Page 1

l nk UNION

Connecting you to your union, because together we are stronger. DECEMBER 2011/JANUARY 2012

Peoria Federation of Teachers, Local 780, President Bob Darling (center) and local Vice President Lana Myers (left) talk to AFT President Randi Weingarten about how their local has created a strong link between school and community.

Performance-Based Funding Raises Concerns FACULTY, STUDENTS AND PARENTS SHOULD BE ALERT TO THE IMPACT A NEW STATE LAW MAY SOON HAVE ON TEACHING AND LEARNING AT ILLINOIS UNIVERSITIES. Last August, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1503, which requires the state to implement a sysCONTINUED ON PAGE 6

FORGING STRONG TIES WITH PARENTS, COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS, FAITH GROUPS AND OTHERS IS AN INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT PART OF THE WORK OF THE UNION. As public servants and union members, we live in challenging times where teachers and other public employees are frequently blamed for what is “wrong” with education and the economy. Establishing alliances between unions and communities is an effective way to educate the public about the work we do, find common ground and work together to address the challenges we all face. At the national level, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has been spreading that

4

The Year Ahead

New IFT political director details legislative challenges

6

message. At a function for labor, community and faith groups held in Chicago in November, Weingarten noted that bringing these groups together is critical if the union wants to increase public support for our cause and stem the widespread attacks on the rights of workers, especially the fundamental right to collective bargaining. “Collective bargaining is the way working people bind together to lift up not only themselves, but their communities,” she insisted. “When workers make a fair wage, we all benefit from it - our kids, our schools and our communities.” Since the most productive partnerships are are ongoing, not just a reaction to a tempo-

Key Topics Addressed IFT Higher Ed Conference re-cap

7

CONTINUED ON PAGE 3

American Teacher

New film tells the real story about teaching in the U.S.


OUR PATH FORWARD

...With a Look Back at 2011 Daniel J. Montgomery President

AS WE ENTER 2012, IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE WHAT WE EXPERIENCED IN JUST THE LAST 12 MONTHS. Move your memory through last year’s calendar, and you’ll recall an astounding list of challenges we faced as educators, public servants and unionists, beginning with hearings in the Illinois Senate on “Performance Counts,” the anti-union attack bill hawked by Stand for Children and other so-called education reformers. That was followed closely by a historic albeit temporary - tax increase that was essential to securing our state’s finances in the short term. And the challenges kept coming: worker’s compensation reform; various versions of school reform; further testing and evaluation issues; implementation of the “Common Core” standards; Race to the Top rounds II and III; attacks on collective bargaining; and, of course, multiple attacks on pensions. And I have not even mentioned the major anti-union efforts in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida and elsewhere. Any one of these issues would have been historic on its own, never mind that they all occurred in such a short period of time. But no matter how overwhelming these challenges may have seemed, let’s remember that during this massive assault (and what sometimes still feels like a sea of change in our state and nation), we won many victories from which we can Union Link is published six times a year in December, February, April, June, August and October by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, 500 Oakmont Lane, Westmont, IL 60559. Phone: 630/468-4080 www.ift-aft.org

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Union Link, 500 Oakmont Lane, Westmont, IL 60559. MEMBERS: To change your address, notify your local union treasurer.

draw pride and courage. And we proved that we DO have tremendous strength. We got into the mix on school reform and fought off the worst reform ideas. We passed a long-needed revenue increase. We twice prevented a pension system destruction bill (HB 512) from passing. And labor unions mobilized our members like never before to help awaken a sleeping giant - America’s working class - through the Wisconsin and Ohio campaigns. Here are some of the lessons learned this year, as I see them: Work in coalitions. We cannot succeed alone. Our We Are One Illinois coalition proved that.

Promote OUR ideas. We know our jobs and professions better than anyone. We must insist that our ideas and voices are dominant in discussions about improving education and public services.

Educate the public about our quality. We must demonstrate to the public the value of our daily work, in every job category. The public no longer assumes, as it once did, that what we do provides value. We need to educate them on this constantly.

Use our collective energy! YOU are the union and you give it energy. Everything we are able to do as an organization comes from the energy and commitment members and local unions provide - from lobbying your

GOING GREEN: Union Link is printed on recycled paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and printed with environmentallyfriendly soy-based inks. © 2011 ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, AFT, AFL-CIO

Daniel J. Montgomery President Chief Operating Officer Karen GJ Lewis Executive Vice President Marcia K. Campbell Secretary-Treasurer

legislators to providing high-quality service to students or citizens.

“These are huge challenges, but looking back at 2011 gives me the confidence that we will be able to meet them successfully.” We have much more to do. We will continue to work on securing negotiated pay raises for our members who were the victims of a state executive who denied them guaranteed contractual rights. We need to secure the state’s finances for the long term. We need to find a fair solution to the pension problem for all Illinoisans. These are huge challenges, but looking back at 2011 gives me confidence that we will be able to meet them successfully. And that is all because of you. I have confidence in your continued support, dedication and activism. I look forward to working with you and wish you the very best in the New Year.

