In Indiana a 19-year teacher was dismissed during a reduction in force because of his evaluations. The teacher, who also happened to be the union president, had received good evaluations for years but was released because he was given a “needs improvement” in three discrete skill areas in an evaluation ten years earlier. He and five other teachers were laid off.
He filed suit.
His lawyers argued that, in enacting its tenure statute, the Indiana legislature had created a contractual relationship with teachers who had attained tenure, and thus, that Indiana could not erode the rights of that contract through subsequent legislation–i.e., through a new RIF statute that values evaluations over tenure status–without violating the “Contract Clause” of the United States Constitution.
The Contract Clause prohibits states from passing any “law impairing the obligation of contracts.”
The Seventh Circuit agreed and ruled that Indiana’s new RIF law, which changed the rights of tenured teachers in the event of a RIF, unlawfully impaired the contractual rights of tenured teachers.
The Seventh Circuit ruled Indiana’s new tenure law unconstitutional.
Idiana’s tenure law mirrors Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) and Senate Bill 7 which was passed by the Illinois in 2011.
In a major betrayal of union tenure and seniority rights, the bill was supported by the Illnois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
The Seventh Circuit has jurisdiction in Illinois and would likely rule that SB7 is also in violation of the U.S. Constitution on the same grounds as it did Indiana’s tenure law.
In 2011 only one IEA local in the state refused to support or lobby for SB7.
It sometimes seemed lonely.
Our little Park Ridge (PREA) local knew it was a bad bill.
But the IEA leadership kept telling us we were wrong about Senate Bill 7.
IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin and IEA President Ken Swanson were at the table. They wouldn’t have agreed to do something that hurt teachers.
But our folks in the Park Ridge Education Association looked at it. We scratched our heads and wondered out loud.
We’re going to lose our tenure and seniority.
We’re going to be evaluated by test scores of students. Tests that were never designed to assess teacher performance.
Chicago teachers will find it harder to strike and collectively bargain.
How was this good for teachers?
We would hear from teachers from around the state who asked the same question. But the leadership kept talking about the table we had been at. We just didn’t understand that being at the table was the important thing.
Then we saw the Jonah Edelman presentation at Aspen. Edelman was head of the Oregon-based Stand for Children. He had come to Illinois. He had raised $3 million from corporate funders which helped elect a bunch of anti-union legislators. He boasted that he got Speaker Mike Madigan to set up a House education reform committee. He boasted how he had bamboozled the IEA and the IFT and got them to bully the Chicago Teachers Union. He boasted that Senate Bill 7 was a great victory over the teachers and their unions. He also said that at the end of the day, IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin couldn’t have been more pleased.
Although the Edelman video was terribly embarrassing for the IEA leaders, they never shifted their position.
When we lobbied our State Senator he was surprised.. “Your union lobbyists told me this was good. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
We shook our heads.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel praised Senate Bill 7 as a model for the nation.
We said no, Dennis, no. This is Scott Walker light.
And last year when we went to Springfield, our local filled a bus and all the way down we tried to figure out how we were going to lobby for pensions and against SB7 when our union wanted us to support SB7. At the Lobby Day rally they brought out Democratic Assistant Senate Majority Leader Kim Lightford who praised SB7 as pro-teacher because she had insisted that teachers be at the table. How could it be bad if we were at the table? And Charlie McBarron ran that video on our IEA website over and over again.
Lightford was awarded the Friend of Teacher award at this year’s RA by IEA President Cinda Klickna.
PREA members scratched our heads. How could we be so wrong?
We weren’t wrong, of course.
And we weren’t alone.
At the final session of the (2012) IEA RA delegates approved the last New Business Item #16.
The text of the motion: The IEA RA directs the Executive Director to report to the 2013 RA the feedback of the implementation of SB7. This feedback will be gathered between now and 2013 RA with a mid-term report made available to members.
Rationale: Due to the actual negative effects that SB7 is currently having on many teachers, especially veteran teachers, we need to be proactive in its revision.
Make no mistake. The vote was not close. It is a rejection of the IEA leadership by the delegates and the members they represent on the issue of SB7.
The chickens have come home. Jonah was able to bamboozle the leaders, but not the members.
And we were never alone.
And now SB7 may be on life support.
And our lonely local was right all along.