38 provisions in Illinois School Code could be undermined by Amendment 1

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
December 17, 2021

38 provisions in Illinois School Code could be undermined by Amendment 1

Amendment 1 would allow union leaders to negotiate anything and everything into union contracts – including provisions that could contradict state laws meant to protect Illinois schoolchildren.

Illinois law stops sex offenders and child abusers from teaching the state’s children, but a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution could potentially hand union bosses the power to void those protections and leave state lawmakers unable to stop them.

Illinois Compiled Statutes Section 21B-15 prohibits anyone from being licensed to teach who has committed a sex offense. Section 21B-75 allows the State Superintendent of Education to suspend or revoke a teaching license for things such as abuse or neglect of a child, incompetency or unprofessional conduct.

So if Amendment 1 passes on Nov. 8, 2022, union leaders would be able to override at least 38 provisions in the Illinois School Code through collective bargaining agreements – including the aforementioned provisions that guard against sex offenders and child abusers.

That’s because Amendment 1 would allow unions to demand anything in negotiations – wages, hours, conditions of employment, economic welfare, and safety – without any limitations.

What’s more, Amendment 1 would prohibit lawmakers from putting any limitations on what subjects can be negotiated into contracts. And union leaders could call teacher strikes to get their demands met. This is an especially powerful bargaining chip, as under Amendment 1, lawmakers would be forbidden from passing legislation to limit such strikes.

In other words, Amendment 1 places government union power to negotiate teachers’ contracts above existing state law – and even above the authority of the elected members of the legislature to pass new state laws.

Any limits on what a union could negotiate – including state laws with certain requirements for teachers or district employees – would impinge on the right of unions to negotiate the unlimited subjects guaranteed by the state constitution.

And that includes the power to override the provisions related to qualifications of teachers and licensure. All it would take is a contract provision holding that a school district cannot require licensure (i.e., a “condition of employment” the unions can negotiate) to be employed as a teacher in the school district.

It wouldn’t matter that state law requires licensure. A contract provision would be mightier than state law. And any licensure requirements could be tossed by the wayside.

Union leaders may even go so far as to demand children be vaccinated from certain illnesses or diseases before teachers will show up to school. Currently, Section 27-8.1 outlines required medical examinations and immunizations for Illinois students. Teachers’ unions could add to these requirements by demanding other vaccinations – such as a requirement that all district students have COVID-19 vaccinations – in their contracts, claiming it a negotiable subject because it pertains to “safety at work.”

And that’s not all.

In addition to the 38 provisions in the School Code that could be directly overridden, there are more than 30 provisions related to curriculum that also could potentially be undermined. Currently, the School Code requires courses in civics, consumer education and U.S. history.

But the amendment’s unlimited language could mean that union leaders can make curriculum demands during negotiations – perhaps refusing to teach certain subjects or adding others that must be taught in the district’s schools.

In fact, a source at the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board responding to an inquiry admitted unions may already be able to make curriculum demands during negotiations because it isn’t currently prohibited under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, and anything not explicitly prohibited is “fair game.”

Of course, if Amendment 1 passes, that potential ability to negotiate school curriculum could never be restricted by lawmakers.

There’s a lot on the line if Amendment 1 passes in November 2022. Unfortunately, it’s Illinois’ schoolchildren who may have the most to lose.

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