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Senate Bill 7--Letter from President Lewis

04/14/2011

Sisters and Brothers:

On December 3, 2010, three groups backed by millionaires – Stand for Children, Advance Illinois and the Illinois Business Roundtable -- slammed down an education “reform” proposal in Springfield dubbed “Performance Counts” which had one main goal:  union-busting. 

In an unprecedented effort, the three unions – Chicago Teachers Union, Illinois Federation of Teachers and  Illinois Education Association – joined forces to stop these millionaires from turning teaching into a low-wage, high turnover job.  

Had they succeeded, the goal of high-quality education for all students would have been lost forever. Had they succeeded, Illinois would have been the next Wisconsin.

The initial proposal laid out a plan to outlaw using seniority as a factor in staffing decisions, make tenure nearly impossible to attain and more improbable to keep, eliminate the right to strike statewide, and, for Chicago only, prohibit permissive bargaining issues. 

The threat to students and educators was real, imminent and potentially fatal. And you fought with us.

Thousands of CTU members contacted their state representatives at key times during this five-month campaign.  Those visits, phone calls, e-mails, and lobbying trips to Springfield made all the difference.   Legislators began to understand that strong contracts protect students, adults and public education. 

We successfully made the case that the right to strike, seniority, due process and a solid evaluation system all play an integral role to make possible the promise of democracy, equity and quality in public education.  Our next challenge is to ensure that that evaluation under the PERA law being constructed now is indeed fair and equitable.

Yesterday a legislative compromise between 20 different parties became a bill.  It is far from perfect, but it is far superior from where we started.  Everyone at the table swallowed more than one bitter pill.

For us, the most bitter pill is that to truly improve teaching and learning, we still must fight for smaller class sizes, high-quality professional development, equitable financing, TIF reform, limits on standardized tests, an elected representative school board led by a visionary educator, a fair and meaningful evaluation system for all education personnel and the return of a full, rich curriculum for all students that includes art, music, recess, p.e. and history. 

Please, take the time to read the actual bill.  Then join us on May 3rd for a Springfield Lobby Day.  Use the contract rights we fought so hard to preserve by strengthening your LSCs and PPCs and demand the best work and learning environment for you, your colleagues and your students.  And please, continue to build long-term relationships with your elected officials, our students, and their parents.

Nothing’s perfect, but together we can recapture the joy of teaching and learning and improve our schools and our profession. In Solidarity,

Karen Lewis, President
Chicago Teachers Union

Click here to read the summary of Senate Bill 7. Click here to read the bill in its entirety.

Chicago Teachers Union