Our success in Springfield depends on you — call your legislators today

Banners at a march: Fund neighborhood schools and Elected Representative School Board

Our fight for the schools Chicago’s students deserve happens on many fronts. It’s fought in our schools, in our neighborhoods, and in the halls of power. The Illinois General Assembly’s spring session is in full swing and CTU is advocating for what our schools need. Our goal is to build on our recent victories and to pass legislation that makes concrete improvements in school governance and oversight and that allows us to be more effective in our work.

Here’s a summary of some of the bills we’ve been pushing hard for this session:

CTU Bargaining Rights Bill: HB 2275

The governor signed this bill In early April, just as the Union was embroiled in a tough fight over high school reopening. The new law restores full the bargaining rights that had been stripped from the CTU — and only CTU — 25 years ago.

Elected Representative School Board: SB 2497/HB 2908

CTU and its parent and community allies continue pushing to create an elected representative school board for Chicago. On the campaign trail, Mayor Lightfoot claimed to support a fully elected school board. Yet she has worked twice to kill the bill in the state senate. HB  2908 (Rep. Delia Ramirez and Rep. Kam Buckner, chief sponsors) passed out of the state house in April. SB 2497 (Sen. Rob Martwick and Sen. Omar Aquino, chief sponsors) passed out of a key committee the same week. Both bills are now on the senate floor.

Charter Legislation: SB 577, HB 114

We continue to see a wave of charter operators that are not only bad actors but continue to stonewall charter educators’ legal right to form unions. To counter this resistance, CTU is pushing a requirement that any charter school’s initial application or renewal application include a neutrality agreement. Such an agreement would bind the charter operator not to intervene in a union effort if educators choose to unionize. SB 577 (Sen. Celina Villanueva, chief sponsor) and HB 114 (Rep. Will Guzzardi, chief sponsor) would provide protections to our charter colleagues looking to unionize. Both bills have cleared committee.

Pensions for all CTU members: SB 2903

While our Union has been successful in defending our retirement security, some of our fellow CTU members — our members at contract schools — have not even been eligible. Even though they are fully licensed educators, they are not members of any defined benefit pension plan. SB 2093 (Sen. Rob Martwick, chief sponsor) fixes that problem by including them in provisions for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The bill passed the Senate 34-18 on Wednesday.

HB 18: Teacher evaluation

Finally, with our statewide union the Illinois Federation of Teachers, CTU is advancing a bill that would reduce burdensome educator evaluations for those rated proficient or excellent. HB 18 (Rep. Sue Scherer, chief sponsor) recognizes the skill and effectiveness of educators across the state and extends the tenured educator evaluation cycle to three years from two years. HB 18 has already passed out of the state house and is in a senate committee.

Reach out to legislators

The best way to ensure the success of our legislative agenda is to know your state senator and your state representative and for them to know you. If you don’t know your elected officials, find their names here. Reach out to them on a regular basis. Identify yourself as a constituent and a voter and ask them to support these bills.

Kurt Hilgendorf is CTU policy and legislative director.