The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 21, 2012

State woes influence contracts


Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Teachers and school administrators in Danville’s public schools and Catlin find themselves at odds concerning new contracts. While classes in both districts continue, the differences can cast a shadow over the school year.

One of the major factors in both districts can be traced to the same source — the Illinois General Assembly.

That’s one player in these contract negotiations who will not have a seat at the table.

After decades of ignoring the need for school funding and pension reform — the state draws most of its education money from property taxes — the problems have come home to roost.

Legislators made many promises in terms of school funding and pensions in an effort to win support of various political factions. Then the economy tumbled, puling the state’s education dollars down with it.

Promises made and not kept. That’s the root of most of the problems between local school districts’ administrations and their teachers.

Lawmakers’ attempts to push politics into classrooms through new teacher evaluations also play a role in these contract disputes. Legislators already have shown they are unable to do their own jobs effectively — see the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit as proof of that — yet they want to impose standards on those who work in classrooms every day.

It makes little sense. Standardized tests and performance evaluations would be effective if everyone learned the same way at the same rate. But every child learns differently.

Negotiators on both sides of these disputes want to build excellent schools together — if lawmakers would just allow them to do so.