Resolutions approved at IFT convention... Resolution Revolution, Part One

DEFINITION: resolution: 1. a formal expression of opinion or intention made, usually after voting, by a formal organization. 2. the act of resolving or determining, as upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc. 3. firm determination. 4. the act of resolving into constituent parts. 5. a solution or explanation, as of a problem. (The Random House Dictionary, copyright 1978.)

FACT: Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) resolutions are words written on paper or the electronic equivalent. Every two years, they represent the cumulative wishes of the Executive Board and the union locals stemming from experience in the trenches. Resolutions are written in a style in which background information is presented under the label(s) “Whereas” and direction for solutions are presented under the label(s) “Resolved.”

OPINION: Words on paper can be revolutionary or not worth the paper on which they are written. The level at which the IFT leadership and membership follow through on carrying out the resolves in the resolutions would appear to depend on three important criteria: top-down, the value given to the resolution by the leadership and the effort they commit via time, energy, and resources to enforcement; horizontally, how deeply and widely the resolutions represent the sentiments of the membership; and/or down-up, how persistently the writers of, voters for the resolutions, and/or the general union membership become involved themselves and hold their leaders’ feet to the fire. I predict that we have enough from all three of the above to result in something quite remarkable in the next two years.

The following is Part I of a two-part summarization of the process and outcomes taking place regarding the 27 resolutions presented at the 2010 IFT Convention in St. Louis, Missouri on the weekend of October 15, held in the Majestic A-D rooms of the Renaissance Hotel. At American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Conventions, resolutions are assigned to committees, and the committees vote on each resolution, deciding on and ranking only the top three for presentation to the full floor.

At IFT Conventions, all of the resolutions are put before the full floor for discussion, amendment, and vote. At this convention, the total count of delegates was 414 representing 46 locals with 79,544 members. Of the 27 resolutions presented, 14 (or 52%) were submitted by the IFT Executive Board; 7 by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), Local 1 (#4, #5, #8, #12, #17, #18, and #19); 5 by the University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100 (#3, #11, #14, #26, #27); and 1 by the Southwestern Illinois College Faculty Union, Local 4183 (#7). Only one resolution was rejected (#2). (Note: This reporter was a convention delegate.)

Resolution No. 1: “Accountability of Tax Increment Financing Districts,” IFT Executive Council

The intent of the resolution is to “demand that the governor or General Assembly appoint a state task force on TIF,” with the IFT sponsoring legislation to increase the authority of school districts in regard to TIFs and to “halt the future development of TIF until the state task force on TIF makes its report and recommendation.” Seemingly minor changes made to the resolution by delegates from the floor prior to its approval were in fact significant.

One delegate successfully had a favorable reference to “the Chicago Civic Federation” as a “watchdog group” (line 34) removed by pointing out that that group is/was in the lead on attacking our pensions.

Carol Caref, CTU/Local 1, had lines 47-48 changed from “a representative from the Chicago Public Schools and a representative from downstate public schools serving on the task force” to “representatives from teachers unions and community partners serving on the task force.” She remarked, “I assume this was an oversight.”

The next delegate replied similarly when he successfully added “AFL-CIO” (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) to the list of task force members. The IFT Executive Council had presented the following for task force membership, in addition to the CPS and downstate representatives: the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), and the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Resolution No. 2: “Appropriate Age for Kindergarten,” IFT Executive Council

This resolution did not pass. It sought to require “a child to attain the age of five on or before July 1 of the upcoming school term in order to enter kindergarten,” a date change from September 1. The argument in favor pertained to “increased maturity and developmental readiness.” A speaker from CTU/Local 1 spoke against the resolution stating that it would “severely impact low-income families,” forcing them to find Day Care for another year. Ed Geppert, Jr., the standing president of the IFT, presided. Delegates noted that he had a peculiar habit of asking for the aye votes, pausing, but asking for the nay votes without pausing and immediately declare with a gavel bang, “It passes.” He did that in this case, but the voice vote clearly appeared too close to call. He asked for a show of hands but too quickly said, “It passes.” Moans and discontent appeared to put him on the spot, so he slowed it down. It was close, but the resolution failed.

