Political pundits are predicting that Democrats will gain control of the Illinois Senate after elections this November. This bodes well for the Chicago Teachers Union, which has tested the waters this session in Springfield with several bills.

It was the Republican-majority state Senate that took away CTU’s bargaining rights when it gave Mayor Daley control of the city’s public schools in 1995. But a redistricting map that favors Democrats, who generally support the CTU, is expected to swing control of the Senate to the other side.

This year, CTU found it had enough votes in the Democrat-controlled House to pass its bargaining rights bill. In addition to a bargaining rights bill, the CTU is pushing four other bills downstate:

Increasing contributions to teacher pensions by including income earned in summer school and other optional services.

Eliminating the CPS teacher residency requirements.

Lowering class size in primary grades if funds are available to do so.

Giving teachers an official role in setting their school’s education priorities, and changing the name of the teacher-run Professional Personnel Advisory Committee (PPAC) to the Professional Personnel Leadership Committee (PPLC).

The class size, pension and PPLC bills passed out of the House and are now in the Senate.

The Chicago Board of Education is opposing all but the PPLC bill, which itself is drawing the ire of the Principals and Administrators Association. “It might have a shot in the Senate; it’s not controversial,” says CTU lobbyist Jackie Gallagher says.

Lynch reached out to community organizations for input in drafting the PPLC legislation. Designs for Change and PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education), both advocates for local school councils, had concerns that the measure would diminish LSC power. The original language was tweaked to ensure LSCs would have final say over any recommendations from the PPLC.

Bernard Lacour of Designs for Change credits Lynch for being inclusive from the outset. Before Lynch became president, “we didn’t work with [CTU] at all,” he says. “We found them to be pretty much in the pocket of Paul Vallas.”

The residency bill, which would eliminate the CPS requirement that teachers live within city limits, is languishing in the House. “The board is very opposed … which puzzles the hell out of me considering the teacher shortage,” Gallagher says.

CPS officials say the residency requirement may help the district recruit teachers who have a greater stake in the system and are less likely to leave after a few years.

If the residency bill gets stalled, Gallagher says the CTU is considering adding it as an amendment to another bill.

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