My readers respond to NEA/IEA Mark Kirk love.


We learned Friday that the National Education Association and the Illinois Education Association awarded Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk an “A” grade.

I expressed my disagreement, of course.

As did many of this blog’s readers.

A sample:

Tim Furman wrote, “Kirk got the “Charter School Champion” award from the charter school lobby in 2014. (Durbin got it the year before.) The method of assigning grades based on key votes is absurd; it misses the major themes behind the work these people are actually doing. Mark Kirk is hardly the worst Republican, but any system that assigns an “A” to someone who is actively trying to privatize public education is missing some fundamental internal checks. You’ve already written about the bizarre, full-of-internal-contradiction IEA endorsements of Mark Kirk; this dumb grading system seems to be more of the same muddled thinking.”

Joan O’Malley. “Fred. The NEA & IEA sure didn’t ask my opinion. Kirk is the worst Senator in Illinois and he has been in power too long. His total conservative voting record shows no thought as to serving the people of Illinois. I hope Tammy Duckworth defeats him this time. His handicap is unfortunate but that is no reason to vote him into office again. I think he is a destructive influence in Congress.”

Anonymous. “Kirk also came out supporting Rauner and Rauner’s plan to destroy SEIU and AFSCME in negotiations with state employees. There seems to be 2 sides to the NEA, the “union” side and the “we are not a union, we are an association” side. This comes from many decades of teachers not being allowed collective bargaining in most states. In some states, it is still a criminal offence for a teacher to go on strike. If a teacher strikes, they are not only fired, they lose their certification and have an official misconduct record. This makes it very hard to get a teaching job anywhere. It is from this sort of history that the NEA “non-union” side tries to tread lightly. They probably did not even notice Kirk’s vicious attack on public sector unions. Meanwhile, the “union” members are sandbagged by this endorsement of someone that supports outlawing fair share and wants to eliminate meaningful representation of teachers and other public employees in Illinois. Sort of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. They either don’t know or they don’t care.”

Glen Brown. “About 4 ½ years ago, Illinois Senator, Mark Kirk, also agreed with Newt Gingrich and advocated for a law that would allow our state to declare bankruptcy, even though state bankruptcy would invariably rob public employees of their contractual right to an earned pension (”

NEA/IEA gives Mark Kirk an “A” grade.


I know something about giving grades.

After thirty years of being an art teacher I will admit that there is a lot that is subjective about the whole process. There are times when the line between an A grade and a B grade can be a little wiggly. The line is not so wiggly between an A grade and a failing grade.

Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk is a fail.

Even the Chicago Sun-Times was forced to editorialize about our Illinois Senator:

Hard to say whom Mark Kirk offended more.

When he referred to an unmarried Senate colleague on Thursday as a “bro with no ho,” he did a magnificent job of offending women.

But when he added, “That’s what we’d say on the South Side,” he did an equally terrific job of offending African-Americans.

And, of course, Kirk offended everybody else who has a problem with a woman being referred to as a “ho” — slang for a prostitute — or with the assumption that South Siders — read black people — talk that way.

He sure offended a lot of people.

Is this all about political correctness, as Kirk’s apologists are saying?

No. In 1915 it might have been, but not in 2015.

Thoughtful people just don’t make Polish jokes anymore, or Helen Keller jokes, and they don’t say what Kirk said Thursday. They are above that. Their thinking is above that.

In 2016, when Kirk seeks reelection, the voters will have much to weigh about this man. He is to be admired for the way he fought back from a devastating stroke in 2012. He has a reputation in Washington for working hard. His conservative views on fiscal issues and more moderate views on social issues sit well with many in Illinois.

But Kirk’s unclever quip won’t be forgotten, nor will similarly injudicious remarks. He once called for the mass arrest of 18,000 Gangster Disciples, pulling a crazy number out of a hat. He once said a black neighborhood is the “one we drive faster through.”

Kirk has no announced opponent in the March 15 Republican primary.

That could change.

It didn’t change. Kirk has no Republican opposition.

Yet the National Education Association and the Illinois Education Association gave this guy an A grade.

This is the same organization (I admit I am a retired member, but I don’t know how much longer I can put up with this and still send them my dues) two years ago endorsed and handed over a ton of our PAC money to the Illinois State Chair of the anti-union American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) when he ran for the Republican nomination for Illinois governor.

The siege mentality of the IEA leadership.


-Karl Gabbey

I understand the retirees’ frustration with the IEA. That frustration ought to be shared by all active members because some day, they too will be retirees.

