Illinois Education Association-NEA 100 East Edwards Springfield, IL 62704-1999

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Unions stand together
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New officers

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15,000 p o s tcard s • 45,000 e-m ail m es s ag es • 90,000 p h o n e calls


ave you ever thought your one little voice doesn’t make a difference? This spring’s legislative session should put that idea to rest. IEA members came together to make phone calls, send e-mails, fill out postcards, to personally speak with legislators and those efforts turned what looked like it could be a bleak time for education and educators in this state into some significant wins. In January, the IEA asked you to call and send letters to legislators asking them to oppose TABOR, a proposal that would have cut education funding; to refuse any reduction in collective bargaining rights; and to support education reform in the form of Accountability for All, a proposal developed by IEA, IFT and Chicago Teachers Union to give educators a voice in any changes. And, thousands of you responded. Each of those battles was won. In March, we asked you to contact legislators and ask them not to support a voucher bill. It died. In May, in response to an attack by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and others on working people’s pensions, you sent 15,000 postcards to legislators, crafted 45,000 e-mail messages to legislators and, in conjunction with members of other members of the We Are One labor coalition, made 90,000 phone calls to lawmakers. You won that battle, too. And that was no easy battle to win. Check out an article from the May 23 Springfield State Journal-Register: “But Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, an opponent of charging more for benefits, said the bill faces serious problems among Republican members. ‘I think Representative (Raymond) Poe had the best comment on that. He says, ‘If you don’t have any teachers in your district, then go ahead and vote for change,’” Brauer said. “To change somebody’s pension after they’re hired is wrong.” Your hard work, in combination with the hard work of IEA’s Government Relations and other staff members, made a huge impact on this session. “I think the best thing (about working the pension issue at the Capitol) is when a legislator says to you that your members have been calling him nonstop and starts mentioning names and you think, I know that person,” said Will Lovett, IEA lobbyist. “There is power in numbers. If they are seeing this level of intensity about a certain legislative issue, they expect that intensity on the political side, too. As (state Rep.) Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) said: ‘Will the public remember in 2012 that we reformed pensions, or will the 2,000 teachers in my


district remember that we reformed pensions and show up at the polls?’” Kent Redfield, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said the fact that the IEA buddied up with other labor unions, including AFSCME, IFT and others on various issues this legislative session was helpful, too, because the organizations were able to pool resources for ad campaigns, expertise, support and other useful items. But, he said, one of the main reasons IEA was so successful this legislative session was because of its members and their vocalness. “Every one of those phone calls and personal letters and conversations is a vote,” Redfield said. “You can’t accomplish any legislative goal you have personally unless you get elected. Effective grassroots, that’s something that lawmakers really take into account.” Jim Reed, IEA’s director of Government Relations, said he understands that it’s easy for people to put out of their heads what happens in Springfield. It often seems distant, unrelated to what people are doing in their daily lives. In reality though, he said, what happens in Springfield directly impacts IEA members’ lives. “There are things, for instance, education reform and the pension issue, that directly impact you and your life,” he said. “These are important issues. They impact the work you do in your classroom, who you work with, how teachers get dismissed.” Reed said he’s proud of IEA members and the collective strength they showed this session. And, he said, that collective voice will be needed in the months to come because education has become a key issue every session in recent years. “Continue doing what you’re doing. Expand your personal contact with legislators because it has, Exclusive at can and does make a difference.”

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IEA, IFT and CTU refused to go down without a fight. They partnered together and using ideas the IEA had long ago come up with as a format for changing education in Illinois as a basis, came up with an independent plan for reform, “Accountability for All.”
students, takes educators’ experience into consideration, will keep the best teachers in the classroom and ensure teachers’ voices remain strong at the bargaining table. Highlights of the legislation include:
Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Kimberly Lightford and IEA President Ken Swanson applaud the signing of SB7.

4 The retention of collective bargaining rights, including
the right for teachers to negotiate with their employers over issues of class size, curriculum and other areas that impact student learning and success.


he IEA, Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers’ Union joined forces this year to help craft education reform in Illinois that promises to do more for students while protecting educators’ rights. The result: SB7, which contains the most significant, bold and comprehensive reforms in education in more than 40 years. First, here’s a little history. Last fall, an Oregon-based group called Stand for Children came to Illinois, pumped a bunch of money into political campaigns, raised even more money and vowed to reform education in this state, coming up with a proposal that would have eliminated collective bargaining rights and the right to strike, among other things. House Speaker Mike Madigan deemed the proposal all but passed. This work was being done during the December holiday break, when it was assumed educators weren’t paying attention. But there were a couple major flaws with that plan. One, it didn’t include any educators’ ideas, opinions or experience. Two, educators were paying attention. IEA, IFT and CTU refused to go down without a fight. They partnered together and using ideas the IEA had long ago come up with as a format for changing education in Illinois as a basis, came up with an independent plan for reform, “Accountability for All.” The introduction of “Accountability for All” slowed the process down. The state legislature appointed a committee, led by Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), where all the entities involved in public education were able to come together and hash out a plan that better serves

4 Maintaining the right to strike for both Chicago and
downstate teachers.

4 Consideration of teachers’ years of experience when making decisions to fill vacancies.

4 Establishment of new RIF procedures for teachers outside Chicago that establish a “performance tier” system designed to keep the most effective teachers in the classroom.