In Solidarity,

Amy Excell-Bailey Publications Director Dave Comerford Media Director Beth Camplain Art Director

CONTRIBUTORS Toby Trimmer IFT Director of Political Activities


?

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND

E-mail comments and suggestions to us at UnionLink@ift-aft.org, or send letters to Union Link, P.O. Box 390, Westmont, IL 60559. Please include your full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

EXCLUSIVELY AT

ift-aft.org IFT Voices Be a part of the conversation! IFT Voices is a way for IFT members to share opinions on various topics.

UNION MAKES COMMUNITY OUTREACH A TOP PRIORITY continued from cover

rary crisis, AFT has also been working with several pilot states to actively focus on engaging local unions and their communities for the long term. Here in Illinois, the IFT is taking a bold, creative approach to reaching out to local communities to educate them about what the union stands for – providing highquality education for every child and highquality services for every citizen. Towards that end, in early 2010 the IFT introduced Illinois Kids First, a public Web site that explains the union’s beliefs and goals. Recently, IKF has been expanded to serve as a parent information portal. The site, www.illinoiskidsfirst.org, provides helpful articles, tips and resources for parents on topics ranging from helping children with homework to communicating effectively with teachers to cyber safety

and more. IFT-sponsored and developed, Illinois Kids First demonstrates that the welfare of children is the union’s greatest concern. Coming in 2012, the IFT will also be introducing an exciting new “Ultimate Makeover” initiative designed to benefit Illinois communities statewide. Under the direction of the IFT, the project will bring together labor organizations, community members, local businesses and others to provide resources and support and make needed improvements to schools and other community facilities that serve students and adults. Watch the IFT Web site and future issues of Union Link for details on this community outreach campaign in the weeks ahead.

BeActive How does your local or council engage the community and build public support? Let us know at communications@ift-aft.org.

Members are encouraged to respond online at: ift-aft.org/iftvoices

Member Benefits Your union provides you with support at your workplace, but it also offers you and your family money savings on high-quality consumer benefits and services. The IFT and the AFT have developed programs that offer a wide variety of cost-saving options. ift-aft.org/benefits

“Like” Us Stay up-to-date on union activities by connecting with IFT on Facebook. Click the blue Facebook icon under “Connect With Us” on the right side of the IFT home page, or find us on Facebook by visiting: facebook.com/iftaft

U N I O N L I N K | D E C E M B E R 2 011/JANUARY 2012

3


Brace

Yourself

For a Rough Road Ahead Toby Trimmer is director of political activities for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

NO ONE NEEDS TO BE REMINDED THAT 2011 WAS A TOUGH YEAR IN SPRINGFIELD, WASHINGTON, D.C. AND IN STATES AROUND THE NATION. Though I’d like to report that the worst is behind us, there are likely many bumps in the road ahead. In 2012, Illinois workers will undoubtedly face increased pressure from Springfield politicians who want to whittle away at modest pension benefits. Some newspaper editorial boards will continue to enable these efforts through the drumbeat of halftruths and the false, but repetitive, message that pensions are too generous and far too costly to taxpayers. Behind the closed doors of corporate board rooms, plans will be made to continue the well-financed campaign against retirement security that has been earned and paid for by every educator and public employee in Illinois. It’s also likely that well-funded anti-teacher think tanks will double-up their push on lawmakers to add new, radical “reforms” to the state’s school code. This just months after the IFT and our public education 4

UNION LINK | DECEMBE R 2 0 1 1 / J A N U A RY 2 0 1 2

advocacy partners helped craft the most comprehensive school code overhaul in state history in Senate Bill 7. Proposals aimed at enacting performancebased salary schemes in higher education could crop up as well (see related story, on cover). These misplaced initiatives stand to handicap Illinois’ ability to attract and retain expert faculty in today’s highly competitive environment. Taking the lessons learned from the intense negotiations over K-12 reforms, there are those in the statehouse who simply can’t wait to take on our university professionals. You can also bet that, right now, budget axes are being sharpened to prepare to cut more vital public services. A number of legislators are ready to further reduce the state workforce even though Illinois is the nation’s leader in efficiency, maintaining the lowest number of state employees per capita. Cuts to core services will hit low-income children hard and add more pressures to the already challenged classroom teacher. With all that said, I’m convinced that here in Illinois, we’re lucky. We’ve seen what is possible from observing events in other states. We have a good sense about what may lie ahead. And we know how critical it is to develop a strong, coherent strategy to counter attacks at

the state capitol, the negotiating table and within our communities. As 2012 begins, it’s an honor to rejoin the IFT as the director of political activities. Our union’s skilled legislative and political team is ready for an intense, exciting year. There’s much at stake in Springfield and Washington, D.C. for our members and all workers. With a critical national election less than a year away, we must prepare to be active participants in our national democracy. The IFT will certainly be asking for your help in the days ahead. It’s true that there are significant challenges ahead of us here in Illinois. But we are the IFT. We don’t back down from attacks on our collective bargaining rights, our retirement security or our professional dignity. In 2012, we will have to fight a little harder and a little smarter. But the 103,000 educated, motivated and activated members of the IFT are a tough act to beat. Knowing that, it’s hard not to feel a little lucky.


