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School board reps reject mandatory training for board members; vote down proposed ban on teacher strikes
November 24, 2008

The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) has resolved to oppose any legislation that mandates training of school board members, and to reject a proposed ban on teacher strikes. Representatives from 360 Illinois school districts considered a total of 20 resolutions on various public school management subjects at the 2008 Joint Annual Conference, the largest statewide conference of school leaders, held Nov. 21-23 in Chicago.

IASB already encourages local boards of education to "model continuous improvement" by pursuing professional development and training opportunities. But supporters said volunteer school boards should not be subject to training requirements that are not imposed on other elected governmental bodies.

"Why are we being told what to do by the state?" asked Andrew Johnson, board president of local district Wheaton Warrenville District 200, which sponsored the resolution. "Why is it just us?"

His comments were made on the floor of the Delegate Assembly, held Saturday, Nov. 22.

To the extent the state does impose school board training, supporters also suggested that the state should continue to look to IASB as the primary provider of such training.

The issue of mandatory school board member training has been prominent in the Illinois statehouse over the past two years, as "school accountability" measures have been discussed in conjunction with any school funding reform proposal. Until now IASB had adopted no official position statement directly addressing such mandatory training.

In fact, school board members already receive more voluntary training than any other category of elected official in Illinois. According to the IASB annual report for FY 2008, more than 4,000 school board members attended at least one IASB training or meeting event in FY 2008, and 726 attended three or more. But if school board members must have a mandatory training provision, advocates said it should also apply to elected county board members, city councilmen, mayors, park district and library trustees, state legislators, and state constitutional officers.

The measure to oppose mandatory training passed overwhelmingly.

Delegates also adopted a related resolution calling for IASB to evaluate any school funding reform plan more negatively if it is tied to mandatory training of local boards of education.

Local school board representatives also voted this year to reject a resolution calling for an outright ban on teacher strikes. The resolution, submitted by Huntley CSD 158, called upon IASB to lobby for state law to prohibit strikes by all public school employees.

The rationale behind the defeated resolution began with the assertion that, much like police and fire service, a local public school system is a taxpayer-funded entity essential to social stability and community welfare.

Shawn Green, a board member from Huntley CSD 158, argued that the impact to the community from a teacher strike is devastating, noting: "I am a police sergeant and a labor union member, and I am a strong believer in labor unions. But I am proud to have a profession that is too important to go on strike." He said teachers also are too important to strike because "If public school employees go on strike the kids sit at home and there are risks."

Delegates voted down a "do adopt" motion to prohibit strikes. The motion failed 157-180.

Some delegates said they voted to reject the proposal out of concern for the many school boards that have worked hard to cultivate a positive working relationship with their teachers' union.

"We have worked very hard with the IEA and IFT [unions] to develop a good relationship," said Cyndi Dahl, a board vice president from Darien District 61. "I sat in a group session with the members of the Illinois Education Roundtable recently, where there were 25 education groups all working together."

Also speaking against a strike ban was Karen Carney, a board member from School District U-46, Elgin: "Teachers and board members make our best strides when we work together. It is hard to walk away from somebody you respect," she explained.

A total of 20 resolutions were considered at the Delegate Assembly; 12 of which were new proposals and eight others that amended or reaffirmed existing positions. Local member districts are encouraged to draft and submit proposals in early spring; the deadline this year was June 24. After a committee reviews them and offers its recommendations, the Delegate Assembly votes on the resolutions, which, in turn, are used by IASB and other school management lobbyists.

Other concerns voted on by local districts included bilingual education options, extending the school calendar and calendar uniformity, high school exams, abatement for home builders, property tax caps, travel reimbursement for board members, electronic surveys, background checks for board members, unit district consolidation, No Child Left Behind and student assessment and standardized test procedures, school finance reform, polling places in schools, non-resident student tuition, and utility tax abatement for schools.

IASB delegates also heard reports from Executive Director Michael D. Johnson, President Mark C. Metzger, and re-elected Metzger and Vice President Joseph Alesandrini to one-year terms.

Metzger has been a member of the Indian Prairie CUSD 204 Board of Education since 1991. Alesandrini is president of the Pekin CHSD 303 Board of Education and had served as treasurer of IASB prior to becoming vice president last year.

For more information about the Delegate Assembly or the 2008 Joint Annual Conference, visit the Association's Web site at www.iasb.com.

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