Besides, many of today’s retirees are also active in the fight to save public education from the school reform grifters. They may not be in a classroom anymore, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve severed all ties with their former careers.

Doesn’t IEA’s leadership understand that there is strength in numbers? It’s simple math: All actives + All retirees = greater strength. What I don’t understand is the IEA leadership’s siege mentality and shortsightedness.

The organization’s stubborn support for Cullerton’s SB 2404, even when it was clear that it was setting a terrible precedent, that it was unconstitutional, that it was “DOA,” that a majority of Illinois’ lawmakers were untrustworthy, more than boggles the mind. Was the IEA leadership so overwhelmed by John Cullerton’s threats and intimidation? If that were the case, the leaders could have learned a valuable lesson from the IRTA.

The IEA’s support for Kirk Dillard, the Republican candidate and Illinois’ leader of ALEC, against Rauner in the Republican gubernatorial primary was very poor strategy which even outdid its support of SB 2404 on the stupidity scale. This isn’t Monday morning quarterbacking. At the time, a number of us were very critical of IEA’s support for Dillard. The IEA threw $4 million precious Dollars down Dillard’s rathole that could have been used to fight Madigan’s SB 1 or to support non-Madigan Democratic candidates for the General Assembly. The $4 million could have been used productively instead of wasting it on a character like Dillard who wouldn’t have done things much differently than Rauner.

I don’t write this to disparage the existence of the IEA. On the contrary, an organization like the IEA is absolutely necessary as a countervailing force against today’s moneyed interests that seek to harm public education and as an advocate for the interests of teachers (active & retired) and students. The IEA leadership would be far more effective if it would overcome its siege mentality and shortsightedness to lead us in the fight against those who want to wreck public education and destroy our retirement security.

ESSA at street level. Audrey’s legacy.


Executive Director Audrey Soglin at an IEA Rep Assembly.

-Jerry Mulvihill is a fifth grade teacher. He posted this on my Facebook page.

There are some unintended consequences for teachers with Audrey’s PERA law that I wonder if she benefits from directly. With the new process, not only are teachers in my district being forced to be evaluated in a manner that requires hyper-focus on test results and assessment, but we are forced into a situation where we now have to teach in a manner that directly conforms to the evaluation process.

About a year ago, we were PD’d on the value of teaching with target goals visibly posted in the classroom for each lesson, and that success would be predominantly defined by the visibility of that goal, individual students’, direct understanding of that goal and the teacher’s ability to collect data on that goal through constant administering of formative assessment throughout the lessons, thereby supporting any growth with direct proof and data.

This year, outside “experts” from the Consortium of Educational Change have come in to give their prepackaged approach that directly supports this exact methodology. The development of assessments and how to create the “right” type of assessments to support growth data being of direct importance to teacher evaluation was also the focus of the CEC’s PD.

While I am open to the merits of the methodology and science, it is clear that there is an effort to redesign teaching in the classroom to fit the dynamics of the evaluation tool, limiting the autonomy previously held by teachers to define and establish outcomes that support and show evidence of learning.

The CEC kool-aid is being spread throughout Illinois schools without regard for the individual characteristics of a school or community’s values or belief about what best fits for each school’s education program.

I’m not running this year.


Trying to get recognized at an RA. That’s why I wore the ugly orange sweater. They said they didn’t see me.

For only the second time in over two decades I will not be running for the IEA Representative Assembly.

The first time was as a first year retiree in 2012 when the IEA leadership would not let me on the ballot. They had screwed up the paper work when I tried to transfer my membership from active to retired. By the time the Springfield office figured it all out it was too late to submit my ballot to run state-wide as a retired delegate.

The next year I ran and was elected. People tell me it is unusual to win state-wide on your first try.

I am not running this year. Until active rank-and-file members are tired enough of leadership that is unwilling to end their compliant, anything-to-get-a-seat-at-the-table strategy, my attendance at an RA as a retired delegate seems more and more an existential act.

IEA leaders don’t represent the hundred thousand active members very well. And they sure don’t represent retired members.

The leadership of the IEA is too willing to ignore our interests as retirees. That is what they did when they bargained SB2404 and offered to give away our COLA increases.

Some voices who speak for the leadership even wanted to start a war between IEA Retired and other members of the pension rights coalition.

Former IEA President Bob Haisman never ceases his public attacks on the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. Either the elected leadership agrees with him or they make no attempt to restrain him and his wild accusations.

