Springfield: Reform --Or Reform "Lite"?

image from 2.bp.blogspot.comLongtime readers know that there's nothing that makes me more suspicious than everyone claiming to get along and that victory has been achieved.  And, well, there's been an awful lot of self-congratulation and adulatory press coverage surrounding the state senate's 59-0 approval of a reform package last week. Everyone worked so long and negotiated so hard, we're being told.  It's "model" reform!  But did reformers get as much as it seemed?  Did teachers and others really give away so much without a peep?  Everyone seems to want to do a victory lap but let's take a look at some of the questions and concerns that should be raised.  The word sneaking out from Springfield is that some healthy skepticism should be in the mix.  What do you "get" when you get a 59-0 vote? My quick take is below.  What's yours?

A quick look at the bill raises several questions about its ability to improve teaching effectiveness when the time comes for actual implementation: The bill requires locally-approved teacher evaluation plans in "good faith" consultation with unions serving on a joint committee with administrators, and sets a 90 day window after which all bets are off. There's no hard requirement that 50 percent of evaluation be based on student achievement. There's no hard deadline for developing a new plan. Districts can request a waiver and it will be granted automatically if the state doesn't respond within 45 days. The bill allows nontenured and unevaluated teachers to be fired first in a layoff situation (sounds like LIFO to me).  The bill allows the use of several seniority proxies (certification, qualifications, relevant experience) while ostensibly limiting the use of seniority. 

This isn't just me asking these questions -- though it's much easier to find frothy coverage than anything else.  Springfield education veteran Jim Broadway writes in today's SSNS update (A Closer Look At The Reform Bill PDF) notes how complicated the proposal is -- and how tight (unrealistic?) the timeframes are.  Yesterday's NYT (Emanuel Gets Boost, and Challenges, in Schools Bill) notes "daunting budget, educational, and labor obstacles" that stand in the way of extending the school day in Chicago, a key goal of everyone involved.  (The $300M cost is one obvious one.) The Tribune (Teachers Join Lawmakers in Drawing Up Reforms) notes that unions can still bargain (and strike) over wages.  Pro-union Substance News (New law forces CPS to establish layoff rules) claims the bill tightly limits layoffs and sets strict new timelines.  

It'd be interesting to see a side by side comparing the IL bill to the FL and CO laws, and to know if Advance and Stand consult with counterparts in these states when developing or negotiating the plan. If you've seen one or are willing to do one, let us know! 

Is this model legislation developed through a model process, as is being claimed, or is it reform "lite," setting the bar extremely low and letting everyone declare victory without doing any of the really hard work?

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  • thanks for the reactions -- what about the 90 day and 45 day timelines?
    don't you think those will blunt the impact of the provisions?

  • here's what jim broadway has to say about the pros and cons of the bill:

    "I think the bill is a large step forward in important ways. Most significant will be its effects giving principals a lot more discretion in staffing decisions. Union rules in many situations have resulted in irrational situations. The decision criteria become more subjective, but children will benefit at the expense of very few teachers.

    "The unions conceded, going in, that tenure-related issues were most in need of reform. Legislators close to the process tell me they cooperated very well and agreed to provisions that they will now have to go back to their own memberships and "explain" why it was in their interest to have done so.

    "The strike provisions are somewhat weak, but the process is understandable and more transparent than current policy. Opinions vary depending on the perspective. The Civic Committee might think the unions can claim complete victory in this regard. The 75% vote needed for a strike authorization is window dressing. Folks who know tell me even 90% would have been an easy threshold for the CTU to achieve.

    "My sense is that seeking major "concessions" from the unions would have been a mistake. The process was to seek "improvement" in current policy in ways that will make satisfactory resolution of impasses - from both sides' perspective - more likely. Time will tell, but I think SB 7 may have made such improvement.

    "Actually, that would be my response to the question of "serious holes." There may be some. Every complex structure seems vulnerable to being gamed. But time will tell about SB 7."

    used with permission / ar

  • it's also worth noting that we don't know much about what stand and others are trying to get in the house that they couldn't get in the senate version.

    will the GA go with the 75 percent strike vote requirement, or just ban the right altogether? does the GA have the right to micromanage the internal operations of a nominally independent outfit?


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