CHICAGO — Illinois’ top leaders may not be able to find common ground on a budget, but rank-and-file legislators did reach a working compromise last month that took on some of the main issues now dividing the state Legislature.A document obtained by POLITICO shows that a bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers had reached far more consensus over the state’s budget impasse than their leaders.That included putting on the table a personal and corporate income tax increase, a controversial proposal to consider taxing retirement income over $50,000 and “allow (but not require) all school districts to bargain over 3rd party contracting, layoffs, class size, school year & technology (like CPS).”The confidential draft also laid out the possibility of “substantial workers compensation reform” and property tax freezes — both items that Gov. Bruce Rauner has said are must-haves for him to approve more revenue. House Speaker Mike Madigan has repeatedly said the budget should be decided separate from such issues, and has cast the governor as holding “extreme” anti-union positions that his caucuses cannot support.The working group had started as a group of female legislators, then broadened to include male lawmakers.Ultimately, Democrats said they were willing to compromise on the issues outlined in the document, but Republicans raised it up the flagpole and the governor’s office pushed back, saying it did include sufficient reforms, two lawmakers tell POLITICO.Still, those involved said the group’s discussions indicate much more room for movement than what the state has seen so far on its budget impasse.“There is definitely enough to work with for both sides to reach a compromise,” Republican state Rep. Karen McConnaughay of St. Charles told POLITICO. “That really represents the desire on everybody’s part to have movement.” Both sides say the document reflects what both parties could live with moving forward, though neither side considered it ideal.“It’s not a take-it-or leave it plan. It’s here’s a possible path forward, we’ve got to end this,” said state Sen. Heather Steans,a Democrat who represents parts of Chicago. “We’re destroying our state right now. All of our constituents want us to end this. We’re saying: here’s what an agreement would look like, you don’t like this one, come up with one you do like. Come up with an agreement. This is rank and file saying they need to get to an agreement.”Steans and McConnaughay were careful to note their leaders had not signed off on the ideas.“All you’re looking at is a menu of ideas that a variety of rank-and-file legislators were discussing. The group got as far as it could in terms of identifying ideas without getting more ideas from their caucuses and their leaders,” McConnaughay said.View the document here:
An Illinois House committee has scheduled a hearing on edTPA for 10:30 tomorrow morning.I have been writing on the problems with edTPA all through this past summer and into the Fall.All the posts can be found here.edTPA will become the way teachers in Illinois will be certified and licensed.Rather than emphasizing the practicum and student teaching component, those wishing to become teachers will be evaluated by an outside evaluator, one who never meets the student or cooperating teacher or who knows the classroom, the students, the community or the school. The certification will be based on a one-size-fits-all rubric and a video-tape. And it will cost $300 with the money going to the private for-profit education monopoly, Pearson.This morning Jim Broadway writes: All this for a job that’s never been paid comparably with private sector jobs demanding similar skill levels and imposing similar levels of responsibility, that now lacks the job-security component formerly enjoyed by those who survived a four-year probation period (tenure), a job whose once-comforting promise of economic security in retirement has been conspicuously eroded and remains in dire jeopardy today. Good luck with that. This experiment has future findings of unintended consequences all over it.Yet aside from that it is just plain bad practice. More…
Unless you take action, on November 17 a legislative committee will give final approval to changes in the Illinois special ed regulations. The changes would completely abolish ISBE review and approval of local school district policies and procedures for special education, eliminate any consultation on any RTI plan changes, allow a school district to take 75 percent of the 60 days allowed for ISBE to investigate a special ed complaint to just reply to that complaint, deletes the date of referral for evaluations. The changes would not address current delays in evaluations,and deletes the date (the 2009-10 school year) by which ALL local schools districts were to have an effective process to limit the Work Load of Special Educators (Chicago and many other school districts still have NOT done it, and others have an ineffective plan).
On November 7, 2015, the Board of the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children (Illinois CEC) voted unanimously to oppose the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) proposed specific changes/additions to the following sections of Part 226, the Illinois special education regulations:
(1) 226.735 Work Load for Special Educators; (2) 226.570 State Complaint Procedures; (3) 226.130 Additional Procedures for Students Suspected of or Having a Specific Learning Disability (known as the Response to Intervention – RTI – mandate); (4) 226.110 Evaluation Procedures; (5) 226.710 Policies and Procedures.
