Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Is the Illinois education reform package strong enough?

Education reformers breathlessly announced a new deal in Illinois that received sign off from both politicians and the state’s biggest teachers unions. What does this bill do?

  • It changes how teachers receive tenure. Instead of simply receiving tenure after several yearsĀ of service, teachers can now get tenure by receiving “excellent” ratings for three years in a row, or by receiving satisfactory evaluations for four years.
  • Requires a strike in Chicago to be approved by 75% of members instead of a simple majority.
  • Requiring that layoffs be decided by teacher quality instead of length of service. Length of service will still serve as a tiebreaker.

And…that’s it.

Now, let’s be clear: This is better than the situation Illinois schools were faced with before. The elimination of “last in, first out” layoff procedures in particular is a great thing. There also appears to be a provision that might allow state superintendents to revoke the teachers license of any teacher who receives two unsatisfactory evaluations in a seven year period (we’ll see if that makes it into the final language of the bill).

But Chicago teachers will still be allowed to go on strike if, say, the city pushes for longer days. And teachers will still be able to get tenure in an amount of time that is only modestly longer than they could previously. Tenure will remain a problem, one that wraps school systems up in endless streams of red tape if they want to get rid of an incompetent educator.

Is this really good enough?

Photo via Flickr user mammal.

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