Illinois' New Teacher Law: Model for Other States, or Outlier?

A good article on the collaboration that led to a near unanimous acceptance of sweeping education reforms in Illinois

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn today signed into law a sweeping measure that has the potential to significantly reshape the teaching profession in his state by linking educators' tenure, hiring, and job security to performance, rather than to seniority.

Educators and advocates have spent months debating the importance of Senate Bill 7. Does it go far enough? Will it drive improvements in teacher quality and classroom instruction?

This much is clear: The process used to approve the measure in Illinois, a state dominated by Democrats, stands in sharp contrast to the harder-edged approach taken in Republican-dominated states, such as Wisconsin, Ohio, and Idaho by leaders who have waged public battles with teachers' unions.

That contrast could prove a defining issue in coming state and national elections. Democrats—most notably two Illinois natives, President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—have called for cooperation between unions and policymakers. Republicans like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have battled labor groups in supporting laws they argued were necessary to bring down costs for school districts and taxpayers.

Which approach will prove more successful? We may not know for some time. Several aspects of Illinois' new law, and a separate teacher-evaluation measure approved by the state last year, will prove tricky to implement.

In Wisconsin, a measure approved by Gov. Walker and GOP lawmakers, which restricts the collective bargaining rights of teachers and many other public workers, is now being challenged in court.

In Ohio, Gov. Kasich and fellow Republicans backed a law that curbed collective bargaining powers of teachers and changed how they are paid, drawing a hostile reaction from unions. Opponents of Ohio's measure are now pushing to overturn that law through a referendum. And let's not forget Idaho, where a package of laws that phase out tenure and restrict bargaining powers also face a ballot challenge.

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