PLEASE CALL the following State Senators and State Representatives saying: On November 17 please vote to prohibit the filing of changes to 735, 570, 130, 110, and 710 of Part 226, special education regulations, so there is time and the incentive for the State Board of Education to work with Illinois CEC and other organizations to improve the current Part 226 regulations.
MEMBERS OF JOINT COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATIVE RULES (JCAR)
Co-Chair–Senator Don Harmon, Oak Park, 708-848-2002
Co-Chair–Representative Ron Sandack, Downers Grove, 630-737-0504
Senator Pamela Althoff, McHenry, 815-455-6330
Senator Bill Brady, Bloomington, 309-664-4440
Senator Karen McConnaughay, West Dundee, 847-214-8245
Senator Tony Munoz, Chicago, 773-869-9050
Senator Ira Silverstein, Chicago, 773-743-5015
Representative Gregory Harris, Chicago, 773-348-3434
Representative Louis Lang, Skokie, 847-673-1131
Representative David Leitch, Peoria, 309-690-7373
Representative Andre Thapedi, Chicago, 773-873-4444
Representative Michael Tryon, Crystal Lake, 815-459-6453
PROBLEMS WITH PART 226:
(1) With 226.735, Work Load for Special Educators required local school districts to have a plan 6 years ago (by the 2009-2010 school year) limiting the total work load for a special education teacher and other special educators.
Eight (8) years ago Case Load limits (strict limits on the total number of special education students that a special educator could serve in any way) were eliminated.
Nothing has replaced Case Load limits in too many school districts.
Now, six years later, Chicago and an unknown number of other school districts have NO plan, or no effective plan, that limits the Work Load for Special Educators, and ISBE wants to remove the 2009-10 date.
We oppose that removal because it highlights the failure of ISBE to implement this important regulation, and points to the need for immediate action by ISBE.
(2) With 226.570 on State Complaint Procedures, ISBE wanted absolute discretion to decide how long it could allow a local school district to reply to a special education complaint filed with ISBE by a parent, teacher, or organization.
As of October 28, ISBE proposed to JCAR staff to set a 45 day limit.
That is unacceptable. ISBE has a total of only 60 days to investigate and make a decision. Giving 45 days to the school district to reply to a complaint leaves only 15 days for ISBE to investigate after it has both sides, after it knows the facts.
Instead of 45 days, the limit should be no more than 15 days.
Instead of making complaint resolution faster, more informed, and with complete information early in the process, the ISBE proposal may result in even longer than 60 days being taken by ISBE, making ISBE even more out of compliance.
Parents (and their child) deserve fast and informed action by ISBE on a complaint about the lack of proper action by a local school on the education of their child.
Increasing the time allowed to investigate a complaint could delay services to students or prolong inappropriate placements.
(3) 226.130 Additional Procedures for Students Suspected of or Having a Specific Learning Disability (known as the Response to Intervention – RTI – mandate)
First, note this regulation requires RTI ONLY for students suspected of having a Learning Disability (LD), although ISBE is encouraging school districts to use RTI more generally.
RTI is being abused by some school districts all over the country. This is true in Illinois.
Response to Intervention (RTI), also known as MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support), varies all over Illinois.
Some schools have short, intensive RTI, but others have “RTI classes” OR use RTI to delay and deny evaluation of students for special education for months or years (in violation of IDEA).
ISBE proposes to eliminate consultation with certain education organizations as it changes its RTI plan, which it certainly needs to do.
Instead of being eliminated, consultations should instead be EXPANDED to include statewide special education teacher (Illinois CEC) and parent organizations.
(4) In 226.110 ISBE proposes to eliminate from Evaluation Procedures the date of referral as being the date of written parental consent for an evaluation.
Instead ISBE should be addressing all the problems with special education evaluations: no limit between the 14 days that a school district has to decide whether it will evaluate a child, and the 60 days the school district has for the actual evaluation.
So some school districts delay that evaluation by weeks or months by having a specific written form that the school district must send to the parent (there is no limit in Illinois regulations on how long the school district can take to send the form) and the parent must fill out the form and send it back to the school district.
