Reform: What Happened In Aurora?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comI'm hoping that there will be more coverage and analysis out of the hearing yesterday but in the meantime here's what I can find -- plus a link to the video you can watch of the event. Tales from the chalkboard, dust and all Tribune:  Educators and teachers union officials appealed to the House committee to give them more time to analyze the proposals and help design any legislation that comes out of it. They are concerned that lawmakers may try to act on the changes as early as mid-January... The Upcoming Education Reform Fight Progress Illinois: Chapa La Via telegraphed her priorities in a brief interview with Crain's Greg Hinz last week: "Among [the] items on the agenda, according to Ms. LaVia: requiring teacher performance to be a factor in compensation, simplifying the teacher dismissal process, and linking tenure to teacher performance."  Here's the link.


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  • jim broadway reports that the rush to make changes is largely tied to the january reform package that's going to include tax increases --'slow_down'_on_reform_of_tenure,_evaluation

    similar to the notion in the huffington post link from yesterday --
    that's why the rush.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    great comments, everyone -- now here's some helpful analysis from broadway, the downstate expert i've been linking to for years now. he calls what's happening "unprecedented" in his lengthy experience:

    "I think every organization not involved in drafting it has concerns about the proposal that was the basis for last week's discussions by the House committee. It can be seen as virtually bringing an end to teacher tenure and eliminating the right to strike. It's not quite that simple, but the effects are dramatic and all the groups that had no hand in drafting the proposal have, over the years, participated in negotiations processes leading to the status quo. They all have an investment in current law; they all "got something" in negotiations in the past, and they all gave "their word" to accept parts of the status quo they would prefer to be different.

    "I have pointed out in updates this year that the relationship between the teachers' unions and the speaker is not a very cozy one these days. The unions were outraged at being "ambushed" by the pension reform laws enacted last year, without only token participation on their part. They responded by largely ignoring Madigan in how they directed their political funding in 2010. The IEA contributed at least $450,000 to Quinn, for example, and supported only a few of Madigan's caucus in any significant way. They did not contribute to PACs he controls at all. So, yes, the speaker may believe there is a message to be delivered.

    "If that was all there is to it, I'd think the message is a bit hyperbolic. The speaker doesn't have a history of trying to destroy the core mission of any organization just because he is angry about the flow of campaign money. The fact that similar "reforms" aimed at massive changes to the status quo of other state funded services (Medicaid and workers compensation in particular) suggests all this is part of something very big. And there is nothing bigger facing the legislature than the state fiscal crisis.

    "An analogy came recently at the federal level. The Obama Administration wanted to let tax cuts for the rich expire while extending them for households with incomes under $200,000 and extending unemployment benefits for another 13 months. The Republican caucuses dug in their heels and demanded extension of the tax cuts for the rich and super-rich, and expanded estate tax reductions as well. Eventually, Obama caved, took what he could get that he thought was good and gave up on some policy items he disliked.

    "The reform packages being discussed by Illinois legislators in both chambers, on all issues, reflect goals that have been sought by the Illinois House and Senate GOP caucuses for years. I believe all this action is designed to create a massive trade; the GOP caucuses will get what they have longed for in exchange for a minimum number of Republican votes on roll calls that will increase revenue. If there is no tax increase, none of these reform packages will be enacted; if taxes are raised with GOP support, they will all become law.

    "Everything about this - the late creation of bipartisan committees on these controversial issues, the scheduling of session days throughout the first week of January just before the expiration of one General Assembly and the convening of the next - is unprecedented during the years I have been observing the policy processes of Illinois (since 1981). It would not happen just because Madigan is angry with the teachers.

    what do you think? he agrees with some of what's been said, and differs with other elements. either way, be sure to sign up here for jim's invaluable updates and analysis:

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    i've moved the comments addressing the balance / lack of balance of reader comments on the blog to their own blog entry, which is intended to keep things easier to follow. if you want to talk about that issue, go here:

  • I absolutely agree with this. There is no reason for a student to pursue an education degree or even a minor (for subject teachers) when they can pursue a more marketable degree and, if they want to teach, do so on a temporary cert until they get a normal teaching certification.

