Champaign teachers union contract allows intoxicated teachers to show up for work

Champaign teachers union contract allows intoxicated teachers to show up for work

Inconsistent language between the teachers’ and educational support employees’ contracts highlights a two-tiered discipline system

Teachers can show up intoxicated at school in Champaign Community Unit School District 4 with little to no immediate punishment.

The most recent contract between the district and the Champaign Federation of Teachers states teachers under the influence or even refusing to test for alcohol and controlled substances are subject to “progressive discipline.” The correctional system allows employees to commit numerous disciplinary infractions before they are dismissed.

This means teachers refusing to test for intoxication could be largely let off the hook.

Typically, “progressive discipline” involves a series of steps, taken in an ordered progression, aimed at correcting behavior. For example, the contract between the Jacksonville Education Association and Jacksonville Board of Education describes all infractions not deemed “gross misconduct” as warranting a progressive discipline schedule. Their system consists of four escalating actions: verbal warning, written warning, suspension without pay and termination.

But the Champaign teachers’ contract simply describes the progressive discipline procedure as “up to and including immediate discharge.” That implies there are numerous, unspecified steps that could come before any substantive teacher discipline.

The vague teacher contract leaves room for teachers caught intoxicated on the job to be disciplined with an oral reprimand. There is no outline within the contract that specifies the appropriate measures taken for different types of offenses such as intoxication, nor does the district’s policy manual shed any light.

A different Unit 4 employee collective bargaining agreement explains the disciplinary actions included in “progressive discipline” for the employees covered. The contract for the educational support professionals – which covers teachers’ aides, maintenance staff and bus drivers – states the progression includes verbal or written reprimands, suspensions with or without pay, notices of remedy and dismissal. Another provision in the contract states support workers can be immediately suspended or discharged for drinking or possession of alcohol on the job, having alcohol in their system or being in possession of or use of any controlled or illegal drug.

So while teachers are “subject to progressive discipline” for being caught intoxicated, service workers face specific, progressive disciplinary actions.

This sort of provision is not unheard of in teacher contracts. In 2012, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy published an article reporting an alarming government union contract from Bay City Public Schools. The negotiated agreement permitted teachers to be caught three times possessing or under the influence of illegal drugs at work before dismissal, and five times for alcohol intoxication. Students committing the same infractions received a three- or five-day suspension upon first offense.

Lax discipline policies are found in other government union contracts in Illinois. For example, the AFSCME contract with the state of Illinois allows employees to amass 11 unauthorized absences before dismissal upon the 12th offense. They can miss five consecutive days without calling in before potentially being dismissed.

This sort of provision could become more common in Illinois if Amendment 1 passes Nov. 8.

Under Amendment 1, government unions would have the power to overwrite inconvenient statutes with their collective bargaining agreements. Additionally, lawmakers would have no way to keep union bosses in check by passing commonsense laws such as zero-tolerance alcohol and drug policies in schools.

Amendment 1 ensures every provision in a collective bargaining agreement, even ones as absurd as letting teachers show up drunk at school and facing just a verbal reprimand, overrides state laws. It also opens parents to a guaranteed property tax increase, conservatively estimated at $2,100 during the next four years.

Expecting parents to put up with lax discipline of intoxicated teachers, and then imposing a tax hike on them, is not how Illinois’ education system is supposed to work. Amendment 1 promises to spread that type of dysfunction.

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