ISBE staff have given conflicting answers, even before the Illinois Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Special Education, as to whether the parent’s hand written note requesting an evaluation AND giving consent for that evaluation starts the 60 day clock.
(5) In 226.710 ISBE proposes to completely eliminate its receipt AND approval of Policies and Procedures of local school districts for special education, and changes therein.
ISBE attempts to justify this by saying IDEA does not require it, and that ISBE does not have the staff to do it.
The entire purpose of Part 226 is to have Illinois regulations that exceed the Federal minimum requirements.
IDEA only sets a floor – many topics are not addressed at all, but left to the people of each State to decide.
As far as staff, in special education ISBE has staff paid for by part of the 25 percent of IDEA Part B funds that ISBE retains each year.
The problem is that far too many of those staff persons are devoted to Special Education Focused Monitoring which for over 5 years has had only ONE criteria for deciding whether to monitor local school districts: the percentage of all special education students spending at least 80 percent of their school day in the regular general education classroom.
The use of a single criterion has many negative consequences for children. IDEA requires a Continuum of Alternative Placements (COAP) be considered so that each individual child is educated in the least restrictive environment where he/she can receive the specialized instruction needed to meet their needs, as required by IDEA.
Placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for an individual child along the Continuum of Alternative Placements is where that individual child best receives a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
What ISBE proposes in 226.710 is a move to effectively de-regulate special education. It cannot be done.
While many local school districts are under financial pressure to reduce special education as it costs more than general education,
IDEA and its legal protections for students and parents will not go away.
If ISBE were to be successful in 226.710, the result would be more complaints filed by parents, teachers, and others, and more due process actions started by parents with all the resulting costs to local school districts (if a school district loses due process
it may have to pay the attorneys’ fees for BOTH sides in the case plus all the other costs in expert testimony, staff time, etc. in the due process proceedings).
The best and cheapest way to comply with the law is to have local school district policies and procedures that comply with Federal and Illinois special education law and regulation from the beginning.
To ensure compliance ISBE needs to continue to approve the special education policies and procedures of school districts and any proposed changes to them.
Without this review and approval by ISBE, compliance will not always occur due of lack of specific detailed knowledge of special education law and regs by some school district attorneys and school staff.
ISBE says school districts are required to follow special education law and regulations, but Federal and State special ed law and regs are quite extensive and complex.
ISBE says it may monitor a local school district, but in reality that is the exception not the rule.
There is no alternative to the regulation of special education.
The marketplace will not effectively compete for special education students, particularly higher cost students. Therefore we need effective and efficient regulation, and by prohibiting ISBE from filing the proposed changes in the five (5) areas listed at the beginning of this message, we will have time to attempt to reach more effective and efficient regulation.
Former Chicago Public Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett was indicted Thursday on charges she steered a no-bid $20.5 million contract to a education consulting firm where she once worked in return for promises of a job for herself and more than a combined $250,000 for two of her relatives.Also criminally charged in the 43-page indictment were Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, co-owners of the SUPES Academy, as well as the business itself and a subsidiary, Synesi Associates LLC.The long-awaited indictment comes six months after CPS revealed in mid-April that it had been served federal grand jury subpoenas seeking an array of documents related to the SUPES contract. Soon after, Byrd-Bennett took a paid leave of absence and then resigned in May.The indictment charged that Byrd-Bennett was promised a job at SUPES once she stepped down as the public schools CEO, according to the indictment”When this stint at CPS is done and you are ready to…retire, we have your spot waiting for you,” Solomon wrote in an email in April 2012, according to the indictment. “Hopefully with even more work and more (opportunity).”The indictment also alleged that Solomon and Vranas offered to deposit funds in financial accounts for two undisclosed relatives of Byrd-Bennett’s in what they called a “signing bonus” for her help on obtaining the contract.In an email to Solomon in December 2012, Byrd-Bennett asked that the amount of money deposited in each account be equal.PDF: Read the Barbara Byrd-Bennett indictmentPDF: Read the Barbara Byrd-Bennett indictment”I would like the flexibility to use funds for whatever reason as needed for them,” the indictment quoted her as writing.Solomon and Vranas then deposited $127,000 in each account, which was 10 percent of the gross proceeds of the original contract, the indictment alleged.The indictment also alleged that Solomon