l nk UNION
Connecting you to your union, because together we are stronger. FEBRUARY 2011
suggested by corporate-funded special interest groups and their millionaire CEOs place the responsibility for student success squarely on teachers. But “Accountability for All” recognizes with the Illinois Education Association that school board members and adminand Chicago Teachers Union, Local istrators play a critical role in education 1, to develop and must also a package of be held accountable. IFT Promotes research-based education reforms “We believe the in Illinois Education that come from reforms in the experts who “Accountability for know best what works in the All” are fair and rigorous and will classroom – teachers. make a difference in children’s education,” said IFT President Dan The “Accountability for All” plan Montgomery. “This legislation includes measures to increase student provides accountability and support achievement and enhance teacher for all of the adults involved with effectiveness. The so-called reforms our schools.”
In answer to the recent vicious attacks on teachers and unions under the guise of education “reform,” the IFT has collaborated
Tax Increase Necessary, But Not Easy WE ALL KNOW THAT THE TOUGHEST CHOICES WE FACE
in life are usually the most important ones to make. That was certainly true in January when the Illinois General Assembly passed - and the governor signed - legislation to increase the state’s income tax from 3 to 5 percent. Although a difficult course of action to take, 60 House members and 30 senators cast brave “yes” votes for the legislation because it was CONTINUED ON PAGE 3
Accountability for All
CONTINUED ON PAGE 4
College Insurance Program discussions continue
IFT’s newest political action program
Council celebrates victory on PSRP Day
OUR PATH FORWARD
Real Reform Requires Bold Ideas Daniel J. Montgomery President
The only force that can overcome an idea and a faith is another better idea and faith, positively and fearlessly upheld. Dorothy Thompson, “first lady” of American journalism
Do you little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. Bishop Desmond Tutu, South African activist, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner
The events of the past month or so in Springfield demonstrate the wisdom of the quotes above. When the IFT was faced with unprecedented attacks on teaching and schools by Oregon-based special interest group Stand for Children, Advance Illinois, the Illinois Business Roundtable and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, we had to respond. As educators and unionists, we knew that their ideas were bad for children and schools. Removing the license of a teacher who receives two poor evaluations when you cannot ensure the accuracy or fairness of the evaluation is a bad idea. Laying off teachers without regard for their number of years of effective performance is a bad idea. Preventing teachers from bargaining collectively on issues like class size, course assignments and length of school day is a bad idea. Teachers and school employees regularly put their livelihoods on the line during bargaining for the sake of creating excellent schools for students. The so-called “reform” agenda advocated by Stand for Children and other corporate-funded special interest groups was a poorly conceived and dangerous plan that would do nothing to improve education for students. Its true intent was simple; to blame and punish teachers for the perceived ills of public education.
tenure and seniority. But to succeed in advocating for kids, schools and our professions, we must do more than oppose others’ proposals. We must offer our own solutions. So in January the IFT, Chicago Teachers Union and the Illinois Education Association collaborated to develop a meaningful set of education reform proposals. Our plan, “Accountability for All,” contains ideas that teachers can embrace and that have been shown to help create better schools. “Accountability for All” proposes that seniority play an important role in procedures like layoffs and recall rights, but that performance evaluations, as long as they are proven to be fair and accurate, are relevant, too. Because it is a complex issue, we propose that seniority should be locally collectively bargained. “Accountability for All” also proposes some changes to how teachers attain tenure, ensuring that it is a significant milestone earned after very good performance reviews. These are forward-thinking reforms proposed by the three unions. Not every one of our members may like them, and I understand. But I ask each of you to consider them thoughtfully in the context of the current state of American education, policy realities and public perception. Going forward, we believe these ideas will help create better schools and strengthen our profession.
For too long, unions have been quick to say “no” to bad proposals (rightfully so), but have often been slow to offer up our own ideas, “Accountability for All” ensures that everyespecially in complex and difficult areas like one – not just teachers – is held accountable 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.