4 Changes in tenure to ensure the best new teachers are
granted tenure within a reasonable timeframe.

4 Tenure portability. 4 A streamlined dismissal process while maintaining due
process rights.

4 Training to improve school board member performance. 4 A teaching and learning conditions survey to provide
educator input in every building.

4 Action on teacher certificates for chronically low-performing educators and administrators. All of these are very important to IEA members and their work in the classroom. There is much more detailed information on the IEA website, including several videos at You can also login to the “Members Only” section of the website at where you will be able to find detailed Question and Answer documents and other items that further explain the changes.
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Round one in the pension fight goes to IEA members


ob Haisman, a retired Hinsdale teacher, has long been interested in the pension system, but when he heard radio ads last spring sponsored by Illinois is Broke claiming public employees had pensions that were too generous and costing taxpayers too much money, it drove him over the edge. “When Illinois is Broke was formed, I knew it was a first. There was now active opposition to our pension benefits. These are not a bunch of anti-tax goofs but well financed, anti-tax individuals who represent some of the most powerful business interests in the state and I began to get concerned,” Haisman said. “Things were shaping up to be a perfect storm.” Haisman was right. The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, along with some other entities, had formed Illinois is Broke specifically to target the pensions of public employees, making claims about pensions and those who received them that were not always accurate. They also had the ear of legislative leaders in the Illinois House, including Michael Madigan, and were working on introducing a three-tier pension system that would, over time, force all public employees into a 401K plan. In response, the IEA joined forces with AFSCME, IFT and others in the We Are One organization to combat the notion by buying advertising and by mobilizing each organization’s members, members who are voters that live all over the state. Teachers and public employees of all varieties began sending e-mails, making phone calls, writing letters, sending postcards to and visiting with legislators. “It reminded lawmakers how many teachers and educators and ESPs live in their districts,” said Will Lovett, IEA lobbyist. “It became a constant reminder that these ‘public employees’ are legislators’ neighbors and they taught little Jimmy to read. It really put a face on what we were fighting for.” Haisman played a key role in those efforts. In April, after the members voted at the IEA-Representative Assembly to sound the alarms on the pension issue, a plan was put into place. Region chairs, UniServ directors, grassroots political activists and retired teacher volunteers worked with local leaders to organize meetings about the pension crisis for

retired and active members. Haisman, who started his own pension newsletter several years ago, played a key role in this plan, meeting with people and urging them to make phone calls, send postcards, etc. Tens of thousands of IEA members did. “I always felt that while the lobbyists are excellent and we owe so much to them, this is a different climate. It was going to take more than the six people at the Statehouse,” Haisman said. “We have a secret weapon in the IEA and that is the people. We have 133,000 and if we can get them excited about something, we could be so powerful.” Haisman said he’d been doing grassroots work for IEA for the past 40 years, and the response to the pension issue was nothing like he’d ever seen. “The illusion is that lawmakers know all about the pension system. The reality is that many of them know very little,” he said. “We had dialog all over the state between legislators and teachers. I’m not saying we came up with any huge insights or conclusions other than those teachers spoke their heart and it made a difference, a significant difference.” Haisman said he feels as if IEA won the battle, but not the war. “They are going to come back to us. We just stalled them.” Jim Reed, IEA director of Government Relations, agreed. It’s not over, he said, but IEA members have a unique opportunity ahead of them. “There are new legislative districts. All members of the General Assembly will be running in new districts in 2012 and will have to reintroduce themselves to our members and to everyone else in the district. This gives us a chance to say something to them.” Reed and Haisman urged members to remain involved and not to let their guards down over the summer. Instead, gear up and come up with ideas that can be used to address this issue in the fall, if necessary, and into next year. Keep watching the IEA website at and make sure the organization has a valid, frequently-checked e-mail address for you by going to “My IEA Profile” on the website and entering the pertinent information.

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IEA President-Elect Cinda Klickna, left, visits with members attending IEA Lobby Day in May.

Cinda Klickna
IEA President
For Cinda Klickna, the value of union membership came early on in her career, during which she was RIF’d 11 times but received help and professional development through the Springfield Education Association. Her dedication to her local and to the statewide association grew as she became SEA’s president, immersed herself in the IEA and through her service as a trustee for the Teachers’ Retirement System. The meaning of the word “union” has become ever clearer to her. “It means the coming together of people in a profession to speak up for our members, speak about public education and speak for our students. It’s about having a voice and using it to make things better.” That philosophy showed itself this spring when IEA members spoke up and demanded both that their voices be heard on education reform and that lawmakers reject any changes to the pension system. Members won on both counts because they organized through IEA to make their voices loud and strong. And the need to do so will continue. “We are facing many hard issues and a challenging environment,” Klickna said, so it is imperative that IEA members’ strength, ideas, involvement and support stay in high gear.