offered to arrange employment for friends of Byrd-Bennett. She also was given tickets to sporting events and meals, according to the indictment. Byrd-Bennett also expected to receive reimbursement from the companies for costs associated with a holiday party she hosted for CPS personnel, according to the charges.”Graft and corruption in our city’s public school system tears at the fabric of a vital resource for the children of Chicago,” U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said in a statement. “School officials and city vendors who abuse the public trust will be held accountable.”U Fardon and other law enforcement officials scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference to discuss the case at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigns amid federal criminal investigationCPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigns amid federal criminal investigationByrd-Bennett, 66, of Solon, Ohio, was charged with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud. Solomon, 47, of Wilmette, was charged with 15 counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud, two counts of bribery, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Vranas, 34, of Glenview, is charged with 15 counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of bribery, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S.Byrd-Bennett’s attorney, Michael Scudder, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Gov. Bruce Rauner restated his demand Wednesday that weakening the collective bargaining rights of public workers must be part of a deal to end the political stalemate that has kept Illinois without a budget since July 1.But House Speaker Michael Madigan, who controls the Democratic majority in the chamber, renewed his long-standing call for the Republican governor to focus on the budget and not on issues that would create “a lower standard of living for middle-class families.”The comments by Rauner, speaking at the annual luncheon of the Southland Chamber of Commerce, and a statement issued by Madigan showed there has been no visible progress in Illinois’ gridlocked government as many social service agencies are having financial problems.Upward of 90 percent of services are being funded largely by court order, and state spending is at the same rate as last year. Couple that with the January rollback of a state income tax hike, and the state is on a path to a potential $8.5 billion deficit in the current budget year.In his speech, Rauner contended that a change in collective bargaining inside government “is not a radical idea and it is not a partisan idea.” The governor said Democrats across the country have made union-weakening rules, including in Illinois by allowing the outsourcing of Chicago Public Schools janitors and the elimination of CPS union teachers’ ability to negotiate over longer school hours.”It’s not about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about good government. It’s about making sure tax dollars go to education, economic growth, tourism marketing and services for the most vulnerable — not to expensive government bureaucracy,” Rauner said.Gov. Bruce RaunerGov. Bruce Rauner arrives Oct. 7, 2015, for a speech at the Southland Chamber of Commerce. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)”It’s time we in Illinois get serious about collective bargaining reform and unfunded mandate relief in government. It’s a critical bipartisan issue where we can find common ground. Getting rid of unfunded mandates and giving decision-making authority on bargaining, bidding and contracting back to local communities,” he said.Rauner repeatedly has pushed for legislation giving local governments and school districts the option of collectively bargaining with unions over wages and other working conditions. He also has pushed to end communities having to pay prevailing union wage rates to construction firms working on public projects.Those issues are part of his proposal to freeze local property taxes. But Democrats, with strong allies in organized labor, have approved only a local property tax freeze with no changes to collective bargaining.Rauner also said the only way to “guarantee” saving $750 million in state worker group health insurance costs as part of a plan pushed by Democrats would be to have lawmakers vote to remove unions from negotiating health insurance coverage in collective bargaining.The governor also touted $1 billion savings each for state and local governments if lawmakers changed public employee pensions by basing it on whether workers give up the right to have future pay hikes included in their retirement calculations.Rauner once again said Democrats, who have supermajorities in the House and Senate, should either negotiate with him and minority Republicans or pass a tax increase and override his veto. Rauner has made union-weakening provisions in state law a precondition for considering a tax increase.”Please choose now. Choose now. Time’s up. Let’s be reasonable. The people of Illinois have been waiting long enough,” Rauner said.
What’s happening in Springfield might best be explained by World War I.
We have an invading army (Gov. Bruce Rauner) aggressively marching right over one enemy (former Gov. Pat Quinn) before slamming headlong into trench warfare (legislative Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan).
Now, before anybody gets their kerchiefs in a bundle, I’m not at all saying that Rauner actually is Kaiser Wilhelm II nor implying that the Democrats are the French, although Quinn most definitely was Belgium. OK, that was a joke. I’m just attempting to use a broad historical analogy here. No offense intended to Belgians.
