Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch is looking to give teachers a bigger role in how their schools are run and, for starters, is backing a bill that takes a small step in that direction.
Under the bill, the purpose of Professional Personnel Advisory Committees (PPACs) would be “to reach optimal decisions jointly with the principal and local school council on matters of educational program.” PPACs would become Professional Personnel Leadership Committees.
Currently, PPACs are given only an advisory role “on matters of educational program.” The committees, one per school, are comprised of teachers elected by their peers.
As advisory bodies, PPACs have little to no influence at schools compared to LSCs, says Lynch. By contrast, the revamped PPACs would have an official role in crafting a school’s instructional agenda.
Lynch says LSCs would benefit from stronger PPACs. “A lot of LSCs that aren’t effective need information from the teachers,” she says.
Last fall, a poll of 5,000 teachers found 43 percent were not satisfied with their local school councils. The survey did not ask them why.
State Rep. William Delgado, (D-Chicago), a bill co-sponsor, agrees that teachers should have a stronger voice, but he does not want to create turf battles between PPACs and LSCs, which have the final word. A plan for how the two bodies would work together is not yet final, he adds.
Created by state law in 1989, PPACs gave teachers an organized voice in school academic issues. But over the years, most PPACs have gone by the wayside. “At some schools, that’s a mythical organization,” says Barbara Radner of DePaul University.
“It’s a farce now,” says teacher Susan Kajiwara Ansai of Henson Elementary. Most new teachers don’t know they exist, she notes.
Lynch says teachers in many schools are disconnected from their LSCs and from the school improvement plans they are charged with carrying out in the classroom.
The lack of communication stems from two problems, Lynch explains. First, teachers hold only two of 11 council seats; and second, some teacher reps don’t keep in touch with their colleagues.