Resolution No. 3: “Call for Cost Reductions by Supporting Current Pension Systems and Single-Payer Healthcare in Illinois,” University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100

The title is self-explanatory, but the basic arguments presented via quite a few research citations in the “Whereas” portion of the resolution are worth reporting. Radical reforms to pension systems, besides failing to succeed, produce unequal compensation, larger contributions with less benefits, unstable retirement accounts, and greater cost for tax-payers. Single-payer healthcare is not only a means to save money for states; “the citizens of all developed nations in which single-payer systems of various types already exist enjoy longer life expectancy and better health than do U.S. citizens.” After the ritual reading of the resolved-portion of the submitted resolutions, in which the reader ends with “I so move,” this resolution passed without change or challenge.

Resolution No. 4: “Call For an Elected School Board For Chicago,” CTU, Local 1

Karen Lewis, President of CTU/Local 1, spoke to our “union brothers and sisters” about how the appointed school board of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) does not allow for debate or discussion. With their marching orders from the mayor, they are going after tenure and making other high-stakes decisions. She said that union members of Local 1 “deserve the democracy of the rest of the state.” The delegation voted 100% in favor “that the Illinois Federation of Teachers call upon the General Assembly to formulate and pass laws to effectuate an elected school board for Chicago.”

Resolution No. 5: “Call For a Moratorium on School Closures,” CTU, Local 1

The resolution’s title is self-explanatory, but it also includes for the IFT to “expose the for-profit business motivations that underlie school closures in the state of Illinois.” The 34-line resolution cited 5 distinct sources for data in its footnotes. Katie Hogan, CTU/Local 1, presented the case. School closures affected the entire state, with the numbers for Illinois disproportionate to the nation. (Data on the resolution showed a rank of 3rd.) New schools were opened for profit, with select students, and the only results were larger bank accounts. Someone called for a point of information as to whether the resolution was for all school closures or those under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Ms. Hogan’s answer was that the four models used for schools closures were adopted under NCLB. Another Local 1 delegate rose in favor of the resolution, stressing the discontinuity and disorientation that impacted students and communities when their cores, their schools, were closed. The resolution passed with 100% in favor.

Resolution No. 6: “Developing Curricular Materials for Cyberbullying and Sexting,” IFT Executive Board

One person rose in an attempt to add the words “Bullying.” This amendment was voted down when it was pointed out that the original purpose of the resolution was specifically related to the new technology and the issues that arise from it. Carrie Maxwell, CTU/Local 1, rose in support, particularly pointing out its importance considering that in the last month five young, gay men had killed themselves. The resolution passed.

Resolution No. 7: “Dual Credit Limits,” Southwestern Illinois College Faculty Union, Local 4183

The resolution seeks to “limit the number of dual-credit courses offered by Illinois public community colleges to nine hours taken in the senior year of high school.” Dual-credit means that a high school student “may apply the earned credit toward a high school diploma as well as a college degree.” A delegate from Southwest Moraine College rose in favor and to explain the resolution. In one case, high school students had been getting 38 hours of credit, as if they had attended a year of college; and at that rate, prior to graduating college, a student could earn an Associate’s Degree. Someone asked for a point of information on the limit of nine hours. Ironically, as high school teachers (who may not have the same academic credentials as full-time college faculty) were now teaching courses for college credit, college professors were teaching more remedial courses. This was leading to “severe academic issues” at the college level. One delegate of Local 1810 was from the college offering the 38 hours, and he declared that their local was against it. The opposition came from delegates from high schools who sought a closer look at the IB (International Baccalaureate) and Advanced Placement Programs/Courses and the pressures they were under to offer these rather than at dual-credit courses. The ayes had it.