In either case, the interests of retired teachers in protecting our pensions in Illinois are undermined by this behavior.

Last year when we tried to get a commitment from the RA that IEA leadership would not bargain away what we would soon win from the Illinois Supreme Court, we were stymied by parliamentary maneuvers.

This is an old game the leadership plays in subverting democracy at the RA.

I can recall when in order to be recognized by Ken Swanson at a microphone as an elected delegate from my Park Ridge local, the entire Region 36 delegation had to stand behind me waving their hands.

This can change. It must be changed. For the first time in decades, teacher union membership has fallen below 50% of the teachers in this country. Union survival is threatened by leadership such as this. But active rank-and-file members must be the force to change it.

Retired simply don’t have the numbers or the power.

It is difficult for this retiree to feel I have a home in the IEA anymore other than in my local S.O.R.E. chapter.

I am clearly not alone.

Very few retirees feel compelled to attend the RA. There are only 25 retired members running for the 21 delegate slots. This is the fewest number of candidates running in my memory.

My main advice to retirees would be to withhold their votes from former IEA Presidents Bob Haisman and Ken Swanson. Although they will likely get elected based on name recognition, not voting for them might just send a message to the leadership.

Many retired delegates should recall that it was under Haisman’s watch that we got the disastrous pension ramp and it was under Swanson’s watch that we got the disastrous Tier II. And while SB 7, which took away seniority rights, tenure rights, tied teacher evaluation to student test scores and raised the required strike authorization vote percentage for Chicago teachers, was passed with Cinda Klickna as president, it was bargained by Swanson’s people.

The other development is that for the first time our votes can be cast electronically. Usually less than 2,000 members vote for delegates out of 12,000 or so members state-wide. It will be interesting to see if electronic, rather than mail-in voting, will increase the number of retired members who see a purpose in voting.

I will also be voting for Bob Kaplan, Mae Smith and Pearl Mack.

IEA mis-communications.


IEA Communications Director Charlie McBarron (left).

About a year ago I got a call asking if I would serve on the editorial committee of the Illinois Education Association Retired’s web site, The Insider.

I support my IEA Retired organization, so when I am asked to do something for it, I try to say yes and do my best.

The job was simple enough. If I saw something on the internet that was of interest or useful to IEA Retired members I should send it in with a brief paragraph introducing it.

I sent in several items that were posted and linked to the original source.

On two occasions I was asked if it was okay to repost things from my blog. One was a tribute to a long-time IEA activist who had passed away. And recently I was asked if The Insider could reprint my blog post on the debate over the Confederate flag at the NEA RA. It was a post in which I applauded the IEA leadership for supporting the NBI.

In both cases, IEA Communications Director Charlie McBarron’s office copied the posts I had written, turned them into pdfs and then posted them into The Insider with no credit that they were reprints from this blog. And no link.


Charlie McBarron’s communications office doesn’t want a link to my blog on the IEA website.

Anyone reading these two posts would have thought I had written them for The Insider. 

This violates the common internet practice of linking to and crediting original sources.

I asked that either my blog be credited and have a link to it or that the posts be taken down.

IEA Communications responded,

“Once the Insider is ‘out there’ it can’t be changed; it’s in people’s mailboxes. So there’s really nothing we can do.” 

This is, of course, not true. It is a web site and can be edited at any time.

And so in spite of my objection to the misuse of something I produced, Charlie refuses to take down work that belongs to me and that he does not have my permission to use.

I no longer will volunteer my time to The Insider.

I got a nice note from my colleague Curtis House. “You can’t represent sitting on your assets.”


I got a sweet note from my retired colleague Curtis House. 

Hey Fred,

First and foremost, thank you for your continued advocacy and representation of active and retired teachers. Your recent reflections remind me of the 20+ years that I was an IEA/NEA delegate and IPD chairperson under the Hais leadership. You and I sat often together and walked side by side for most of those years at the RA’s; even the year you voted for merger!

Seasoned delegates know that there is plenty time for delegates to network in and out of the hall amongst all the scheduled and impromptu distractions and the never ending onslaught of paperwork. Those who would criticize your dedication and representation of teachers attempt to spit in the ocean, for they know not of the depth of your advocacy and conviction.

You and I were once part of the new generation, then present generation, and now the retired generation. We’ve been there, we understand. And through it all one thing has remained constant, in all phases of your involvement, you have been an active advocate for “all teachers” retired and otherwise! I am a witness. I know leadership when I see it.

