Photo of the Illinois Capitol building with statue of Abe Lincoln in front.

Why should Chicago educators be barred from bargaining and striking over issues like class size and staffing, rights given to every other unionized teacher in the state?

They shouldn’t, say state Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin and state Senator Bill Cunningham who are sponsoring bills to restore full bargaining rights to the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

The legislation, HB 2275 and SB 1732, would repeal Section 4.5 of the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act (IELRA) which prohibits CTU—and only CTU—from bargaining over issues that affect teaching and learning conditions in our schools.

The law, passed in 1995 at the only time in the last 40 years that Republicans had total control over state government, was a doozy. Illinois legislators gave Chicago’s mayor (Richard M. Daley, who cut a deal with the Republicans) total control of schools, effectively silenced the voices of Chicago educators and school employees, eliminated CPS contributions to the teachers’ pension fund, and dramatically weakened school employees’ power at the bargaining table.

Repealing the law is a cornerstone of the CTU’s legislative agenda this year. At press time, the measure had passed in the Illinois House and was awaiting action in the state senate.

Other measures the CTU’s legislative team is advancing include:

HB2267/SB1587 to create an Elected Representative School Board (ERSB) for Chicago. Sponsors: Rep. Rob Martwick, Sens. Omar Aquino/Mattie Hunter.

HB278/SB197 to require more accountability over charter management organizations and fees, a big issue in the recent Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) strike. Sponsors: Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Sen. Jacqueline Collins.

HB279 to impose a moratorium on new charters for “financially distressed” school districts like Chicago. Sponsor: Rep. Will Guzzardi.

HB334/SB188 to require all Chicago public schools—charters, contracts and schools on probation—to have fully functioning and empowered Local School Councils (LSCs). It also would ban school actions, like closings and turnarounds, unless approved by the LSC. Sponsors: Reps Sonya Harper/Elizabeth Hernandez, Sens. Omar Aquino/Ram Villivalam.

HB3586 to increase transparency and information for special education parents in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process. Sponsor: Reps. Fred Crespo/Rob Martwick.