Resolution No. 8: “Ending Charter School Proliferation,” CTU/Local 1

Jesse Sharkey, CTU/Local 1 Vice President, rose to speak in favor of the resolution. He pointed out that both nationally and locally charters were virtually, exclusively non-union. The question for the IFT should not be how to organize the charters but how to oppose them. The IFT should defend real public schools. Carol Caref, CTU/Local 1, spoke of charters being used “as a battering ram against” public schools. She asked if anyone “had the displeasure” of seeing the movie, Waiting For Superman, in which the teachers unions are blamed for the crisis in education. Parents are being “hood-winked by the myth of charter schools,” when the data (referring to the Credo study) was overwhelmingly against charters. A voice of opposition came from a delegate from a union-organized charter school from Lake County. The resolution passed, though the ayes were not as loud as with other resolutions.

Resolution No. 9: “Future PreK-12 Curricular Mandates,” IFT Executive Council

From the Resolved section of the resolution: “…to support future curricular/instructional or staff training mandates that are clearly linked to improving student outcomes and successes for which schools, our members and students are held accountable,” and “that the IFT oppose any new curricular/instruction or staff training mandates which would minimize its members’ time to concentrate on preparing their students to be successful in school.” And, finally, “…that all mandates be fully funded.” The vote was 100% in favor, with no one rising to speak for or against.

Resolution No. 10: “Government and the Common Good,” IFT Executive Council

The gist of the resolution is found in its third Resolve: “the IFT promote discussion about the role of government in a democratic society and work with affiliates to communicate more effectively about the role of the public sector and its vital mission.” The vote was 100% in favor, with no one rising to speak for or against.

Resolution No. 11: “Keep Supernaturalism Out of the Science Curriculum,” University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100

The “Whereas” section of the resolution begins with an explanation/comparison between science and supernaturalism. In part: “Science is a systematic method for investigating natural phenomena through experimentation, observation and measurement leading to falsifiable explanations that are open to continuous testing”; whereas, “arguments that invoke supernaturalism are grounded in religious or philosophical considerations outside the realm of science.” A note is made of attempts in some states to “subvert the validity or teaching of evolutionary theory.” At the AFT Convention held this summer in Seattle, Washington, this resolution did not pass in committee, and therefore had no chance to make it to the floor. A description of the additions made to the resolution from the IFT Convention floor illustrate distinct differences between the membership of the IFT and the membership of the AFT, however overlapping. One delegate succeeded in adding words to clarify that the resolution did not mean the IFT took a stand that there was no God. Nate Goldbaum, CTU/Local 1, speaking as an atheist, succeeded in taking that sentiment further to include that this resolution did not signify that the IFT took a stand “either for or against there being a God.” Delegates who said they were Roman Catholics rose in favor of the resolution. In one case a delegate who described herself as “a deacon as well as a scientist” rose to support the resolution, only after hearing the above additions; she had been planning to speak against it. Opposition came with the argument that even though one might be against the teaching of creationism, which the speaker was against both personally and professionally, the resolution put restrictions on what could be taught and thus infringed on academic freedom. The last word was presented by a delegate as a question: “Do we really want teachers to tell students – life is too complicated to understand, i.e. just give up?” The ayes had it.

Resolution No. 12: “Opposition to ‘Race to the Top’,” CTU, Local 1

Joey McDermott, CTU/ Local 1, spoke in favor of the resolution. What was happening in Chicago with REN 2010 was now Race to the Top (RttT) under Arne Duncan. He gave the example of his own school, Crane High School. Crane went from a freshman class of 500 to a class of 75 due to four new charters in the area - Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Chicago Bulls Academy (much laughter from the floor). He said he hoped Dennis Rodman was not the Dean of Students (more laughter). He pointed out that if all 50 states were spending hours and hours making changing in education to chase after RttT money, but only 5 won, it was an unfunded mandate. “We helped elect Obama. We want him to know he made a mistake… A chalkboard knows more about the classroom than Arne Duncan!” (A huge amount of laughter and clapping from the floor followed.) Jackson Potter, CTU/Local 1, expressed that, though he did not have Joey’s eloquence (laughter), he wanted to express that the IFT needed to be more forceful at the state level to stop this. The value-added metrics they are planning to use under RttT are improper tools. He told them to not apply for but rescind and withdraw from this unfunded mandate. Another delegate rose to say, “No child I know signed up for this race.” Education was a collective effort, not a race. The resolution itself states in part: “that the IFT declare no confidence in the Obama administration’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his RttT policy” and “to fund schools based on their needs.” The Ayes had it 100%.

