Illinois' drafting partnership serves as an example to other states struggling with education reform.
Illinois’ Senate Bill 7, passed in June, ushered in numerous changes designed to improve teaching and learning—and it demonstrates the power of collaboration between education policy makers and teachers’ unions, according to a panel discussion held July 13.
The panel, “Illinois—The New Leader in Education Reform?” highlighted the unlikely conglomeration of education leaders who helped write and pass the bill, from legislators to teachers’ unions.
“In some states, the debate has been contentious, with partisan efforts to limit the role of unions and collective bargaining,” said Cynthia Brown, vice president for education policy at the Center for American Progress. “But common sense, along with our research and the research of others, have shown that consensus-oriented reform is the more successful way to go.”
Illinois’ bipartisan passage of Senate Bill 7, which passed 59-0 in the Senate and 112-1 in the House, is being examined as a case study for state education reform. The bill made dramatic policy changes in how teachers earn tenure, how layoff decisions are made, when teachers may be dismissed for poor performance, and what’s necessary for them to strike.
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Senate Bill 7 was established after Illinois failed twice to secure a federal Race to the Top grant, despite being a finalist both times.
“They made such progress in those discussions that they decided to continue even without the money,” Brown said of state leaders.