On being disloyal.

An Illinois member of the NEA board of directors wrote and suggested that I was creating disunity in the IEA because of my criticisms of their handling of the pension issue. He asked that I not post his comments and, as always, I will adhere to his wishes.

But  I want to share my response.

I think that your suggestion that I am the cause of disunity is grossly unfair.

That there are differences in our union is an objective fact. Some wish to remain quiet about those differences. I don’t. To be unified around a wrong set of tactics and a wrong strategy does no service to our members nor to the students we teach.

We were too unified when Audrey Soglin, Ken Swanson and others in leadership (you perhaps?) tried to silence criticism of our support for Senate Bill 7. The local that I was president of was a lone voice in opposition to Senate Bill 7 at the start. But now there are others who see what it is. There will be more. Should we have remained silent in pursuit of the  cause of unity within the union?

Nobody can justly challenge my loyalty to the IEA and to the cause of teacher unionism. My resume is there for all to see. But my loyalty to my union does not extend to blind loyalty to leaders who, frankly, are unknown to most of the 130,000 IEA members.

I support the main thrust of the We Are One coalition in defense of the pension protection clause.

I disagree with them on offering up any more member contributions.

I disagree on the tactics, which have left out most of the rank and file membership of our Association.

I think we rely too much on lobbyists and lawyers and not enough on activating members.

I think we call compromises victories. We all make compromises. But we should call them what they are.

I think the leadership is heavy-handed and undemocratic in the way they go after those who disagree with them.

Should all that be kept quiet in the cause of unity?

Should our little Park Ridge local have been quiet about Senate Bill 7. We filled two buses on Lobby Day and our members refused union directives to lobby for SB7. They were courageous. Heroes.

Should I not have been the one who posted the video tape of Jonah Edelman on my blog because it was an embarrassment to our leadership?

To be called passionate is often a way to marginalize a person. It suggests that they are not being objective and are basing themselves on emotions and not facts.

But almost a million readers of my blog visit there because they find it a reliable source of information and facts.

And passion.

I opposed Ken Swanson when he called for a change in our lobbying position on pensions at the RA. I believe it gave permission to the legislature to create a two-tier pension system. I lost that vote. Should I have been for unity or for the young teachers who now have lost benefits. I could only choose one or the other.

You suggest I am looking at things as a retiree and ignoring the views of the active teachers. I was not a retiree then. I have only been a retiree since June. 

Unity is created when differences are allowed to be expressed. The silencing of minority views will always end up exploding like a blister.


IEA is unrepentant in their IPACE recommendation policies. That’s why members are pulling their dollars.

Yesterday I posted that I had stopped giving money to IPACE. I encouraged others to do the same.

I reported that former IEA President Ken Swanson promised a review of IPACE recommendation procedures. It never happened.

But in a response on his website, IEA Communications Director Charlie McBarron gives a full-throated defense of the present way IPACE does business.

He blames it on the IEA membership which he says is too conservative and too Republican.

Politics is too “messy” in Illinois, says McBarron.

Is that why for many years IPACE was the largest single contributor to House GOP leader and leading pension buster, Tom Cross?

Here’s the thing Charlie. No matter whether an IEA member is a Republican or a conservative they want their pension protected. They want the Illinois Constitution followed when it comes to diminishing or impairing our pensions.

It’s not the members who are the problem when IEA used IPACE money to encourage General Assembly members to vote for Senate Bill 7.  No IEA member, whether Republican or conservative wanted to lose their tenure, their seniority or wanted their performance review to be based on student growth scores as measured by ISAT or MAP tests.

Those in the General Assembly who vote against teacher interests are rarely punished. Friends are abandoned, as when IPACE recommended Judy Topinka for comptroller over State Representative David Miller even though Miller was a profile in courage fighting for fair funding for Illinois schools.

McBarron claims that IPACE recommendations are done with rank and file input.

Raise your hand if you are an IEA member and have had input in IPACE political recommendations.

That’s what I thought.

Jonah’s strike.

Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children.

I warned them.

But they didn’t listen.

Early on I said that Senate Bill 7 would lead to no good end.

Ken Swanson, then President of the IEA, and Audrey Soglin, who still to this day goes around claiming Senate Bill 7 is teacher led reform, pronounced it as a national model.

I said, “no, no, no.”

Senate Bill 7 was the work of Jonah Edelman, his corporate reform group Stand for Children, and all those who wanted to bust teacher unions.

But it was designed and targeted for states like Illinois.

These union busters knew that folks like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and their Tea Party Republican allies in the state legislatures could take care of business with a frontal assault on collective bargaining.