To be continued in Part II…


October 29, 2010 at 12:08 AM

By: Jim Vail

great analysis

Thank you Susan for this nice, concise summary of the IFT resolutions. Your added analysis is very good. Now upward and onward to the fight of our lives to save public education.

October 29, 2010 at 8:39 AM

By: Jesse Sharkey

On Charters

What I had been trying to say about charters is that we should stop counterposing stopping them and organizing them. On the one hand, charters are proliferating in Chicago and elsewhere under the direction of neo-liberal education reformers precisely because they are free of unions, work rules, etc... and on the other hand, there is a growing group of charter teachers who are organized and demanding a voice at work, a union contract etc. These forces are natural allies. As we become more involved in the work of helping charter teachers win a contract, we can demand that all schools that receive public funds abide by certain rules...

October 30, 2010 at 12:32 AM

By: Garth Liebhaber

If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them?

The Chicago Teachers Union organizing charter schools while neighborhood schools are hemoraging students, teachers rights and resources - isn’t that what CORE criticized Marilyn Stewart of doing? Randi Weingarten was clear at the AFT convention this summer that it is also her policy. IFT is the sponsor of their very own charter school in Chicago - which at first wasn’t even going to pay into the pension! I believe these practices were also criticized.

I can tell you that when former field rep. Alexander Illych visited the neighborhood school I work at, he was asked what the then current union leadership was doing to battle the charter school threat in our neighborhood. His response was that the CTU was helping to organize them. Our teachers were outraged.

The problem with the CTU organizing charter schools is that it legitimizes a leach to the existing public school system. This two tiered system would make it even more difficult for either faction to organize. Divide and conquer has been the most effective tool of those in charge. (Every teacher should know the effectiveness of this tactic in their own classroom.) Once legitimized, it would be a great uphill battle to bring charter schools to the level of public accountability the regular public schools have, even by Chicago standards. Although the board’s attorneys are currently ignoring most FOIA requests, for instance, a private charter operator has no legal obligation whatsoever to provide similar information. LSCs? Professional Problems Committees? Principal selection?

Instead, what needs to happen is that the CTU rank and file needs to be effectively organized to be able to carry out an eventual job action and to also effectively engage in a public information campaign. As any teacher ought to know, it is the students’ belief that the teacher is able, and willing, to carry out a consequence that causes them to respect the rules of the classroom.

Let the charter schools die. Their charters shouldn’t have been renewed anyway - Aspira?!?! The sooner the charter schools are decertified, the sooner the students will be liberated. And the teachers will be able to follow the students - there’s such a high turnover rate in the charter schools, it’s not like your actually taking someone’s job away. The position will essentially migrate with the students and the teacher will be better off sooner, rather than fighting tooth and nail from ground zero in some privately managed charter. And the money/resources can also return to the neighborhood school where it belongs.

So, what is an effectively organized rank and file? It comes down to supplying teachers with TRUTHFUL information/communication and a feeling of meaningful participation at the various levels that folks are able to. It is creating a momentum through a cumulative series of decisive developments coupled with effective follow up. A lot of it is really nuts and bolts, ie., make sure every CTU member has a current email with the union and is receiving the weekly announcements. Do regular survey’s to assess teacher needs.

It is only by being an effectively organized union can we achieve quality public education in this city.

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