to join the legislators who spoke at the press conference to call for legislative hearings on this grant. Ask for a reply from them.

  3. The IEA couldn’t get one representative there to speak? Or at least stand there in solidarity? I guess the leadership believes the charterization/privatization of public schools is not that big of a deal since those privately managed charters can later be unionized. No care in the world, seemingly, about the larger implications or collateral damage in the process. These reformsters will not be satisfied until they have taken the public out of all public schools. So where’s the fight, IEA?

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