Peoria teachersOur union’s influence and leadership extends well beyond the city limits. In Arizona, former CTU member Rebecca Garelli is a leader in that state’s struggle by teachers for better pay and more classroom resources. Our union has extended solidarity and support to states as far-flung as West Virginia and Oklahoma. And right here in Peoria, Illinois, teachers have picked up our battle against the resource drain produced by the proliferation of tax increment financing districts – TIFs – to tackle their public schools’ resource shortages, just as we’ve been battling TIFs’ use as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s personal slush find here in the city.

This week, the Peoria Federation of Teachers — the PFT, which has been working closely with our ally, the Grassroots Collaborative — took a page out of the CTU’s playbook won support from their school district that could put hundreds of thousands of dollars in TIF funds back into their schools.

On Monday, April 23, Peoria teachers held an informational picket at their school board meeting as part of their contract campaign.  They built for the picket by developing a Contract Action Team that held ten-minute meetings in worksites to mobilize members for the action – an effort that helped make Monday’s action the biggest rally the PFT has held in years, with hundreds of members turning out.

The PFT has embraced the CTU’s longstanding opposition to the abuse of TIFs – including the practice of steering TIF resources away from vital civic needs like public education. They’ve borrowed from our longstanding analysis – and criticism – of TIFs in Chicago to successfully raise the issue in Peoria – where through pressure from the PFT, the Peoria School Board passed a resolution on Monday that builds support to dissolve a TIF district and put those funds instead back into the resource stream for public schools.

Teachers carried signs at Monday’s action that included the slogans “We are MORE than a test score!” – sound familiar? – “What a difference a union makes!”  and “You can’t put students first if you put teachers last!” And their school board, which is elected by the people of Peoria, heard them loud and clear.

The resolution that Peoria school board members unanimously adopted on Monday asks the Peoria City Council to abandon the long-delayed River Trail Apartment development proposal and end the Northside Riverfront TIF district, which was set to expire this year. The move could help channel an additional $300,000 in property tax revenues to the under-resourced school district.

Check out this story – PPS teachers rally before board meeting – as well as this powerful op ed from the Peoria Journal Star: Editorial: You go, Peoria schools, in standing up to city’s economic development gambles

Rank and file CTU members work tirelessly in our public schools – and advocate fearlessly for policies that will put resources into our classrooms and our students’ needs. That advocacy has helped ignite a fire across the nation, and is building solidarity and critically needed policy changes here in our home state, as well.