Madigan Hints at Eliminating Teachers' Tenure New House Leader Says Voters Demand Accountability

By Allen, Jim; Lawhead, Deedra | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 9, 1996 | Go to article overview

Madigan Hints at Eliminating Teachers' Tenure New House Leader Says Voters Demand Accountability


Allen, Jim, Lawhead, Deedra, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Jim Allen and Deedra Lawhead Daily Herald Staff Writers

Madigan questions tenure policies

The possible elimination of tenure for teachers was broached Friday by Michael J. Madigan, the Chicago Democrat who will become Illinois House speaker in January.

Madigan's comments caused a stir among teacher unions, Republicans and suburban school administrators and teachers. Many agree changes need to be made to make teachers more accountable but how to do it is up for debate.

"I think that if a teacher is not performing, the teacher ought to be removed from the classroom. And if there are changes in Illinois law that could facilitate that, then we ought to do it," Madigan said.

Michael J. Madigan, the next Illinois House Speaker, said Friday the state should make it easier for schools to fire bad teachers and possibly eliminate tenure.

The Chicago Democrat, who has stood for years as a staunch ally of teachers unions, said those changes must come if educators realistically expect a "broad legislative package" to boost taxes for schools next year.

Madigan, who will be elevated to House speaker in January as a result of the Democrats' election victories, said voters will demand such "accountability" before they open their pocketbooks.

Madigan referred to how parents rallied for an end to the recent Niles Township High School teacher strike.

"There was a real clear message there," he said. "Unions generally are protective of their members. They're generally resistant to changes that would provide for a more easy removal of a teacher from a classroom, but I disagree with them on that," Madigan said.

"I think that if a teacher is not performing, the teacher ought to be removed from the classroom. And if there are changes in Illinois law that could facilitate that, then we ought to do it."

The Southwest Side legislator added that tenure may be antiquated, because teachers now can negotiate contracts that can include such provisions.

How quickly times change.

Earlier this year it was Republicans proposing to limit or do away with teacher tenure. But Friday they were listing reasons why it couldn't or shouldn't happen as soon as Madigan suggests.

Republican State Sen. Peter Fitzgerald of Inverness proposed last spring to do away with state-mandated tenure and leave it up to school districts and teachers' unions to decide. But the bill never even got a hearing.

"I would think it would be an uphill battle, although it is certainly encouraging if Madigan is talking like that," Fitzgerald said. "It (tenure) really ties the hands of school district principals and administrators ... to weed out incompetent teachers."

Under Illinois law, teachers work under a two-year probationary period. A teacher then gains tenure, which severely limits the circumstances under which they can be fired. The system was created to protect teachers from being replaced at the whims of school boards or administrators.

"I could foresee a legislative development where tenure would be eliminated. ... I am not directly proposing that. I am simply saying that I could foresee that that could happen as part of a broader plan to bring more accountability to education," Madigan said.

Madigan's comments came during and after taping of "At Issue" for WBBM 780-AM. The show airs at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Madigan said the changes could come with the long-debated "tax swap." That plan would reduce property taxes while raising income taxes and possibly increasing taxes on riverboat revenue. Gov. Jim Edgar endorsed it last year, but it died. …

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