IFT PAC Process

Voice, Puts Candidates Gives Members a

Under the Microscope NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT TO THE IFT THAN ADVOCATING FOR MEMBERS. A critical way the union does that is by working to elect legislators in Springfield and Washington, D.C. who are dedicated to standing up for the best interests of IFT members and all working families. With the March 20, 2012 Primary Election just around the corner, the IFT is working to determine which candidates merit the union’s support. That is why the union has worked diligently over many years to develop and refine a Political Action Committee (PAC) process that involves members at every level of the union. Throughout January, IFT members in 18 regional PACs representing all areas of the state will convene to review candidates and conduct personal interviews. The PACs will determine where candidates stand on

the issues important to IFT members and whether or not they deserve the union’s endorsement. PAC members will use voting records, position papers, questionnaires submitted by candidates and incumbents, and other information before making recommendations to endorse candidates in their local areas. A 75 percent or better voting record on IFT issues is the standard threshold for endorsement. After regional endorsements are decided, the statewide PAC will meet on January 21 to finalize a list of statewide endorsements for the IFT Executive Board to consider for approval.

StayInformed Visit the IFT Web site for the schedule of regional PAC meetings. Final endorsements for the Primary Election will be available on the IFT Web site in late January.

Take Advantage of Convenient Early Voting Illinois voters can cast a ballot prior to Primary Election Day without having to provide a reason or an excuse for wanting to vote early. The early voting period for the March 20, 2012 Primary Election is from Monday, February 27 through Thursday, March 15. Early voting sites will be announced prior to the start of the early voting period. In most cases, the early voting site will not be your Election Day polling place.

Visit the Illinois State Board of Elections Web site at www.elections.il.gov to find the early voting site in your area and to learn more about the requirements of early voting. Absentee voting laws remain in place. For example, if you are physically incapacitated or will be out of the county where you normally vote on Primary Election Day, you may still cast an absentee vote by mail by providing a reason, as required by law. U N I O N L I N K | D E C E M B E R 2 0 11/JANUARY 2012

5


PERFORMANCE-BASED FUNDING RAISES CONCERNS continued from cover

tem of performance-based funding for the state’s higher education institutions. Performance-based funding (PBF) will be implemented in January 2013. Under PBF, the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) will make budget recommendations to the governor and General Assembly about allocating funding to the state’s higher education institutions based upon performance metrics that assess student success in degree and certificate completion. Institutions that meet the criteria established under the system will be rewarded with funding. Similar systems have been in place in several other states for many years, with varying degrees of success. The union continues to participate in the ongoing discussions about implementing a PBF system in Illinois.

Higher Education for Public Employee Conference IFT Continues Fight

Privacy

Addresses

Key Topics

Members representing higher education faculty and staff from locals and councils statewide gathered at the annual IFT Higher Education Conference in Oak Brook on November 18-19. Pensions and performance-based funding topped the busy agenda. IFT President Dan Montgomery kick-started the two-day event during an opening dinner and reception. He discussed the union’s efforts to protect pensions in 2011, including the importance of the IFT’s involvement with the We Are One Illinois coalition, and looked at the challenges expected in 6

UNION LINK | DECEMBE R 2 0 1 1 / J A N U A RY 2 0 1 2

Dr. Tim Harrington, a member of the University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100, and associate professor at Chicago State University, is a member of the steering committee charged with providing recommendations to the governor about developing the system. The committee - comprised of the union, faculty members, college presidents, state agency representatives and others - has been working collaboratively since July to try to develop recommendations. Harrington says the steering committee has concerns about aspects of PBF, particularly the lack of state funding provided for the mandate. Currently, the law provides for 1 to 2 percent of each institution’s budget to be set aside as a pool for PBF funding incentives. When an institution meets the established metrics, they will be “rewarded” with the return of a portion of their original budget. If the metrics aren’t met,

the funds will not be returned, and the institution will essentially be penalized. For institutions that already suffer from 30 years of state underfunding, PBF could be detrimental, Harrington said. “If we now start taking the money from each institution to fund this mandate, then we’re going down the same path we’ve always gone down, which is asking the institutions to do more and more with less and less.” The IFT has submitted written comments to the IBHE detailing the union’s concerns about lack of funding and other aspects of the law. Harrington is hopeful that the input of the committee, IFT and other groups will encourage lawmakers to provide funding for the program. “In the end, the greatest concern is that we preserve high-quality education at our institutions for the students they serve,” Harrington said.

