SOLIDARITY FOREVER: Chronically inept work in Springfield is costing CTU members and Chicago teachers enormous unnecessary losses... Now the question is: Is Chicago Teachers Union taking a dive on the Illinois voucher bill?

Is the Chicago Teachers Union so disorganized that it can't even lobby effectively against some of the biggest attacks on public schools in recent Illinois history? It certainly seems that way. During the second week of April 2010, various groups took up opposition to the so-called "Voucher Bill" sponsored by public education's arch enemy, Senator James Meeks. Meeks, a Democrat who was put into power with the help of teacher union money, declared last Fall that the Chicago Teachers Union was a bigger "gang" than the gangs on Chicago's South Side that murder people regularly in their drug enterprises. At the time, Meeks made his remarks at Operation PUSH. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. has never repudiated Meeks's remarks.

Illinois Senator James Meeks has been attacking public schools and teacher unions for more than a year, but the Chicago Teachers Union leadership has been afraid to protest actively against Meeks and his proposals. The result is that when he proposed vouchers for Chicago, the CTU was largely silent as the legislation worked its way through Springfield. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Since he wasn't seriously challenged on his attack on unions and teachers, Meeks became bolder. By March 2010, he was sponsoring a voucher bill (SB 2492) aimed directly at Chicago's public schools. In the rush of anti teacher legislation, the Chicago Teachers Union barely was noticed in opposition to Meeks's latest bill. Despite pressure to support the voucher bill, one group in Chicago has stood up to Meeks's latest attack on public schools, Access Living. What follows is Access Living's analysis of why the voucher bill would hurt disabled children's access to educational services.

April 14, 2010

From: Access Living Chicago

re: Our opposition to SB 2494 The School Choice Act April 14, 2010

Representative Daniel J. Burke 233-E Stratton Office Building Springfield, IL 62706

Sent by email to

Dear Representative Burke, Access Living is a center for independent living located in Chicago that works in the interest of adults and children with disabilities. We are writing this letter to you in your capacity as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Currently SB 2494 is before your committee, we are opposed to this bill because of its inability to provide special education services to students with disabilities whose families may accept private school vouchers under this bill.

We will explain this issue as briefly as possible, but before that we want to acknowledge that there are many parents of children in low performing Chicago Public elementary schools who want a private school option for their children. Some of these parents may even have children who have disabilities. While we recognize these families have legitimate concerns for their own children, we also know similar private school choice programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland have not been effective for students with disabilities. We can see nothing in the language of SB 2494 that would lead us to believe a Chicago based private school choice program would be any better.

The problem for students with disabilities enrolling in private schools and paying for all or part of tuition with public vouchers is that under existing federal guidelines they are considered to be parentally placed private school students and become non-attending students of the school district.

Richard D. Komer, a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Office of Civil Rights US Department of Education on July 27, 1990 issued a policy letter that held in part that when the parents of a child with disabilities (served under the IDEA) choose to take their child out of the Milwaukee Public Schools to attend a participating private school of their choice using a voucher, the child was not entitled to a continuation of special education services.

Private school students under to IDEA, Part B-Special Education PL 108 – 446 20 USC 1412(a)(10) public school districts are required to offer equitable services to eligible nonpublic school children residing in the district’s geographical attendance area. These services are subject to available funding and what is called the proportionate share calculation. In general these publicly provided services for disabled students are extremely limited. Because of these limits the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) give parents of students with disabilities interested in that city's voucher program this warning:

“A private school may not discriminate against a child with special educational needs in the admission process for the Choice program. However, as a private school, a Choice school is required to offer only those services to assist students with special needs that it can provide with minor adjustments. Parents should contact the Choice school during the admission process about the services the school is able to provide for their child. Parents should also contact MPS for more information on the services the school district provides to children with special needs who are enrolled in the public schools and the lesser services that MPS provides children with special needs who are enrolled in private schools. “

Most students with disabilities require far more services than those provided in private schools in order to academically achieve. Because SB 2494 focuses on admission of CPS students attending the lowest 10% of elementary schools, most of these eligible disabled students also have significant needs for special education services.

One of the schools whose students would be eligible for a voucher would be Fulton Elementary School located at 5300 S Hermitage Ave. in Chicago. The test score data for students with disabilities attending this school indicate that since 2002 only two students with disabilities attending this school have been able to read at state standards. We think these students likely need more support not less, and the private school voucher will do them little good.

Access Living urges you not to support SB 2494, it is not in the interests of students with disabilities in our state and in the City of Chicago.

Yours truly, Rodney D. Estvan Education policy analyst

With the Chicago Teachers Union elections coming up in one month, there are dozens of issues being discussed among the union's 30,000 members as those who are still on active duty (the union's 3,000 retired members, including this reporter, are not allowed to vote in the election of officers) try to figure out which candidates and which caucuses to vote for in the May 21 voting. One of the issues that has come more into the front of people's thinking as April continued was the ineffectiveness — almost to the point of ridiculousness — of the CTU's lobbying efforts in the Illinois General Assembly since Marilyn Stewart became CTU President in August 2004. No more dramatic example of the problem can be shown than the CTU's response to the recent spate of legislation that attacks Chicago's teachers specifically and attacks public education in general. While the CTU had one cheap victory in Springfield during the past three months, the union has suffered a number of dramatic losses, most notably on pension and budget issues. And the union leadership's ineptness came to everyone's attention in mid-April when Marilyn Stewart called on union members to participate in a 'Lobby Day' on the day Chicago's 17,000 elementary school teachers are required to be in their schools because it is 'Report Card Pickup Day.'

