Illinois teachers routinely threaten to abandon students to sweeten their contracts

This is from the Education Action Group Foundation. 

By Ben Velderman

EAG Communications

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The threat of going on strike has become an accepted, and unfortunately profitable negotiation ploy for Illinois teachers unions.

And sometimes the teachers actually walk out, over seemingly minor issues.

That could very well happen tomorrow in the Nokomis, Illinois school district, where teachers are scheduled to go on strike if a last-minute compromise is not reached.      There have been efforts to curb this trend, but nobody knows how effective they will be.      The state’s new education reform law, SB 7, requires teacher unions and school boards to disclose their final, best offer once contract negotiations reach an impasse. It was hoped the new transparency measures would make teacher unions reluctant to divulge their wage and benefit demands, and more likely to quietly settle contract disputes without threats of striking.

But a recent spate of “intent to strike notices” filed by teacher unions in the Altamont, Nokomis,North Boone, and Lake Forest High School districts shows it may take more than public opinion to prevent unions from threatening to walk out, or possibly following through on their threats.

That was obvious last summer in the Illini Bluffs district, where the union delayed the start of the school year by nine days in order to protest the school board’s desire to ensure its classrooms were being staffed by drug-free educators.      The union thought this was too oppressive, and decided to hit the picket lines. Judging from recent intent to strike notices, unions are willing to threaten work stoppages over issues like the amount of teacher prep time, the length of the contract, and differing future estimates of theConsumer Price Index.

The mere threat of a strike works to the unions’ advantage, because it puts public pressure on the school board to give teachers what they want, regardless of whether the district can afford it.      These threats leave students hanging in the balance, wondering if their educations are going to be delayed over some adult labor disagreement. Parents are also left in limbo, wondering about child care if the teachers walk out.      The strike threats – and the occasion walkout – are ugly forms of extortion that should not be tolerated by Illinois state law. Teachers strikes are illegal in 38 states and it’s high time Illinois got on that list.      As we’ve repeated many times, children should have an absolute right to a public education uninterrupted by adult disputes. And taxpayers have a right to see the schools they fund operating on a timely basis, regardless of labor concerns.

Unionized teachers never ‘work without a contract’

Each teachers strike threat begins with the claim that the union is working without a contract. That’s usually a bunch of baloney.

In Illinois, teacher union contracts are “evergreen,” meaning that while a pact may have technically expired, the terms of the agreement stay in effect until a new deal is reached.

Many taxpayers don’t realize this, and buy into the unions’ propaganda that teachers are contract-less and vulnerable to random cuts in pay and benefits. In reality, working under the conditions of an “expired” contract might work to the union’s benefit, especially during an economic downturn.

All Illinois school districts are facing severe financial difficulties, and need to balance their budgets, either by trimming labor costs or cutting student services. A teachers union can delay making necessary financial concessions by dragging its feet during contract negotiations. This allows members to live off the fat of the most recent contract while school board members sweat.

Board members will only sweat so long before breaking down and giving the union what it wants, or at least most of its wish list. This may be bad for taxpayers and students, but it’s a way of life for union teachers in the Land of Lincoln.

Public schools exist for students, yet the unions feel no remorse about their habit of holding children hostage to get what they want at the bargaining table.


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