2012. Montgomery also thanked the members for their outstanding lobbying in the fight against attacks on pensions and collective bargaining. “The IFT has always been able to count on your efforts,” he said. “In the days ahead, I ask for your continued support as we keep up the fight for our rights and those of all workers.” Conference business was completed at the IFT headquarters in Westmont on the second day. Subcommittee meetings were conducted to discuss the unique needs and challenges facing higher education members in various settings, including community colleges, universities and the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO). The first-ever joint meeting of all three groups concluded the event. IFT Legislative Director Nick Yelverton provided a detailed overview of the pension

s IFT President Dan Montgomery (left) talks about issues facing graduate employees with members of the UIC Graduate Employees Organization, Local 6297.

crisis, followed by a question and answer session. Other topics addressed included the status of performancebased funding (see related article, on cover) and ways higher education locals can help communicate the IFT’s positions to the media and the public.


Photo courtesy of American Teacher

Comment on Changes to Teacher and Principal Evaluations by January 17 The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently released for public comment the proposed rules for Part 50, the Evaluation of Certified Employees under Articles 24A and 34 of the Illinois School Code. Under the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) of 2010, districts are required to develop new performance evaluation systems for teachers and principals that include both measures of practice and assessment data on student growth.

New Documentary Tells the REAL Story About Teaching A film released last fall is providing a muchneeded look at the truth about challenges facing educators and the U.S. education system. American Teacher, a full-length documentary narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, writer and director Matt Damon, seeks to counteract all-too-common negative misconceptions about teachers and education. The film tells the moving personal stories of four K-12 public school teachers living and working in disparate urban and rural areas. Through a mixture of footage and interviews with these professionals, their students, families and colleagues, American Teacher tells the true story of the teaching profession in America. From low salaries to high teacher turnover rates to lack of resources and professional support, the film addresses the greatest challenges teachers face in classrooms every day. The film serves as an effective antidote to last year’s highly publicized Waiting for Superman documentary, which presented an inaccurate, incomplete picture of educators and public schools. American Teacher is part of the nonprofit Teacher Salary Project and based on the book “Teachers Have it Easy:

The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers,” written by journalist and teacher Daniel Moulthrop. American Teacher was released in limited markets in 2011 but is now showing nationwide. The union and many IFT locals and councils are working to arrange regional screenings of the documentary in the weeks ahead.

For more information about the film and upcoming screenings, visit the Teacher Salary Project at theteachersalaryproject.org/screening, or contact the IFT department of communications at communications@ift-aft.org about future union screenings or for help arranging one in your area.

The IFT and Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, are represented on the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC), the appointed group of 32 teachers, administrators, stakeholders and union leaders charged with making recommendations on the proposed Part 50 Rules to ISBE. IFT and CTU members have participated in PEAC meetings since early 2011 and continue to look out for the best interests of teachers and students as discussions continue about proposed changes to evaluation systems. Public forums and an online survey were conducted statewide in the fall to gather teacher, administrator and parent input on possible changes, as well. Though the IFT believes many of the proposed changes will have a positive impact, the union remains concerned about multiple aspects of the proposed rules and how they will affect teachers and students. The IFT has testified about these concerns in open meetings and has detailed them in written comments to ISBE. Please make your voice heard, too. The IFT strongly encourages members to respond during the public comment period, which extends through January 17, 2012. Please review the proposed Part 50 changes on the ISBE Web site at isbe. net/rules/proposed (scroll down to Part 50 Rules). Then submit your opinions via e-mail at rules@isbe.net or postal mail (send to: Shelley Helton, Agency Rules Coordinator, ISBE, 100 North First Street S-493, Springfield, Illinois 62777-0001).

U N I O N L I N K | D E C E M B E R 2 011/JANUARY 2012

7


Non-Profit

ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS

U.S. POSTAGE

UPCOMING

Illinois Federation of Teachers P.O. Box 390 Westmont, IL 60559

EVENTS

UNION LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE Winter Session February 4-5, 2012 IFT Robert M. Healey Center • Westmont, IL

PAID

Permit no. 40 OAK BROOK, IL

Spring Session April 28-29, 2012 IFT Robert M. Healey Center • Westmont, IL

For a full listing of upcoming IFT events, visit ift-aft.org/eventscalendar

l nk UNION

IFTV ICES How does your local or council engage the community and build public support?

CONNECTING YOU TO YOUR UNION, BECAUSE TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.

Speak Up! Visit ift-aft.org/iftvoices today to respond to this and other questions.

Union Link Dec. 2011 - Jan. 2012  

The December/January issue of the Illinois Federation of Teachers newsletter, Union Link.