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Senate Bill 7 could change state education landscape
Posted By Jim Hagerty On April 14, 2011 @ 2:41 pm In Happening Now | No Comments
Online Staff Report
SPRINGFIELD – Historic education improvements that would have been considered impossible just one year ago are on the horizon in Illinois, lawmakers said Wednesday.
April 13, state Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-4) introduced Senate Bill 7 (SB 7), a comprehensive education improvement package, after nearly three months of negotiations between Advance Illinois and Stand for Children, teachers unions and school management groups under her direction.
The bill aims to build on and complements the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) passed last year, which establishes performance measurements based on multiple criteria, including student growth.
Major educational enhancements outlined in the bill include:
• Ensuring tenure decisions will be based on performance evaluations by requiring teachers to earn two proficient or excellent ratings in years two through four of the probationary period, with a proficient or excellent rating in the fourth year. No longer will teachers automatically receive tenure after four years in the classroom regardless of performance.
• Providing fair and efficient dismissals of tenured teachers by streamlining the dismissal process of tenured teachers in situations related to conduct and performance dismissal decisions.
Making performance count, rather than seniority
• Allowing districts across the state to make layoff decisions based on performance before seniority. Districts would have the authority to match teachersʼ qualifications to the positions they will hold and ensures that teachers
with poor performance evaluations are laid-off prior to more effective teachers.
•Currently seniority is used as the primary criterion for filling new and vacant positions across the state (with the exception of Chicago Public Schools, which already fills positions based on merit and ability). Under SB 7 school districts will now be allowed to fill positions based on certifications, qualifications,
performance, merit, ability and relevant experience with seniority only used as a tie-breaker.
•If a teacher receives two unsatisfactory ratings within a seven-year period, the State Superintendent will have the authority to revoke a certificate or require professional development.
Improving Learning Conditions
•A survey of learning conditions will be administered to teachers and students every two years beginning in 2012-2013.
•School board members will be required to complete four hours of training.
“Leaders from school management, labor unions and school reform groups came together in a heartening way to tackle some longstanding challenges and worked for over three months to reach agreement on SB 7,” said Robin Steans, executive director of Advance Illinois. “The changes set forth in the
bill represent a sea of change in areas long overdue for reform, and the big winners are our school children.”
This legislation is the first step toward building a stronger education system throughout Illinois, and has found consensus and support from the Chicago Teachers Union, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association, as well as various school management organizations.
Unlike what is occurring in our neighboring states, Illinois has come together in an unparalleled way to focus on what is best for students.
Not only will historic and important performance measures outlined in the bill be implemented if passed, but this legislation will also set the stage to extend the school day in Illinoisʼ major urban district – Chicago Public Schools.
The Chicago school day is the shortest in the country – students receive about 1,000 hours of school per school year, where as students in New York City attend school for approximately 1,270 hours a year, which means New York students receive about 41 more days of instructional learning time than
students in Chicago.
By the time a Houston public schools student graduates, he or she will have received nearly three years more instructional time than in Chicago. Under SB 7, the length of school day and year would become a permissive (non-mandatory) subject of bargaining in Chicago, allowing the Board to work toward its goal of one hour more per day and two weeks more per year.
Also in Chicago, the threat of strike will be drastically reduced by implementing a fact-finding process. Through this proposal the Board of Education or Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) could opt into a 90-day fact-finding period, after which the union would be required to wait 30 days before a strike could occur, and secure a three-fourths majority vote by CTU membership (note: ¾ of the entire bargaining unit as opposed to three quarters of those voting) in order to authorize a strike.
“Chicago Public Schools has one of the shortest school days and years of any major urban school district in the nation,” said Jonah Edelman, chief executive officer of Stand for Children. “The unconscionably short day and year – which results in Chicago students getting three years less schooling in their K-12 careers than students in Houston — robs Chicago students of critical
instructional time and the rich curriculum they deserve.
“It also hurts teachers, and weʼve heard over and over from Chicago teachers that they want more time to help students learn. We’re very hopeful that Mayor-elect Emanuel will use the tools provided in Senate Bill 7 to immediately provide students with an hour longer school day and two week longer school year and we stand ready to support him in this critical endeavor.”
Statewide, SB 7 puts safeguards in place to reduce the likelihood of strikes across the state and make the collective bargaining process more transparent.
Under this legislation, teachers will be allowed to strike only after an independent fact-finding panel deliberates and each party makes public its final offer seven days after impasse is declared.
President of the Illinois Business Round Table and Quincy, Ill. school board member, Jeff Mays, supports SB 7.
“Not only will this legislation help build a 21st century workforce, but as a school board member in Quincy, I welcome the open and transparent negotiation process this legislation will create,” Mays said. “This process will help keep our students in the classroom while teachers and administrators work together to agree on a contract.”
“The changes to Illinoisʼ education system outlined in Senate Bill 7 will put Illinois at the head of the class nationally, and set a standard for other states to follow,” Edelman said. “I encourage the Senate and House to not delay and pass this important legislation immediately.
“Stand for Children is thrilled that these transformational changes were achieved in a civil and respectful manner. We will continue to work collaboratively with teachers unions, management groups and education advocacy organizations into the future to ensure ongoing improvements to the education system.”
Please visit www.performancecounts.org  to learn more about the Performance Counts and Senate Bill 7.
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