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Education bill passes committee despite new concerns

CTU President Karen Lewis. (WBEZ/Kristen McQueary)

Education advocates helped shepherd an education reform bill through a House committee Wednesday, despite concerns of teachers unions that have pulled support in recent days.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers joined the Chicago Teachers Union to oppose the bill, despite being at the negotiating table to help write it. Leaders of both organizations had heralded Senate Bill 7 and its sponsor, Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), in April after spending four months helping draft the legislation.

The Illinois Education Association also moved from a supportive position to neutral, executive director Audrey Soglin told House members.

Concerns with one section of the bill and the way it was drafted deflated enthusiasm in the weeks following its unanimous passage in the Senate.

Lawyers representing the CTU don’t like the language surrounding teacher strikes and who is eligible to vote to strike.  The union wants only active teachers, aides and paraprofessionals to be included. They also worry the wording, as it relates to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, could derail disputes between CTU and Chicago Public Schools. The labor board mediates disagreements between the two bodies.

If those issues can be resolved, IFT President Dan Montgomery, CTU President Karen Lewis and Soglin said their groups are likely to support the bill going forward. They all said it took time to thumb through the complex legislation and that some language was unintended.

House sponsor Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) said she plans to clean up the language as the bill moves to the House floor.  

“There is not yet agreement on what the appropriate language ‘fix’ might be,” she said. “My intent is to move this bill.”

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