Professional Educators

IEA’s Swanson on new Ed Reform Law: “Historic Shifts by Everyone Involved”

(Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed into law Senate Bill 7 (SB7), education reform legislation developed during four months of negotiations involving education employee unions, school administrators, legislators, reform advocacy groups and other education stakeholders.

(In the end, the three major education employee unions, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union all backed the reform bill which sailed through the General Assembly.

(Below is a transcript of IEA President Ken Swanson’s remarks at the bill signing, which took place in Maywood on Monday morning. The video can be found here.)

It is to the credit of Sen. (Kimberly) Lightford, Gov. Quinn and others that they stood up to pressure when a school reform proposal, developed with NO input from Illinois teachers, was brought to the statehouse.

They took the position that no one has better ideas, a better sense of what will improve teaching and learning for their students, than Illinois teachers.

So when the teacher unions came up with their own proposal, based on what teachers know will work in Illinois schools, Sen. Lightford and Gov. Quinn encouraged the process that brings us here today.

For IEA, SB7 is the next logical step in addressing the issues of student achievement. Over the last 20+ years, IEA developed or co-developed Priority One, RISE, CEC/CEI, and the Burnham Report. When the opportunity came there was no “learning curve” for the teachers or their unions.

What Gov. Quinn signs today is not Performance Counts. It is not Accountability for All. It is SB7 — it contains historic shifts in long held positions by everyone involved in its development.

Teachers want the opportunity to improve. In the rare case when a teacher does not demonstrate improvement and is deemed ineffective, we all agree that chronically ineffective teachers should be removed through a streamlined but fair process.

With SB7, tenure is based on teaching quality for the first time. And this legislation makes it possible for high-performing young teachers to remain in the classroom, even during difficult financial times for districts.

With SB7 as law, the focus must shift to implementation. Success depends on teachers and administrators receiving necessary support; that means the state providing the resources we need to ensure that the decisions on evaluations are being made by effective evaluators.

No matter how well crafted or implemented, no reform bill can achieve maximum success for students without the commitment of everyone – school boards, community members, administrators, parents and the students themselves.

The teachers of Illinois have again stepped up and done our part for the students of this state.  It’s time now for everyone else to rise to the challenge.


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