Lord, save us from these friends of education.


Bruce Rauner appointed IEA’s Friend of Education Judy Biggert to the IELRB. What did Rauner know that the IEA didn’t?

According to WBEZ Governor Bruce Rauner is making his third appointment to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board.

This is not a good thing. Bruce Rauner does not appoint friends of teacher unions to the IELRB. Quite the opposite.

The IELRB is charged with deciding disputes between school districts and unions.

The latest appointment is Lara Shayne, who until recently was a lawyer in the employ of the Chicago board of education.

CTU leaders have complained recently that the board is skewed against them. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the more Rauner appointments to the board, the less legitimate it is becoming.

“These appointments undermine the board,” he said.

A previous Rauner appointee to the IELRB is Judy Biggert.

Rauner didn’t appoint Biggert to the IELRB because he thought she was a friend of teacher unions.

Even though the leaders of the Illinois Education Association thought she was.

According to Jim Reed, IEA’s director of government relations, the group has nothing against Mr. Foster but trusts Ms. Biggert, a former local school board member, as a longtime friend.

“We’ve been with Congresswoman Biggert since the first time she ran in 1993,” said Mr. Reed, citing her opposition to vouchers and other pro-union positions. “She’s been a great ally. It was a pretty easy decision.”

Not only did the IEA and NEA endorse her (“recommend” in the language of the IEA) but in 2007 gave Biggert the IEA Friend of Education award.

So, what do you think? Did Bruce Rauner appoint Biggert to the IELRB because of her pro-union position, as the IEA claims, or to undermine the independent role of the IELRB as CTU VP Jesse Sharkey fears?

I’ll go with Jesse Sharkey’s concerns.

This friend of education thing that the IEA and the NEA do is getting ridiculous.

Recall that last summer the NEA gave Republican Senator Lamar Alexander its Friend of Education award.

Lord, save us from these friends of education.

When it comes to school funding formula and special ed the IEA ignores its own Legislative Program.

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Democratic State Senator Andy Manar.

As I have been writing, Democratic State Senator Andy Manar wants to change the state school funding formula with no new revenue. He wants to pay for it by cutting special education categorical grants to school districts and make them block grants. Categorical grants mean the money must be spent on special education students. Block grants move the money into the district’s general fund. the money can be spent on anything.

Why doesn’t the Illinois Education Association oppose SB231?

Their membership wants them to. At least that is what the delegates to the IEA’s Representative Assembly wants them to do when they adopted the IEA’s Legislative Program.

State Funding Plan 

All of Illinois’ students deserve the same access to learning opportunities, level of commitment, and 
economic support. School funding should be based on a per-pupil amount equal to that of 
the wealthiest districts in the state. Additionally, district-by district variations in state funding 
should be based on district wealth, tax effort, student population, accurate Title I weighting, and other 
factors that might otherwise restrict equal access to free and appropriate education.


All categorical 
grant funding and education reform mandates should be funded at 100% of established levels. To 
achieve these goals, money should not be taken from one district in order to subsidize other 
districts or from one program to subsidize another program.


Funding Priorities 


When state revenues are declining, the Association supports the following priorities for funding state 
education programs:

General State Aid, including an increase in the poverty grant formula.
Average Daily Attendance (ADA) Block Grant.

Mandated categorical programs such as special education and transportation

Early Childhood Block grants.

The IEA is officially neutral on the bill, even though it contradicts the IEA’s own legislative agenda.


I have heard that the Government Relations department, the lobbying arm of the IEA, recommended that the organization oppose SB 231 but were overruled.

Who can overrule IEA Government Relations?

Only the executive leadership: President Cinda Klickna, Kathi Griffin and Al Llorens.

That’s how democracy works in the IEA.

On the issue of racism, the IEA has work to do.


Gina HarKirat Harris, newly elected member of the NEA board of directors from Illinois.

The restructuring plan that would reduce the numbers of members of the IEA board of directors was shot down at this weekend’s Representative Assembly.

The restructuring plan was two years in the making, I was told.

Gina Harris, newly elected member of the NEA board of directors, said to me that she did not believe this was the best use of IEA time and organization.

And she expressed serious concerns about the inclusion of IEA members of color in the development of the proposal and the impact on members of color if the proposal had passed. Would the reduction of the size of the Illinois state board of directors reduce the number of directors of color?

“I went back and forth on this whole restructuring thing in my own mind.”

What Gina does not go back and forth about is getting experienced IEA members of color better represented on committees and in shifting the focus from time spent on restructuring proposals to time spent on organizing proposals.

Nearly a year after the NEA RA decision to make institutional racism a focus of the entire union, Illinois leadership had yet to take any action until the Human and Civil Rights Committee introduced a New Business Item at this RA  – nine months later.