The silly announcement that CTU needs teachers to get on the buses on April 21, 2010, makes no mention that the majority of teachers cannot possible do it. The official CTU Web site stated as late as April 17:

We need your participation in a budget rally in Springfield Wednesday, April 21. The CTU and Illinois Federation of Teachers, along with other organizations, will rally at the State Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass House Bill 174 and prevent massive layoffs and budget cuts. We need you there! The CTU will provide five buses. Seating will be on a first-respond, first-seated basis. Call Carolyn Fulton at 312-329-6213 or e-mail her at to reserve your spot today! SCHEDULE: 6 a.m. - buses depart from Merchandise Mart; 10:30 a.m. - buses arrive at State Capitol; 11:30 a.m. - rally begins; 12:15 p.m. - march around the Capitol; 1 p.m. - lunch (provided by the IFT); 2 p.m. - buses depart for Chicago; Note: Parking is available at MartPark located at 401 N. Wells (N.E. corner of Kinzie and Wells) See you ringside at the State Capitol to fight for your future!

While the bus and rally advertised are not officially a 'Lobby Day' (but a march and rally) Stewart has never answered the simply question as to why CTU members haven't been organized for lobbying on major legislation that is shredding many of the rights of union members, especially the rights of future retirees.

CALL TO ACTION. LOCAL LOBBYING DAYS. For the next two weeks, legislators will be in their district offices. Now is the time to let them hear from you. Call, email, and visit them in their district office TODAY. Below are links to fact sheets that you can use when talking to or visiting your legislator. Click on the bill number to bring up the fact sheet. Your participation is IMPORTANT. Legislators need to hear from ALL 30,000 CTU members.

Although the CTU is opposing one of the most anti-public school pieces of legislation currently in Springfield on paper, there has been no mobilization against the "Voucher Bill" introduced by Rev. Sen. Meeks and supported, Substance is told, by the majority of African American legislators, virtually all of whom are Democrats. Detailed information on most of the legislation that came through Springfield during the past six months has not been revealed to CTU members, despite the fact that Stewart's regime is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on CTU money on its lobbyist and also spending more through the CTU PAC on these activities. Since Senator Meeks denounced Chicago teachers and called the union worse than any street gang, the CTU leadership has refused to confront Meeks directly and diverted attention from calls to picket Meeks at his suburban office and at his opulent church, the House of Hope on Chicago's South Side. In addition to being a State Senator, Meeks operates one of the largest churches in Chicago's black community and also operates a Christian school that would benefit directly from the voucher bill.

Marilyn Stewart and the CTU leadership do list, on the union's website, the union's opposition to the legislation, but as of April 16, they had not published any testimony in opposition to Meeks or his latest attack. The only CTU comment on the bill reads as follows:

SB 2494 – School Vouchers Bill. This bill would allow children enrolled in the lowest 10% performing schools to receive a voucher to attend a private or parochial school. Ask your legislators to vote NO to SB 2494

The CTU is not regularly updating its legislative reports, as the following, from April 16, 2010, shows:


On Thursday, March 25, 2010, CTU’s lobbying team, along with the collective help of IFT, IEA, and the Illinois AFL-CIO, was able to kill HB 5596 in committee. HB 5596 was a bill sponsored by Representative Suzanne Bassi (Palatine) that would have limited CTU’s ability to strike and would have allowed CPS to reopen our entire contract for the upcoming school year. HB 5596 would have allowed CPS to determine that the contract should be re- opened based on their determination that they cannot financially meet the obligation as set forth in a contract that was mutually agreed to. It would set up a three (3) member fact-finding panel in which each party would appoint one person each and then attempt to agree on a third person as the chairperson of the panel. In the event the parties cannot agree, they can seek the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the American Arbitration Association. Along with trying to resolve the financial issue, the panel would also consider seniority, residency, holidays, insurance, and anything CPS wanted to address in our contract. If the parties could not come up with an agreement, the fact finding information would be put in all local newspapers. This would be at the expense of both CPS and CTU

Current labor law allows a contract to be reopened based on the agreement of both sides or there may be a negotiated part of a contract that establishes conditions upon which a contract would reopen. Section 47-2.2 of our current contract addresses this issue. Click here for the March 22 legislative update.

Click here for the March 15 legislative update.

Click here for the March 8 legislative update. Click hereto read an article from CTU contract lobbyist Mike Mannion. Click here for the March 1 legislative update. Click here for the February 22 legislative update.

Click here for the February 15 legislative update.

Click here for the February legislative update.

2010 Legislative Agenda


April 24, 2010 at 9:58 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Where the voucher bill current sits

First I want to thank Substance for putting Access Living's letter opposing SB2494 on its website. SB2494 passed out of the House Executive Committee on April 22, it has already been approved by the Senate.

Based largely on the efforts of advocates for students with disabilities and supporters of the doctrine of the seperation of the church and state the bill has been held up on the floor of the House using a technical motion. This motion was not made by a Democrat, but by a Republican, Rep Roger Eddy from Hutsonville IL. As far as I know, the CTU has never given a dime to Rep Eddy, but has passed on money to Art Turner a powerful Chicago Democrat on the Executive Committee who allowed the bill to pass that committee.

How long this bill can remain frozen is not clear to me at all. Messages of thanks to Rep Eddy would seem appropriate.

Rod Estvan

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