Illinois bill would give unions platform for indoctrination in Illinois schools

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
January 15, 2024

Illinois bill would give unions platform for indoctrination in Illinois schools

House Bill 4417 requires an annual “Workplace Readiness Week” in all Illinois high schools, which focuses not on getting kids ready for jobs but on the labor movement’s role in the workplace.

Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation that would take time away from teaching the basics to allow their union friends a platform for union recruitment and indoctrination.

House Bill 4417 requires every high school to observe an annual “Workplace Readiness Week.” The name sounds like it would help Illinois students prepare for the workforce: perhaps help them know how to apply for a job or prepare for an interview.

Far from it. Instead, it would mandate high schools provide students – every year – with information on issues such as “prohibitions against misclassification of employees as independent contractors,” family leave and – of course – the right to organize a union in the workplace.

If passed, it would provide a platform for union propaganda, without allowing the same privilege for any other viewpoints. It does nothing to give students the skills they need to make them ready for the workplace.

This potential gift to Illinois’ unions is no surprise. Nine of out of 10 current Illinois lawmakers have received money from unions. Between January 2010 and June 2023, unions poured $60.2 million into lawmakers’ political committees, according to records with the Illinois State Board of Elections. The vast majority of the funds – 95% – went to Democrats.

More specifically, four out of five current lawmakers have received money from teachers unions, to the tune of nearly $20 million.

HB 4417 is just the most recent in a long line of thank-you gifts government unions have received from the Illinois General Assembly.

In 2023, lawmakers failed to extend Illinois’ tax credit scholarship program, which allowed private individuals to take tax deductions for funding scholarships for low-income students. While the majority of Illinoisans supported the program known as Invest in Kids, teachers unions funneled nearly $1.5 million into lawmakers’ coffers in the five months leading up to the decision and succeeded in killing the program. Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch refused to even call a vote so lawmakers could not be held accountable for letting down over 9,600 disadvantaged students.

In 2022, Illinois passed Amendment 1, placed on the ballot by lawmakers. The amendment granted Illinois’ government unions the constitutional power to demand anything in negotiations and even override state and local laws through collective bargaining.

In the meantime, students in Illinois schools are struggling. The majority of kids can’t read or do math at grade level.

Data released by the Illinois State Board of Education in October 2023 showed just 35% of third-  through eighth-grade students could read at grade level. Only 27% met proficiency in math. Similarly, just 32% of current seniors could read at grade level and only 27% performed math proficiently on the SAT in spring 2023.

Rather than ensuring public schools have enough time in the day to teach the basics, lawmakers supporting this bill are again siding with their union allies and taking up needed classroom time with union advertising.

Illinois students need to be able to read and write. Knowing how to properly categorize “independent contractors”? Not so much.


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