But Jonah and those in groups like Democrats for Education Reform needed a special union busting pill for states like Illinois and Massachusetts with Democrats in power.

Senate Bill 7 was the pill for Illinois.

And the IEA and the IFT swallowed that pill with a glass of corporate reform kool-aid.

Why are collective bargaining rights a good idea?

Because collective bargaining works.

Oh sure, sometimes you have a board of education that has their own separate agenda and it leads to a strike. That happened to us in Park Ridge back in 2003.

If both sides are willing to engage in the give-and-take that is collective bargaining, then it works.

If you take away collective bargaining rights, you inevitably create problems. There is no way to work out your differences.

So, when Senate Bill 7 created a new threshold for strike authorization and limited the right to strike to salary and benefits, it didn’t take being a genius to have predicted a strike in Chicago.

Both sides even say that they are close to an agreement on money issues. But the problem is that if the CTU leadership says okay to the salary and benefits that the board has offered then negotiations are over because the board can refuse to discuss evaluations, job assignments or class size. That’s the law.

So Jonah Edelman, the smart-ass boastful corporate school reformer, who thinks collective bargaining is the problem, created the very conditions that provoked a strike.

For a quarter of a century there hasn’t been a strike in Chicago.

Now we have Senate Bill 7 and we have a strike.

Jonah’s strike.

And really some credit has to go to Ken and Audrey too.

I’ve always had an interest in the 10th Congressional District in Illinois.

Some years ago the political action committee of the Illinois Education Association, which is called IPACE, endorsed Mark Kirk for Congress in the 10th Congressional District over a progressive African-American candidate.  I received plenty of unhappy calls from members of my local union who live in the 10th CD about that IPACE endorsement.

The 10th Congressional District is a swing district along Chicago’s north shore. It includes some of the wealthiest towns in the country like Winnetka, Glencoe and Highland Park. And it includes some of the poorest, like North Chicago.

The teachers who called me could not understand how our Association could endorse Kirk, who supported the war, had an anti-immigrant as well as an anti-union record. Kirk went on to win the Obama seat in the Senate, also with IEA support.

I couldn’t understand the endorsement either. I confronted then-president of the IEA, Ken Swanson, with our member’s disappointment with the Kirk endorsement. He promised that IPACE would revisit and review their endorsement process. It was another false promise from IEA leadership.

But maybe this year the 10th Congressional District will provide an opportunity for IPACE redemption.

There is another progressive Democrat, supporter of Occupy Wall Street, running against a Mark Kirk-style Republican. Teachers should support Ilya Sheyman and so should IPACE.

At least our union rights weren’t pimped cheap.

I guess I owe Audrey Soglin, the IEA Executive Director and retired ex-president Ken Swanson an apology.

For several years I have ridden them kind of hard for selling out our union rights and getting nothing in return.

In order to qualify for Race to the Top money several years ago, Audrey was appointed by the governor to head the committee that drafted legislation that tied individual teacher evaluation to measures of student growth performance. Most figure that measure will be one or several standardized tests. Even now nobody, including Audrey, can say much more than that. Local Associations and local school boards are still pretty much in the dark about how this will work.

Our local Association team of negotiators recently met with Soglin, and she couldn’t tell them much.

At the time that the legislation was passed by the Illinois General Assembly it was to qualify Illinois for about $500,000 in Race to the Top money.

I was appalled that Audrey would sell our rights to locally bargain teacher evaluation so cheap.

And then we didn’t even win the Race. We had the law. We didn’t receive any Race to the Top money.

It turns out I was wrong. I apologize, Audrey.

This week the Department of Education announced that Illinois would receive $43 million in Race to the Top money.

I feel better knowing that when our union leadership sells out our rights, we’re not cheap.

Of course, don’t think that money is going into classrooms based on local needs. The money must be spent on things Arne Duncan and the Department of Education cares about: student assessments, teacher evaluations, things like that.

Competing states committed to make changes such as improving principal and teacher evaluation systems and turning around under-performing schools. They also were asked to show specifically how they would improve science, technology, engineering and math instruction.

How will Illinois prove that? More assessments. Weeks and weeks more of assessments.

IEA President Swanson and the Board of Directors stab retirees in the back.

At last year’s IEA Representative Assembly, IEA leadership called on the delegates to renounce their long-standing opposition to any change in the legislative platform that would weaken pension benefits.

Ken Swanson argued that the lobbyists must be allowed to sit at the table. While delegates from the IEA student chapter first opposed the change, they were brow beaten into submission. Others of us stood at the microphone, warning of the consequences.

We lost the vote and Swanson got his okay to sell-out future teacher pensions. Madigan smiled. He knew the IEA would do nothing to stop him.

