Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign to eliminate the public school employees ability to advocate for students and schools took a serious turn with Friday’s introduction of legislation aimed at limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers and education support professionals.
While the most unpopular item in the governor’s “Turnaround Agenda,” creating so-called “right to work” zones, is not among the five pieces of legislation Rauner presented in bill form, two other items would have a significant negative impact on teaching and learning conditions in schools statewide.
One of Rauner’s bills would freeze property taxes at 2015 levels for all local units of government, including home rule communities such as Chicago.
Also included in that bill (HB4224) is language allowing local governments to determine what terms of employment should be covered under collective bargaining, and allowing them to choose whether to pay prevailing union wages.
From the bill:
(HB4424) Prohibits public employees and labor organizations from collectively bargaining on certain specified matters. Provides that governing authorities of counties, municipalities, and units of local government, including school districts, may by ordinance or resolution prohibit those activities from collective bargaining. Allows the registered voters of counties, municipalities, and units of local government to petition to have the question of whether those activities should be prohibited from collective bargaining certified and presented to the election authority. Makes similar changes in the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.
The Illinois House in the last few days dealt with these issues when a “right to work” bill and a bill to freeze property taxes were overwhelmingly rejected (no “yes”) votes when they were proposed by the leader of the House Democrats, Speaker Michael Madigan. It remains to be seen whether the governor’s bills will be allowed out of committee for a floor vote.
Just a few years ago, Wisconsin elected an anti-union, anti-middle class governor who immediately moved to gut collective bargaining rights, resulting in a decline in education funding. As this video shows, the loss of a voice also resulted in a much steeper decline in teacher morale and an increase in class sizes.
Legislators will be in their home districts this Memorial Day weekend. Many of them are likely to participate in public events. Seek out your state senator and representative and deliver a message:
Vote NO on all bills opposed by IEA, including and especially those that would negatively impact school funding and the ability of teachers to advocate for students.