CHICAGO, Dec. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The January veto session of the General Assembly gives state legislators a unique opportunity to change public education in Illinois in ways that will benefit a generation of our children. As members of the Illinois House Special Committee on Education Reform gather in Aurora, Illinois for two days of hearings, Advance Illinois, an independent organization which promotes public education in Illinois, Stand for Children, an innovative, grassroots child advocacy organization, the Illinois Business Roundtable and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, have joined together to promote a Performance Counts legislative agenda that puts student education and recognition of good teachers first.
The Performance Counts agenda is clear – put teacher performance first in making retention and advancement decisions; and provide the community with more transparency into school performance and negotiations between schools and teachers.
"Outside of the home environment, teachers have the biggest impact on a student's success or failure, and in order to ensure all students have a quality teacher throughout their entire academic career, it's important to evaluate teachers based on their performance rather than how long they have been in the classroom," said Jonah Edelman, chief executive officer of Stand for Children. "We acknowledge that the majority of teachers in Illinois are excellent, and these reforms will only further recognize their work. We have to ensure that we don't lose good teachers when hard layoff decisions are necessary."
The time for action is now. While the nation and the state have spent years debating education reform, students from around the world now routinely outperform American students on nearly all measures of academic achievement.
"If we want to dramatically improve education in Illinois we must radically re-imagine the systems and policies that collectively shape the learning experience for Illinois' children. We cannot tinker around the edges or avoid uncomfortable conversations. We must commit to genuine change," said Robin Steans, executive director of Advance Illinois.
The Illinois Business Roundtable and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which have worked on education issues for decades, have joined Advance Illinois and Stand for Children in support of these reforms.
"We have a huge fiscal problem in Illinois, one which threatens funding for public education, and reinforces the need to make funding both fair – including charter schools – and effective. The taxpayers, particularly school families, want to be sure that the dollars we spend will in fact improve the schools. One key way to do that is to improve teacher performance," said R. Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.
"The marketplace has changed, and requires a highly-skilled workforce in order to compete in the global economy. The key to developing a skilled workforce is an education system that challenges students and supports strong teachers," said Jeff Mays, executive director of the Illinois Business Roundtable. "Public education requires major public investment, and therefore it's important that dollars spent support a system that effectively prepares students for graduation and beyond."
Also on the agenda is the process for contract negotiation. No one wants to take away teachers' right to strike, but classroom learning must be protected. The Performance Counts agenda proposes that negotiations should be transparent to the community. Teachers' right to strike should be limited until after an independent fact-finding panel, that includes union and management representation, deliberates and negotiates issues, contract negotiation issues have been publicized to promote community understanding and the school board has failed to resolve disputed issues.
Legislators face one of the most challenging budget situations in the state's history, making it more important than ever to ensure that the public's dollars are spent wisely. At times of financial stress, getting the most out of public dollars is imperative. This is especially true in education, which means making staffing decisions based on performance is critical.
Please visit www.stand.org/IL to learn more about the Performance Counts agenda in Illinois.
About Advance Illinois
Advance Illinois is an independent, objective voice to promote a public education system in Illinois that prepares all students to be ready for work, college, & democratic citizenship.
About Stand for Children
Stand for Children is an innovative, grassroots child advocacy organization. Our mission is to use the power of grassroots action to help all children get the excellent public education and strong support they need to thrive. Our members believe we need to stand up for our children now - particularly for their education from pre-school through high school - to create a better future for America.
About the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago
The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago is comprised of senior executives in the Chicago region's leading institutions and is dedicated to improving Chicago as a place to live, work, and conduct business.
The Civic Committee and its Education Committee have made improving Chicago public schools a central priority since its inception. The Civic Committee has been involved in Chicago school reform for the last 20 years. It supported enactment of the 1988 and 1995 Chicago school reform laws, as well as the establishment of charter schools to offer Chicago families more and better school choices. It continues to help the Chicago Public Schools through the efforts of its affiliated organizations, the Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA) and The Renaissance Schools Fund (RSF).
About Illinois Business Roundtable
The Illinois Business Roundtable (IBRT) is a voluntary association of 63 chief executive officers of Illinois' leading businesses, formed in 1989 to study, make recommendations, and take action on critical public policy issues facing Illinois. One goal of the Illinois Business Roundtable is to help build a world class education system which provides everyone the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the workforce and the community.
SOURCE Stand for Children; Advance Illinois