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Daniel J. Montgomery President Chief Operating Officer Karen GJ Lewis Executive Vice President Marcia K. Boone Secretary-Treasurer
for their performance on behalf of kids and receives the support needed to do their best as professionals. The plan calls for better evaluation systems and training for administrators and schools boards, state funding for quality teacher induction and mentoring programs, a best practices clearinghouse, a truly useful school learning conditions survey that principals will have to acknowledge, and a Student Bill of Rights. These ideas are bold, genuine reform proposals aimed at improving the lives of students and teachers. By working together to successfully fight off the recent attacks in Springfield, as IFT members we demonstrated the strength of our union and the power of solidarity. Our collective action exemplified the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, who said that, when combined, the small actions of many have a tremendous impact. Nearly 15,000 members participated in the IFT’s first-ever Virtual Telephone Town Hall, sent 50,000 e-mails to legislators, made countless phone calls and lobbied legislators in their offices. YOU. As IFT members, YOU did that all. As I said in an e-mail to all of you, I have never been more proud of our union for your involvement and solidarity. Together, our actions and our ideas make us the strongest force for positive educational change in Illinois. The fight is not over, as so-called reformers will continue this spring to pursue their agenda with vigor and huge war chests from rich donors with anti-union, anti-public school and anti-worker agendas. We will continue to succeed only if we continue to offer up solutions to the problems facing our schools. On behalf of all IFT members and the children and communities we serve, I thank you for what you have done and what I know you will do in the days ahead. Amy Excell Publications Director Dave Comerford Media Director Beth Camplain Art Director
TAX INCREASE NECESSARY, BUT NOT EASY, continued
WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND
E-mail comments and suggestions to us at firstname.lastname@example.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.
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Legislative Update Stay up-to-date on with the latest information on current legislation effecting IFT members. Check back daily as this section will be updated regularly during session.
the only legitimate option remaining to save our students and neediest citizens from devastating cuts and our state from economic collapse. The state’s $15 billion deficit – 50 percent of Illinois’ total budget – was not created by simple overspending. It developed over decades due to structural problems built into the state’s revenue system. Illinois has long been one of the lowest taxing states in the nation. Though we have the fifth largest population, state spending ranks near the bottom of all states. That math doesn’t add up. It is impossible to consistently spend less to provide essential services to our state’s students and neediest citizens as the cost of those services goes up every year. To simply “cut” our way out of this long-brewing financial storm, the state would have been forced to slash the budget in half. Imagine the impact such a loss would have to more than 12 million Illinois school children and citizens. The 2 percent income tax increase, combined with an increase in Illinois’ corporate tax rate from 4.8 to 7 percent, will avoid that dire situation and put our state back on a sound fiscal path. It will generate the revenue needed to
pay school districts statewide the $8 billion the state owes them, as well as to pay the year-old backlog of bills from health care and human service providers and vendors that do business with the state. With the additional revenue, the state will be able to eliminate its deficit in the next four years. All of this will be accomplished while our income tax and corporate tax rates remain lower than many neighboring states. Missouri (6%), Kentucky (6%), Iowa (6.48%) and Wisconsin (as high as 7.75%) have higher income tax rates than Illinois. Wisconsin (7.9%), Indiana (8.5%) and Iowa (12%) also have higher corporate tax rates than our state. The tax increases have a “sunset” provision, making them temporary. The full increase in the individual income tax will last four years, then drop to 4 percent; in 2025, the rate will drop to 3.5 percent. And the legislation guarantees that the state will be fiscally responsible in the future by placing an iron clad cap on spending growth. Although the tax legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Quinn comes at a time when many families continue to struggle with the effects of the national recession, it was critically necessary. Without it, the future of our state’s citizens and school children would have been in dire jeopardy.
IFT Voices Speak up and share opinions on various topics with other IFT members. ift-aft.org/iftvoices
News Clips Stay informed by reading daily news stories of interest from newspapers throughout Illinois and the U.S.
actioncenter With you help, we can build a powerful online activist network and move the union’s agenda forward while increasing our political clout. Visit IFT’s Action Center to participate in current action campaigns and contact your representatives on the issues that affect working families every day.