A week later, Madigan got his two-tier pension system and any teacher hired after January 1st of this year is screwed.

Last night I received this from retired teacher, Ed Rosenthal:

Good Evening.

Tonight the IEA Board by a vote of 49-31 approved a change in the Legislative Platform from language that opposed taxation of retirement benefits to include an exception that allows IEA to support taxation of pension benefits if it applies to all retirement income above a particular level. The original proposal from the Legislative Committee did not include this change but President Swanson pointed out that with the current language it inhibited IEA’s ability “to sit at the table” when these laws were being discussed. This is the same argument used last year when President Swanson wanted us to change the language regarding pension benefits to allow IEA “a seat at the table” to negotiate on changes to the pension plan. As you know, we never got to the table and the Two Tier Pension plan was approved with NO IEA input.

Jack Tucker presented the position of the Retired Council against any change to the current language to the entire Board of Directors. Jack also requested a roll call vote which was granted. For those of you who are delegates to the IEA-RA, here are the votes of the candidates for IEA Executive Officers. A NO vote supports our position; a YES vote is against our position.

Blade ————YES



You may want to keep that in mind when you go to vote.

Personally, the Board meeting characterized the problem with IEA-Retired’s position in the IEA. Of the 81 votes on the issue (1 abstention), only 1 came from a retired member (Jack). That means that Jack had 1.2% of the possible votes. Retired make up 6% of the IEA (8,310 of 137,777). 6% of the Board would give us at least 5 board members. That would allow us a better opportunity to have the voice of the retired teachers heard. Jack can only go to the mike so many times! Food for thought!!


I am a delegate to the RA. I will not vote for this change in the legislative platform that would weaken retiree benefits. I will not stab our retired teachers in the back. I will not vote for any candidate who would. I urge other delegates to do the same.

Orange sweaters to the mic!

IEA’s democratic process and the use of polling.

I haven’t had a chance to report on a meeting I attended Wednesday night with IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin.

I got somewhat distracted by Ben “The Stalker” Velderman.

Soglin presented the IEA’s legislative reform package at a breakout session of a Region membership meeting. The IEA leadership is promoting this package as an alternative to the anti-union Performance Counts bill backed by Stand for Children, The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club and Advance Illinois.

The IEA package is also supported by the IFT and the Chicago Teachers Union.

I have discussed frequently the two proposals and why I am concerned about the concessions on tenure, seniority, RIFs and evaluations that our union leadership is making.

But I found something very troubling in Soglin’s presentation.

On slide six of her power point, Soglin presented the self-described highlights of a member poll, conducted by a paid polling company of 400 IEA members with a 4.9%  margin of error.

According to the poll 70% favor a process that would speed up firing teachers. 67% favor doing away with using seniority as the sole criteria when RIFs are made. 69% favor revoking certification of teachers for chronically unsatisfactory rankings. 86% oppose taking away our right to strike.

Do you find these results fantastically absurd? Me too.

Aside from the failure to pass the laugh test, this whole polling thing is an assault on our Association’s democratic process.

Our legislative platform is determined by elected delegates to the yearly Representative Assembly. And while it is a broad platform which cannot predetermine every legislative issue that may arise between RA’s, it does address these current issues.

That the leadership would substitute a poll for the rules and procedures of our Association is pretty bad.

It is all too typical of the reign of IEA President Ken Swanson.

IEA, Race to the Top and the Illinois budget crisis.

Both Arne Duncan and the IEA leadership have some responsibility for the current budget crisis in Illinois and its impact on school funding. The increase in the state income tax doesn’t really address this part of the problem.

When Pat Quinn established a committee to write Illinois’ application for Duncan’s Race to the Top grant, a committee that was chaired by IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin, it included a number of programs that came with a cost. In addition, the proposal made statewide changes in the way teachers would be evaluated, linking our evaluation to test scores.

While the state did not receive the Race to the Top grant, the programs were adopted by the legislature and the bill has come due.

Any money that might have gone to other education programs must now compete with the ones Arne Duncan demanded and the Illinois committee led by the IEA proposed and got adopted.

Jim Broadway addresses this in his State School News.

Education “reforms” with high fiscal impact were enacted last spring to bolster the state’s application for a federal RTTT grant. The grant didn’t happen, and the cigarette tax aimed at generating $375 million to pay for the new programs also failed.
But the reforms remain to compete with existing programs for limited funds.

You won’t read about this in IEA President, Ken Swanson’s description of the last days of the 96th General Assembly.

How did we get here?