    If they want to teach K-8 I would recommend specializing in special ed because I doubt if many TFA or alternate certification teachers have the background for that kind of work meaning there will likely continue to be fairly stable jobs in it.

  • I have a friend in the burbs who was RIF'ed last spring. She was a special educator with a recent reading specialist M.A. She hasn't been able to find a job since then. She said "enough" and plans on going back to school to study business; she jokingly said that a business degree may get her back into teaching. It was supposed to be a joke, but it fell flat as all of us in the room were educators.

  • Last paragraph holds the key words: "SUPPOSED to be"...

  • Hmm. Maybe you left teaching because being the person to blame teachers was easier? Why did you dislike teaching enough to want to stop anyway?

  • I attended both days of hearings of the Special House Committee on education reform in my capacity as a registered lobbyist for Access Living. I thought there were several surprises during the hearings.

    One surprise was that the Education Management Alliance, the combined lobbying force for several statewide organizations, expressed very thoughtful reservations about the legislation proposed by Advance Illinois called the Performance Counts Act of 2010. Their reservations are fairly complex to explain briefly, but I think it is fair to say that that the Alliance does not see the legislative proposal's fact-finding panel as a solution for all labor impase issues. I think that Advance Illinois and Stand for Children Illinois had assumed the Alliance would be there natural support which appears not to be the case now.

    I was also somewhat surprised that some of the members of the Special Committee itself expressed reservations with the proposed bill. In particular the Republican co-chair Representative Eddy I though raised some very serious questions about the bill.

    I spoke today on the issue of reforms to the school report card and the Performance Counts bill's language on removing the CTU and other unions ability to bargin over some of the most basic educational issues such as class size, the length of the school day, etc. We supported the Performance Counts bill's proposal to include in the State Report card survey data from parents and teachers about school climate, with a very major amendment. I wanted the survey data presented by subgroup, in particular we want to know what families of children with disabilities think of the school and be able to compare that information to what all families think. We are also lobbying for a reduction in the minimum number of students in subgroups, i.e. students with disabilities, ELL, and racial subgroups, who are tested at anyone grade level needed for their scores to be publicly reported. Currently that number is ten we are lobbying for it to be five. This would allow for more data to be avaiable to the public.

    We supported in particular the right of the CTU and teachers unions in general to bargin over class size. We see the issue of total class size as being critical to allow students with disabilities to be effectively educated inside of regular education classrooms where such a placement is legally appropriate. Our experience is that students with disabilities can not survive in very large classrooms because the regular education teacher can not effectivel implement modification to support these students in these regular classes.

    Our position on the fact finding panels are that the idea of having these entities to deal with situations where school boards and unions have reached a point where there is not longer any agreement is fine. We thought it was also fine for the fact finding panel to make its report public if it can not get the two sides to agree, but we opposed the ability of school boards to adopt the decision of the panel and legally impose in in the union contract by law. No vote of the union membership required by the way. I think our position was similar technically to the editorial in the Sun Times today which I gave to members of the Committee.

    I thought that both the IEA, IFT, and CTU did a very good job presenting their objections to the proposed bill. They faced very hard and hostile questioning from Representative Pritchard. I also thought that the two African American members of the House Karen Yarbrough and Representative Gordon did not seem very supportive of the unions positions and seemed inclined to support the bill largely as written. But then I also did not feel that either the those two members of the House had studied the bill very carefully.

    It appears to me that part of the Performance Counts bill will pass out of the Committee and go on to a second reading in the House possibly as early as Jan 4. But what part the bill and what exact impact it will have on the CTU is somewhat unclear to me. I think once the lawyers get done going over the bill many more problems will become apparent and numerous changes will have to be made to it before it hits the floor.

    I expect to be in Springfield for the upcoming session for at least several days. On top of this important legislation there is also the question of an increase in the income tax which may also come up in the General Assembly.

    Rod Estvan

  • As an after thought I should note that the Chicago Principals Association did not appear before the Committee. I am unclear what their position is on this bill, really much of the discussion involving removing teachers and evaluation are their issues.