U N I O N L I N K | FEBR UARY 2011
Give Our Kids the Education They Deserve Visit us online to learn more about Illinois teachers making a difference and IFT’s legislative proposal “Accountability for All.”
www.illinoiskidsfirst.org | www.facebook.com/illinoiskidsfirst IFT PROMOTES “ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL” IN ILLINOIS EDUCATION, continued
The “Accountability for All” plan is comprehensive, but puts emphasis on requiring appropriate training and supports for all adults who are responsible for education. The plan proposes: • All school districts provide high quality, consistent, job-embedded professional development for teachers. • All school board members receive training on education, labor law, finances and other topics related to their roles as elected school officials. • New teacher induction and mentoring programs that include rigorous training for mentors and focused feedback for new teachers. • Creation of an online Best Practice Clearinghouse to share detailed information amongst Illinois’ 869 school districts about successful practices being used in high performing, high efficiency districts and schools. Everyone agrees that every child deserves a high quality teacher in the 4
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classroom. To that end, “Accountability for All” calls for teacher performance evaluations to be a factor in: • Obtaining tenure, or due process rights. • Determining who is released in the event of financially necessary layoffs in a district. • Hiring and filling vacancies. These evaluation-related proposals would not take effect, however, until the Illinois Performance Evaluation and Review Act (PERA) is fully implemented statewide and its effectiveness has been established. This would ensure that only fair and accurate evaluation data is used to make critical decisions about tenure and employment. “Accountability for All” would significantly streamline the dismissal process for tenured teachers, as well. This provision of the plan would allow the process to be resolved faster, force the parties to more realistically assess and present their cases and reduce down on the costs of the dismissal process.
Principals and district level administrators – not just teachers would be evaluated and held to high performance standards under “Accountability for All.” District level administrators would be evaluated according to PERA standards, and principals would be required to earn a second credential based on successful performance after a minimum of two years in a district. A critical component of the plan would hold districts accountable for providing high quality education under a Student Bill of Rights. “Accountability for All” proposes that every district be required to ensure that every child has a qualified teacher in the classroom on the first day of each school year. Districts would also be required to provide a rich curriculum of art, music, history and foreign language, as well as to report how much time is spent on standardized testing. Visit ift-aft.org/qualityeducationreform to read the full summary of the “Accountability for All ” legislative package.
IFT Continues Fight Member Efforts
PublicVictories Employee Secure Privacy in Springfield for
THANKS LARGELY TO OVERWHELMING EFFORTS BY IFT MEMBERS, the 96th session of the Illinois General Assembly ended on
Dan Montgomery in a letter to IFT members last month. Make no mistake about it - YOU MADE THE DIFFERENCE.”
LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS What Passed • Abolishment of the death penalty • State income tax increase • Pension bonding
Nearly 15,000 IFT members statewide participated in the union’s first-ever virtual town hall phone meeting, then sent over 50,000 e-mails to legislators telling them to protect collective bargaining rights and educators’ voices
What Didn’t • Cigarette tax increase • Worker’s compensation reforms
“ In the face of the vicious attacks on teaching, unions and our most basic right to collectively bargain, you stayed informed, spoke out and made your voices heard.”
What Wasn’t Voted On • Education reforms • College Insurance Program • Gaming expansion • Constitutional amendments on state and local revenues and pension benefits
Dan Montgomery, IFT president
January 12 with the union winning key victories and beating back attacks on members’ rights. “In the face of the vicious attacks on teaching, unions and our most basic right to collectively bargain, you stayed informed, spoke out and made your voices heard,” said IFT President
to advocate for students. Those efforts were invaluable and kept the harmful proposals from being considered by the General Assembly.
The 97th General Assembly was sworn in on January 12. Old fights will be revisited and new ones undoubtedly lie ahead.
No Answer Yet
Your hard work - from letter writing to e-mails to one-on-one conversations - really pays off. Visit the IFT Action Center for a current listing of IFT legislative action campaigns. ift-aft.org/iftactioncenter
Insurance Plan Woes
IFT Will Continue Efforts in Spring Legislative Session
The 96th General Assembly came to a close last month without finding a solution to the dire financial situation facing the College Insurance Program (CIP), the health care plan for downstate Illinois community college retirees.
