By: Mark Glennon*
Overlooked in all the news last week were the terms announced for the deal for Illinois teachers while schools are closed through March 30. Millions of Illinois taxpayers who have been laid off or had their pay cut will pay for it but see no shared sacrifice.
Lost school days will not be made up but teachers will get full pay and service credit towards pensions, as well as all other benefits, while school is out.
That’s because the closing resulted from an “Act of God” according to joint statement of the Illinois State Board of Education, the office of Governor JB Pritzker, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Association of School Administrators and the Illinois Principals Association.
Are they required to work – doing what they can through remote learning?
That was left up to individual school districts. From the statement, school districts “can expect school district employees to participate in work activities in some form. The concrete details of the work, including stipend work, that will occur during this timeframe must be worked out through mutual agreement.”
Many teachers, perhaps the vast majority, are working hard to provide online instruction. That’s especially true at the most competitive schools from what I have heard anecdotally. And not all classes can be taught remotely for a number of reasons.
However, there’s no excuse for a statewide policy so lax, which is sure to be abused. I got an earful on Friday from a school administrator, who asked not to be named, incensed about many teachers who were making little effort.
One place where you can assume the lax policy is being abused is Chicago. There, sick days are commonly regarded as days off with pay and full pension accrual, and it’s already beyond obscene. Under their new contract negotiated last year, Chicago teachers can accumulate 244 sick days they can put toward an earlier retirement with a full pension. And Chicago managed to shift the cost of that give-away to state taxpayers as we explained earlier.
They are entirely oblivious to the economic crisis at hand. Earlier in the month, the Chicago Teachers Union and other labor groups held a news conference “to unleash a kitchen sink of demands that might have been unthinkable before the worldwide pandemic that started in Wuhan, China,” as the Chicago Sun-Times put it.
Those demands included a citywide meals-on-wheels program, internet access and electronic devices for students forced to stay home, debt forgiveness, suspended mortgage payments, a temporary shutdown of eviction court, a moratorium on utility shut-offs, no more penalizing schools by basing funding on school attendance and a nurse in every school sooner than the hard-fought teachers’ contract demands, according to the Sun-Times.
Most public school teachers are dedicated, valuable, public servants. Some, however, are not. Teachers unions, and what the government hands away to them, are the biggest problem.
The “Act of God” deal the state gave them is more like manna from heaven. No, scratch that. Manna from taxpayers who are looking into the abyss of layoffs and pay cuts.
We will be having much more to say on the absence of any shared sacrifice from the public sector as this crisis unfolds.
UPDATE: See our article linked here for the deal other state and local workers are getting while not working — full pay and pension accruals.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.