Truth is the IEA leadership has been weak and flawed for many years! Yes, I said it, and I’ll say it again… the IEA “elected officials” lack the leadership qualities needed to lead. They cave into politicians and their agendas while failing to develop effective opposition to the attacks on their members contractual benefits and constitutional rights.

Maybe next time you attend the RA you should stay in your seat for the whole time. Read the newspaper, grade papers, play video games, scrabble or just surf the net. Then it might look like you’re dedicated and on task…. to the untrained eye.

Or you could network with fellow delegates and discuss the business or lack of business at hand. Go to the mic to speak for or against, develop or amend NBIs etc. Now that’s representation and you can’t do all that while sitting on your assets.

I sat with you then and I stand with you now.

– Curtis

Columbia College adjuncts vote to leave the IEA. IEA leadership accuses local of squelching debate.


By a vote of 232 (I earlier erroneously reported 332) to 50 adjunct instructors who are members of the Part-time Faculty Association at Columbia College in Chicago voted to disaffiliate from the Illinois Education Association.

We followed the debate closely. In fact, our comment section became a primary location for debate over the issue.

Pfac’s Facebook page reported:

Thanks to the hard work of reps and member response, we have obtained an impressive number of votes to disaffiliate from the Illinois Education Association. Earlier today, members voted by a count of 232-50 to disaffiliate from the Illinois Education Association.

In the election, we received 286 ballots out of a total of 585 adjuncts who are full members and therefore eligible to vote. Your votes reflect a demand to control our union’s destiny and the further pursuit of a dignified work environment at Columbia College Chicago.

The disaffiliation was accomplished by constitutional amendment on a vote authorized in December by a 41-1 vote of the department representatives.

The ballot count was supervised by Mark Grba, former senior investigator from the Department of Labor. Tom Geoghegan, whose firm, Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan, will be the new counsel for P-fac, was also present during the counting of the ballots.

We thank all of the members who voted, responded and showed up for this election. We are excited about our next steps as an independent union and look forward to your participation in developing P-fac’s future plans.

And this from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The union representing Columbia College Chicago’s adjunct faculty members has voted to break off from the Illinois Education Association in response to the statewide association’s perceived failure to keep adjuncts’ classes from being poached by IEA-represented college staff members.

Although competition over classroom assignments has been a frequent source of tension between part-time and full-time faculty members represented by unions, Columbia College Chicago is unusual in being the site of such a bitter dispute over work between its part-time faculty and staff.

Members of the private college’s Part-Time Faculty Association, a union also known as P-Fac, voted 232 to 50 in elections conducted by mail this month to disaffiliate from the Illinois Education Association, P-Fac said on Wednesday.

“This historic vote is really a vote for part-time and contingent faculty to control their own destiny,” Diana Vallera, the union’s president, said in a statement announcing the election’s results.

“We look forward,” Ms. Vallera said, “to continuing to fight for the rights of these talented faculty on the issues that matter most, like course assignments.”

The Illinois Education Association responded with a written statement saying it planned to investigate the election for potential improprieties. It alleged that members of P-Fac had “raised significant questions and complaints” about the conduct of the election, dealing with issues such as potential voter disenfranchisement or the squelching of union members who opposed disaffiliation.

Union leaders squelching debate?

Well, that wouldn’t be right.

Sallie Clark. RIP.

I received notice a few minutes ago from IEA Retired Chair Janet Kilgus that Sallie Clark passed away late last night.

Sallie retired from teaching last August. She was an IEA member from downstate Edwardsville.

Over her long years of activism in the IEA Sallie served as IEA and NEA Director.

I first met Sallie on a shuttle bus.

We were both in New Orleans for an NEA RA. This was back in 1998 when the NEA was debating merger with the AFT.

I think I may have been the one delegate from Illinois that supported the merger.

Sallie sat down next to me on the shuttle bus that took us between our hotel and the convention center.

We argued over merger, of course.

Sallie opposed it big time.

But every morning for the duration of the convention Sallie sought me out on the shuttle bus to argue some more.

Eventually her position carried the day.

Even though we never agreed.

Over the years we agreed and disagreed about a lot of union stuff.

But when Sallie went to the microphone to speak she spoke from her heart and from her head as a teacher and as an African American woman.

And every year at every IEA and NEA meeting, including the last one we were both at, whenever Sallie and I met up we would give each other a warm hug and a big smile. She would ask about health and family. I would do the same.

We were teachers and union brother and sister.

And I will miss her.