The IEA HCRC, of which Gina is a member, brought up the issue of institutional racism and offered an NBI that passed. It directs the IEA’s training center to incorporate the issue of institutional racism in all membership training.

“I’m concerned about organizing and I’m concerned about relationships,” Gina told me.

Ironically, the HCRC’s New Business Item was followed by the rejection by delegates of an NBI calling for nothing more than a campaign of awareness about the use of racial stereotypes in school mascots, offered by delegate Louise Stompor. It was voted down with virtually no debate.

Only 13% of the RA delegates were members of color.

Today, Eric Brown, a member of the NEA Executive Committee sent me a copy of a model school board resolution on removing the Confederate flag from school buildings.

This has been the single thing that the NEA has done, to my knowledge, in response to my New Business Item 11 on the Confederate flag that was passed following the longest debate in the history of the NEA RA.

“We have work to do,” Gina Harris told me.

IEA’s Cinda Klickna hails victory of Stand for Children’s legislator.


The night I yelled at Christian Mitchell (center) at The Hideout for stealing public employee pensions. The IEA gave him $35,000 for his latest campaign.

In an email letter from Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna, two names stick out.

One name sticks out for being included.

One name sticks out for being absent.

Says Klickna: Tuesday’s election results underscore what we’ve said many times: ‘Our opponents might have more money, but they don’t have what we have – people!'”

Well, true enough.

But one IEA endorsed candidate that got plenty of IEA money also got plenty of Stand for Children money.

“Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, defeated Jay Travis in a rematch of their 2014 contest,” reports Klickna gleefully. 

State Representative Christian Mitchell is the single largest recipient of campaign contributions from Stand for Children in the legislature, as far as I can tell.

He might even be considered Stand for Children’s personal State Representative

Mitchell has received over $160,000 from Stand for Children and $35,000 from IPACE, the IEA political action fund.

For those who don’t recall, this is not the first time the IEA and SFC have worked together. They also worked collaboratively on Senate Bill 7 which limited teacher tenure and seniority rights and undermined teachers’ right to strike.

This kind of endorsement and expenditure is one reason that I have left IEA Retired and no longer contribute to IPACE.

What isn’t mentioned in Klickna’s email is the bang up job they did for their chosen presidential candidate.

Three weeks ago Hillary Clinton had a 20 point lead in Illinois in the polls.

But with IEA and Illinois Federation of Teachers’ support and money, that lead nearly disappeared. Clinton left Illinois with a 33,000 vote victory out of over a million votes cast. Plus one more delegate than Bernie Sanders.

It may seem that frequently an endorsement from these guys is the kiss of death.

Just ask Pat Quinn.

Too bad it wasn’t true for Mitchell.

NEA/IEA go bird dogging for Hillary.

That survey NEA members may be receiving in their email?

The one you didn’t get before the NEA made their early, no-strings endorsement of Hillary?

It isn’t for the purpose of getting membership guidance or direction.

They were bird dogging for Hillary.

If you are an old precinct worker like me then you know what bird dogging is. One person goes knocking on doors to find out who your voters are. That’s bird dogging. And then on election day (or sooner now that we have early voting) you make sure your identified voters get to the polls.

From IEA Government Relations Director Jim Reed:

From: Reed, Jim  

Subject: NEA Member survey

We want to let you know that an NEA Member survey regarding the presidential primary election will be going out in the next day or two.  

In an effort to ID IL members on their presidential preference, NEA is using Qualtrics to do short email surveys to members. NEA did several tests in early primary states with members and had really strong response results and figured out the best practices for using these.

The email survey has 4 questions and branded with IEA’s logo (you have to answer each question before seeing the next). This would be emailed to members and all data received back would be posted back and shared with you via VAN.  The email addresses used will be personal emails and not school emails.

 Jim Reed, Jr.

Director of Government Relations

The survey asks who you were going to vote for in the Democratic Primary and how sure are you about it.

Trust me. They were not just interested. They wanted to identify Hillary voters and concentrate on getting them out to vote.

I said I was certain that I was going to vote for Bernie.

I probably won’t be hearing from the IEA again until after the primary.

There is nothing illegal or wrong about this.

It is just that they never asked us before they endorsed.

NEA/IEA is late closing that barn door.

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I got this email survey from the NEA/IEA today.

They are seeking my preferences in the presidential election.

Since they have already made an early, no-strings endorsement of Hillary Clinton I am thinking they don’t want to know the membership views so as to guide their decision-making.

But rather to see how they’re doing.

I don’t think they would be asking if things were going great.

My surveys suggest not well.

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 (http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2011/08/why-bankruptcy-should-never-become.html).”

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.