As with the Great War, we’ve seen monumental blunders on both sides. To start with, the Democrats completely misjudged the man who beat Quinn.
In 2002, Rauner and his wife hosted a fundraiser at their home for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. After introducing Boxer, the future governor launched into a long tirade about how labor unions were wrecking the nation, according to an acquaintance of mine who helped organize the event.
Being anti-union is core to Rauner’s existence. But he didn’t bash unions during his general election campaign, so the Democrats did not anticipate that the “real” Rauner would re-emerge.
Better intelligence about the new governor could have made a difference. Perhaps then the Democrats wouldn’t have expected Rauner to care or even notice that their party often had passed bills that were strongly opposed by public employee unions and that the trade unions (plumbers, sheet metal workers, operating engineers, etc.) didn’t much like those other unions, either.
Instead, Rauner caught them completely off guard, spending months touring the state after his inauguration demanding that the General Assembly approve a “right to work” law. As Senate President John Cullerton recently said on “Chicago Tonight,” the governor made it more difficult to reach an agreement because he firmly united all unions. Democrats, with their most important and most loyal constituencies completely up in arms, feel they can’t even make smallish deals.
When Rauner demanded that the Democrats let the “temporary” 2011 income tax hike lapse right after the election, they complied, figuring they eventually would cut a budget deal with Rauner that would have to include some additional taxes. They had no idea that the political neophyte would block a state budget unless his pro-business/anti-union agenda was approved.
Rauner has totally misjudged the Democrats, believing they would abandon the unions when poor people started losing state services. That hasn’t happened, partly because state and federal judges have ordered so much state spending, and partly because poor people don’t fund Democratic campaigns and most don’t vote Republican anyway.
The Great War ended when the kaiser feared that the same sort of revolution he had helped foment in Russia would happen to him.
Both sides in Springfield have been doing pretty much the same thing to each other.
With lawmakers away from the Capitol for most of September, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday sent a memo reminding them that the longer the budget stalemate continues, the worse the cuts or possible tax increase will be.
“The unfortunate truth is the longer we take to resolve our issues, the more painful the choices we must face will become. The cuts we will have to make become deeper and what we ask of taxpayers will be steeper,” Rauner warned in the letter.
The governor argued the patchwork of court rulings that has kept money flowing made clear that the Democratic budget he vetoed “was not workable” as even without a full spending plan the state continues to spend billions more than it’s taking in.
Rauner then made yet another pitch for his agenda of business-friendly, union-weakening changes that largely have been rejected by ruling Democrats, saying “the structural deficit caused by years of fiscal neglect is simply too large to close without accompanying legislative changes to mandatory spending categories.”
His plans call for toughening eligibility standards for injured employees seeking workers’ compensation benefits, limiting prevailing wages for union workers and overhauling the civil lawsuit process to cut down on big payouts. Rauner also wants to lift mandates on schools that require they provide physical education or driver’s education and to ease restrictions on what contractors they can use for things like janitorial services.
Rauner’s team included a letter supporting those efforts sent from a group representing the state’s largest school districts. But there was no mention by the group of Rauner’s other proposals to link a property tax freeze to curbing collective bargaining rights of teachers and other workers or limiting prevailing wage on school construction projects. A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, was quick to dismiss the governor’s latest missive.
“His demands don’t save the state a dime but could cost some middle-class workers everything,” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said. “He continues to hold the budget hostage to demands that will disproportionately harm the working families. Meanwhile, the bills are piling up and our bond rating is threatened.”
“What’s the value of having a leader who claims he can run government like a business when the cost of doing business is only increasing under his leadership?” Phelon added.
Rauner insists his proposals are about long-term savings for state and local governments.
“To claim structural reforms are ‘non-budget items’ is like claiming crude oil is a ‘non-automobile item’ simply because a car is primarily made of iron, aluminum, plastic, steel, rubber and glass. This, of course, disregards that gasoline literally fuels the car, a key component of what makes it work,” Rauner wrote.
The memo follows a Wednesday decision by Comptroller Leslie Munger to pay for early-intervention services for children with developmental disabilities. Providers had not been paid during the impasse and some were preparing to end services, but Munger said her attorneys decided providers should receive money under an earlier court decision.