Throughout the legislative session, the IFT participated in numerous meetings with the Department of Health Care and Family Services (which manages CIP) and other stakeholders to discuss possible changes and ensure CIP remains a viable health care plan for retired IFT community college members.
line with the rate for the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP), the health care plan covering downstate retired teachers. Currently, CIP contribution rates are .5 percent of pay for active employees, employers and the state. TRIP rates are .88 percent and are scheduled to increase to .92 percent in July 2011. Changes being discussed include phasing in rate increases over the next two and a half years and establishing a medical inflation rate escalator that would cap future rate increases at 5 percent.
Among the changes originally considered is bringing the CIP contribution rate in
Also being considered are ways to allow members of the City Colleges of Chicago
CIP is currently more than 200 days late in paying health care providers. Payment delays of 365 days are projected in the upcoming fiscal year under the current plan. If that occurs, providers may drop out and CIP could face collapse.
to buy in to CIP. Currently, those retirees participate in a plan sponsored by the City Colleges of Chicago. The IFT will continue to work to seek an agreement on legislation to address the crisis that is in the best interests of our active and retired community college members.
Visit www.ift-aft.org and watch your e-mail for the most update information on CIP.
U N I O N L I N K | FEBR UARY 2011
Proceed with Caution
Diabetes Law IFT MEMBERS SHOULD BE AWARE THAT A LAW WHICH TOOK EFFECT JANUARY 1 could have serious safety consequences for diabetic students and school staff who volunteer to care for them. The Care of Students with Diabetes Act provides for a school employee to voluntarily receive training to become a “Delegated Care Aide,” entitling the
The IFT feels strongly that the care of students with serious health conditions should be entrusted to school nurses, medical professionals trained to provide critical healthcare services and licensed to administer prescription injections and other essential medication. Under the new law, a school staff member who volunteers to become Delegated Care Aide would receive minimal training before assisting with a diabetic student’s medical needs, including administering insulin injections. If improperly dosed or inadvertently given when not indicated, insulin injections can be harmful, and even result in death.
“ We hope our members will proceed with extreme caution in this matter, for the sake of their students and themselves.” Steve Preckwinkle, IFT director of political activities
employee to assist diabetic students with insulin or glucagon injections and other medically-related needs in the school setting. The IFT, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Association of School Nurses and other groups opposed the legislation last year due to serious concerns about the possible risks to students with diabetes, a life-threatening illness.
Local Action for Statewide Results
THE TREMENDOUS PARTICIPATION OF IFT MEMBERS STATEWIDE made all the difference last month in Springfield. Phone calls, e-mails and visits to legislators’ district offices helped stop harmful legislation and secure desperately needed revenue for schools and state services. Now the IFT’s newest political action program, Local Action for Statewide Results, or LASR, is poised to amplify 6
UNION LINK | FEBR UA RY 2 0 1 1
The IFT believes the administration of prescription medication by unlicensed school staff with no formal medical training is an unacceptable risk to the safety of diabetic students. Also of concern to the IFT is the liability of school staff who opt to become care aides. Although the Act includes language intended to limit the civil liability of Designated Care Aides, respected
the impact of member action and promote future legislative success. LASR is a member-driven, coordinated effort to build and strengthen connections between IFT members and legislators in their home districts. By establishing lasting relationships with lawmakers, members will create a formal line of communication with them on key IFT issues, helping educate them and encouraging them to support the IFT position. Under the program, IFT local unions will establish local LASR committees in select House and Senate districts
labor attorney Gil Feldman advised IFT that he has doubts about the language and recommended the union adopt a policy of discouraging members from becoming a Delegated Care Aide. “We want to make sure that diabetic children get the highest quality care in our schools,” noted IFT Director of Political Activities Steve Preckwinkle. “Unlicensed, essentially untrained volunteer teachers and school staff are not the ones best prepared to provide that. We hope our members will proceed with extreme caution in this matter, for the sake of their students and themselves.”
PROCEED WITH CAUTION IFT Recommendation The IFT recommends that any member who is considering volunteering to become a Delegated Care Aide under the Act consult his or her personal attorney prior to doing so.
Factsheet For more information on the Care of Students with Diabetes Act visit the legislative section of the IFT Web site. ift-aft.org/legislative/factsheets/96thgeneralassembly
statewide. Local LASR committee members will meet with legislators at least twice per year in their legislator’s district office and will have access to a special LASR section on the IFT Web site, a helpful one stop shop for resource materials, talking points and more.