    Rod Estvan

  • moved to its own blog post

  • I take exception to the characterization of my post on the hearings as being part of a trend that

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod, I watched all of the testimony on archived video and it was clear how the "reformers" are are spinning. Basically, if you are not "for" their particular brand of reform (especially Stand Up and Advance Illinois), then you are "pro" status quo and are anti-reform. This tactic is working well for them as you can see from some of the posts above. The unions better get busy drafting their own reform ideas if they want to flip this script to promote reforms that they know will actually work to improve teaching and learning. Playing defense, or primarily reacting to others ideas, always makes you appear to come from a weak, slightly desparate position. Of course, when they spring this on you with a two week time frame to make decisions, it would be difficult to slow down this legislative steamroller.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    What Advance Illinois and Stand for Chidren did with the proposed bill, basically reveal it at the last possible minute and then selectively is really very standard lobbing practice in the General Assembly. That is the way the game is played.

    Because Stand for Children Illinois is so new I really do not know much about their lobbying. Advance Illinois uses Taylor Uhe LLC a top shelf firm that represents the likes of the Metroplitan Pier and Exposition Authority, AT&T, Citigroup, and Northern Trust. I would expect the retainer Advance Illinois is paying for these services is significant.

    I guess maybe I have seen this all before many times so I do not find anything wrong with how late the bill was revealed. You do not want your opposition to have time to study what is coming at them and prepare to shoot it down. I have done the same thing with bills I was involved with that faced opposition.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Can. Someone tell us more about what isbe and the other statewide orgs wanted changed in the stand/alliance proposal?

    Also wondering if there are practical/logistical concerns with the proposal, which I'm guessing was put together in very short order?

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    ISBE Superintendent Koch wants this legistlation to slow down; he is concerned about the rush to push it through.

  • moved to its own post

  • In reply to QuietObserver:

    comment moved to its own comment thread

  • moved to a separate blog post above

  • Thanks for passing along that link. The article by Ayers hit the nail on the head. The "new reformers" have basically stolen our concerns, twisted them, and are using them against us. It is frustrating stuff.

  • Re: This is extreme

    Actually, it's not illegal.

    Granted, the U.S. Constitution forbids states to "impair the obligation of contracts."

    But the lines you quote above specifically state that it is upon the *expiration* of existing contracts that the measures become effective in shaping future CBAs.

    Thus, for teachers, the contract in place through June 2012 cannot be impaired by the legislation. But should such legislation become law (and I'm hoping that doesn't happen), then the next contract cannot include any provisions that contrary to the new law. (Or, rather, any such provisions would then be considered null and void.)

  • This is not a comment on a lack of balance so I think it belongs here. One theme that was repeated several times during the hearings by Advance Illinois were the benefits of a longer school day and references to the longer school day in the Houston Texas public school district. Mayor Daley on August 24th also cited Houston as an example for Chicago, stating Houston had 30 percent more learning time than CPS.

    This was repeated several times during the hearings and clearly was identified as a talking point by both Stand for Children and Advance Illinois. I looked today at the achievement data for students with disabilities attending Houston public schools and I think it is worth discussing this data.

    In theory special education students benefit from more instructional services assuming special education teachers are effectively trained and the ratios of special education teachers to students with disabilities are relatively low. In addition to this regular education teachers have to be trained on providing modifications for students with disabilities being educated in general education classrooms.

    Currently the Houston public school district is under the Texas Education Agency's intervention status for its failures with its students with disabilities. This indicates all is not well, by the way as all of us on this blog well know CPS has been in a similar situation for some years relative to ISBE.

    Students in Texas take the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test. Students are tested in grades 3-9 in reading. The TAKS modified is also given to some students with disabilities, this is an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards and is designed for students receiving special education services who meet participation requirements for TAKS

  • here's the IASB's position on the reform panel proposal -- /ar

  • more from jim broadway, who calls the current push the "sprint" "scrum" approach to legislation.

    any bets on what does and doesn't make it into the next iteration of the legislation? any guesses on who's doing the bill writing for the committee?

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