Meanwhile, another judge ordered that the state must pay for home care services for seniors, saying the program falls under a decades-old consent decree aimed at protecting Medicare services for the poor.
House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, filed legislation on Tuesday that would prohibit lawmakers from getting a scheduled pay hike.
The move comes as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner rallies against the pay increase as the budget impasse reaches it’s nearly one-month mark.
The legislation filed Tuesday would stop lawmakers’ getting their automatic cost-of-living increase that would boost their salaries 2 percent — or nearly $1,400 in addition to their $68,000 base legislative salary.
Republicans have attempted to pass such legislation.
On Twitter Tuesday, Rep. Ron Sandack, R- Downers Grove, said: “House Reps tried for TWO weeks to advance our bill to suspend the Dems’ COLA raise. My, how things change, yes? #Duh”
And Rauner’s spokesman, Lance Trover, said in a statement, “As we approach the end of the month, Speaker Madigan and the politicians he controls have one final chance to side with Republicans and make a clean up or down vote on stopping themselves from getting an automatic pay increase.”
Madigan previously would not comment on the raises. But last week he told reporters the pay raise wasn’t in his spending plan.
“We did not appropriate for the pay raise or the COLA adjustment,” Madigan said.
Democratic leaders and the governor have been unable to come up with a spending plan for the new fiscal year, which began July 1.
Illinois may not be done with the 2013 law reducing state employees’ pensions after all. Attorney General Lisa Madigan appears to be readying an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Many thought the question of whether Illinois could save money by reducing state workers’ and retirees’ pensions was resolved in May, when the state’s Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled the answer is “no.”
Illinois has until Aug. 6 to appeal to the nation’s highest court. Although Madigan hasn’t actually filed an appeal, it may well be on the horizon. On Monday, her office asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an extension of that filing deadline until early September.
John Fitzgerald, an attorney for retired public school teachers, says they’ll fight the appeal.
“This is entirely a matter of Illinois state law,” he said. “There is no basis for the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.”
The Attorney General’s petition says the pension case “raises important questions” about states’ rights to use police powers to modify contracts, like public pensions.
“The principal questions presented are (1) whether the reserved powers doctrine prevents a State from abdicating its police powers authority to modify its own contractual obligations in extreme circumstances that imperil the general welfare and (2) if not, whether the Illinois Supreme Court identified the correct standard by which the validity of a State’s exercise of its police power is judged.”
The Attorney General’s office cites Illinois Solicitor General Carolyn Shapiro and Assistant Attorney General Clifford Berlow’s caseloads, vacations and other duties in its request for a 35-day extension.
Illinois has roughly $100 billion in long-term pension debt.
The American Federation of Teachers endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on Saturday, the first national union to back a candidate for the 2016 primary.
The endorsement was not a surprise to close observers – the AFT had supported Clinton in 2008 instead of Barack Obama – but the early timing may be designed to give Clinton a boost against her surging rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“In vision, in experience and in leadership, Hillary Clinton is the champion of working families need in the White House,” AFT president and longtime Clinton ally Randi Weingarten said.
In a statement released by the union, Clinton said she was “honored” by the nod. “I know from my own family that teachers have the power to change lives, ” she said. “We need to make sure every child has access for a quality public education and to the teachers with the tools to help them succeed.”
Weingarten and Clinton have been friends since their days in New York, when Weingarten led the city’s teachers union and Clinton ran successfully for the U.S. Senate. Weingarten sits on the board of the pro-Clinton PAC Priorities USA.
The 1.6 million-member AFT, along with its sister union, the 3 million-member National Education Association, have been under siege from both elements within the Democratic and Republican parties.
The unions have been fighting the expansion of public charter schools, which are largely not unionized, as well as teacher evaluations based on test scores and challenges to tenure and other workplace protections.
The unions have both been critical of many of the education policies of the Obama administration, saying they have led to a “blame the teacher” culture. They argue that evaluating teachers based on student test scores does not recognize the complexities of teaching students who often come from impoverished homes or struggle with disabilities and language barriers that affect their achievement.
[Even as Congress moves to strip his power, Education Secretary Arne Duncan holds his ground]
Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley all met with both the AFT and NEA leadership last month in an effort to win their backing.