Signup IFT members interested in participating in the LASR program should contact their local president or e-mail LASR@ift-aft.org. ift-aft.org/LASR
Member Helps Midwestern Students Develop Global Perspective Amy Sipovic, AFT Local 604
Social studies teacher Amy Sipovic is dedicated to teaching her students more than rote facts about the globe. She strives to help them develop a world view and the feeling of being a global citizen, not only a member of the community of Streator, Ill., population about 14,000. So after learning from her students about an organization called Soles4Souls, Amy, also the Key Club advisor, decided to spearhead a school project to encourage students and local residents to help less fortunate individuals around the world.
colleagues and dedicated students at the school had collected more than 5,600 pairs of shoes and more than $3,400 to donate to Soles4Souls. (Each dollar represents one pair of shoes that the organization can provide.)
Soles4Souls is a non-profit international organization that collects gently-used shoes to distribute to third-world countries in Africa, as well as to Costa Rica, Haiti and India. Often, Sipovic said, the recipient of shoes from Soles4Souls has never owned shoes before.
“I think our student’s got so much more out of this than I could have hoped for,” said Sipovic. “They came to develop a real spirit of community pride throughout this project.
Sipovic worked with student Key Club members throughout the summer to plan special events and fundraising activities in preparation for their donation drive, which kicked off in November, 2010. Though the drive lasted about four weeks, most of their events focused on two weeks in November, which they named “15 Days of Kindness.” Sipovic’s union colleagues got in on the act, too. Twelve of her fellow teachers and union members agreed to raise $100 each in one week. The union members also reached out to friends, family and businesses in the close -knit community. “They made contacts to secure resources to assist us with the shoe drive and increase the financial donations that we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise,” Sipovic explained. When the fundraising efforts ended in early December, Sipovic, her union
“But even better, I’m so proud that this effort really helped students realize how doing something as simple as giving away a pair of shoes can positively impact lives,” she said. “That is a lesson on being a good global citizen that can’t be taught in the classroom alone.” Visit ift-aft.org/aboutIFT/community to learn about other IFT members who are making a difference for the students or citizens they serve.
IFTV ICES Did you participate in IFT’s Member Town Hall? If so, please share your comments about the call. I did not get the opportunity to speak, but it was a joy for me to listen in. It is good to know that we have some fighters in the leadership of our union. I think we have the right strategy in making our voices heard, so let us all assemble and welcome Ms. Ravitch. And lets not forget our press releases; the media tends to be in somebody’s pocket. ~ Willie Williamson
Thanks for the tireless efforts of our leadership in IFT. It is reassuring to know that the Union is genuinely fighting for the rights of teachers in Illinois and across the country. Teachers and other professionals are under attack! Please keep us informed of future legislation that may impact our rights as teachers. ~ Kay
What a wonderful way to “rev” up all the members! ~ Evie Raffanti
Please read the union’s education reform legislation “Accountability for All ” and tell us what you think. ift-aft.org/qualityeducationreform
We want to hear from you. Visit ift-aft.org/iftvoices today where you can respond to this and other questions. U N I O N L I N K | FEBR UARY 2011
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Illinois Federation of Teachers P.O. Box 390 Westmont, IL 60559
Permit no. 40 OAK BROOK, IL
ULI CALENDAR MARCH
Quincy IFT/QFT office Topics not yet determined
MARCH Metro East IFT Fairview Heights office Workshops include: • Collective Bargaining in Touch Times • Treasurer/Financial Workshop • Training on Grievance Process • Care of Students with Diabetes
Visit ift-aft.org/professionaldevelopment for a complete list of all IFT professional development opportunities.
l nk WELCOME TO
CONNECTING YOU TO YOUR UNION, BECAUSE TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER. Union Link newsletter joins the IFT’s membership communications lineup of the newly redesigned IFT Web site, the “Inside IFT” bimonthly electronic update and the union’s Facebook page as another tool to keep you educated and energized about your union.
The February issue of the IFT's newsletter, Union Link.