I guess I still can’t get over the letter to Region 36 that IEA President Ken Swanson wrote. I still can’t get over his example of why we should find common ground with a group like Stand for Children who despise teacher unions and collective bargaining.

How did we get here?

How is it that our 130,000 member union has a man as president who doesn’t even stand for the basic principles of unionism?

Let’s look at his hypothetical once more.

For example, if two RIf’d people are nearly equal in seniority for a recall and one has excellent evaluations and the other is in remediation, should the one in remediation be brought back ahead of the excellent teacher because the excellent teacher was hired ten days after the remediation teacher was hired?

This is not really an example of anything that is a common occurrence.

I challenge Swanson to give me some cases like this that have happened in the past year. Or five years. Or ten.

However, it does reveal Swanson’s view of our union and its responsibilities.

Let’s look at his hypothetical teacher, our colleague, who is on remediation.

Our local collectively bargained agreement has a process for terminating a bad teacher and for remediating a struggling teacher.

Remediation is a process reserved for teachers who show some weakness or problem in their work, but who, in the view of administration can improve. In our case, our contract provides for a mentor teacher and a time line.

In the view of our union president, that teacher, a full member of our Association, should lose their contractual rights. They should become a second class Association member.

Ken sure didn’t mind collecting full dues from that member.

There was a time not so long ago when our Association stood for exploring ways of recruiting, mentoring and improving our profession. In fact our own Park Ridge local was a recognized ground-breaking local in the establishment of a mentoring program for new teachers that was created by Board and Association collaborative efforts. In those days, our IEA knew that the problem wasn’t that we couldn’t get rid of teachers fast enough, but that public schools couldn’t retain good teachers long enough.

But apparently that’s all changed.

How did we get here?

Maybe I spoke too soon. Ken finds common ground with Stand for Children.

As the so-called education reform committees of the General Assembly gear up for post-holiday hearings in Aurora, so has the IEA.

But just when I thought that President Ken Swanson and Executive Director Audrey Soglin were about to spine up and fight for our members, they revert to their old form.

One of the prime movers and shakers in the current attack on teacher unions is Stand for Children, a reformy Superman outfit that dropped a cool 600 K backing a handful of legislators in the November election.

Some of those legislators were placed by Boss Madigan and Cullerton on House and Senate education reform committees.

What is the SFC agenda?

  • Undermine local collective bargaining rights.
  • Ban the right of teachers to strike.
  • Binding arbitration.
  • End seniority and tenure rights.

These so-called reforms might very well find their way into bills by the first week in January.

Ken and Audrey sent a letter to our Region containing a promise to fight. Yesterday.

But at the very same time Communications Director Charlie McBarron was sending the following message on behalf of Ken and Audrey to Region Chairs and Grass Roots Political Activists (GPAs):

It’s important to understand that, while portions of this legislation
are deeply offensive and are absolutely off the table as far as we are
concerned, we also have some common ground with Stand for Children, including a desire to streamline the process for getting bad or ineffective teachers out of classrooms. 

A blanket “No” response is not appropriate and would be
counter-productive to our mission and to our desire to continue to be seen as leaders in education improvement in Illinois.

Yep. Ken has found common ground with Stand for Children. On what issue? Funding? Class size? Training and support for teachers? Opposition to the glut of standardized testing that has overwhelmed us?

Nope. Ken has found common ground with Stand for Children on the issue of finding a way to speed up due process and fire teachers faster.

Ken has become a character in an old western movie. “Hey paw. I say we hang ’em now and sort ’em out later.”

Here’s Ken’s argument as he expressed it to our Region:

The question of whether there might be some additional factors in addition to seniority used in RIF/recall procedures was raised in response to a great deal of publicity this issue received last spring particularly in Chicago. I don’t believe anyone in IEA is going to say seniority should not matter. I certainly don’t believe it should not. The question is whether there are any other factors we could agree should be used as part of the decision making process. For example, if two RIf’d people are nearly equal in seniority for a recall and one has excellent evaluations and the other is in remediation, should the one in remediation be brought back ahead of the excellent teacher because the excellent teacher was hired ten days after the remediation teacher was hired?

And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

In order to find common ground with what is among the worst of the reformy groups, the president of our union has managed to come up with a straw man who would make Dorothy proud.

Let me be clear. In 26 years of teaching, years as a Grievance Chair, 15 years of dealing directly with RIFs and rehires and 10 years as a local president, I have never, once, ever expereienced this issue. Ever. It is totally bogus. A fiction.

But it sets the stage. What will Ken and his cohorts sell out for his precious but over-stated “public support.”

If Ken won’t defend fair and due process as negotiated locally by his own locals, what will he fight for?