Going forward, Klickna said, IEA’s goals must include:

4 Encouraging members to become active in their union
as early as possible;

4 Focusing our efforts on teaching and learning strategies so each of us can be the best at our jobs;

4 Increasing support for the organization by developing
strong relationships with outside groups;

4 Educating other outside groups to better understand
our world of education;

4 Fighting hard in the legislature to pass legislation that
strengthens our profession and to defeat bills that make it harder to attract and retain quality professionals — such as the pension bill that we stopped this spring. Klickna asked that members join her in achieving those goals. “Building our internal strength and reaching out effectively to our communities will be essential if we want to change the public perception of education and accomplish more in the legislature.” She said she understands that time is precious and offered a giant “thank you” to all of those who have gotten involved with IEA’s goals in the past year. It makes a difference, she said, in so many ways. Exclusive at “Together, we can be successful.”
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Kathi Griffin
IEA Vice President
Family. It’s Kathi Griffin’s biggest motivator. Whether the school family she’s nurtured during her 30 years as an elementary school teacher in Schaumburg, her family within the Illinois Education Association or her own family, her husband, daughter (also an educator) and others, family is key to success, she said. “I think it’s really important that we, as leaders, find a balance somehow in doing what we can for the organization but knowing that our priority is our family because that is the balanced ground we all stand on,” she said. “Our organization is made up of volunteers — everyone with full-time jobs, volunteering with their association — but you don’t want them to lose contact with their families. It’s a challenge, but I think it’s possible.” And Griffin understands the challenge of trying to balance it all. In addition to her work as a teacher, she’s also served as an NEA director, member of the IEA Board of Directors, IPACE executive committee, GPA sub-committee, NEA Friend of Education committee and the NEA Member Benefits board in addition to serving as a member of her region council and her local’s executive board. Griffin has several things that she would like to accomplish during her tenure as IEA’s VP. Among those are:

Al Llorens,
IEA Secretary-Treasurer
Al Llorens couldn’t have been better prepared for his newly-elected position if he’d have scripted it (which wouldn’t have been much of a stretch, given that he’s been an actor in both commercials and movies). He spent years being involved with IEA as a local vice president, region treasurer, vice chair and chair, on the IEA Board of Directors, on the IPACE executive committee, the IEA budget committee, the NEA Board of Directors and in other positions. In addition to his years as an active IEA member, he’s also an 11-time marathon runner (which will be helpful to keep up with the busy pace of his new job), a practitioner and teacher of tai-chi (which will help keep him centered), enjoys long-distance driving (a bonus since he’ll spend so much time traveling the state) and has three decades of experience teaching math, most of those at Thornridge High School (skills that will serve him well in his job as treasurer). Llorens said he plans to use those skills to carry out his vision for the IEA during his tenure as secretary-treasurer in several key areas. Those include:

4 Working to guarantee student success by encouraging
support for students not just in schools but also in communities and at home;

4 Making sure members’ voices are heard; 4 Seeing that the pension system is funded; 4 Guaranteeing that the IEA budget is well-drafted and
that money is spent wisely;

4 Embracing the diversity of students, no matter their
abilities, so that school can be great for all students;

4 To restore dignity and respect to the education

4 That educators’ expertise in education is considered in
any legislation that impacts teaching;

4 To better the funding of education and increase the
resources educators have in their possession.

4 And, that education funding is addressed so that all
students can benefit from a great education. “When I became an educator, I knew that, for me, teaching and being an advocate for my profession would go hand in hand,” Griffin said. “This position has given me the opportunity to be your voice and advocate on your behalf, the responsibility to communicate with members of the IEA, the ability to work with many people and maintain a budget that focuses on members’ needs.”

4 And, to save jobs and pensions.
“I have often said we are the guardians of public education, which is the foundation of our democracy. In this present time, it has become imperative that we not only guard public education but that we CHAMPION it!” He will begin doing so when he takes over the new position on July 15.

The IEA bids a fond farewell to outgoing IEA President Ken Swanson and Vice President Bob Blade. It was their leadership, along with newly-elected President Cinda Klickna, that helped guide IEA through several tough legislative sessions and political battles only to come out tougher, stronger and better at the other end. Thank you both for all you did for the organization. It’s time to kick back and enjoy some down time. You’ve certainly earned it.

Thank Y ou!

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T H E 2 0 1 1 I E A R E P R E S E N TAT I V E A S S E M B LY was far different from years’ past. It was shorter, held at a new location — the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont — and didn’t play host to any political candidates. But that didn’t mean political issues weren’t brought up. Hot topics included many discussions about what was happening in Wisconsin where the state’s newly-elected governor waged a war against labor unions there, especially teachers. And, Will Robinson, a guest speaker, spoke about similar wars being waged in states across the country. And, issues within our own state were addressed, as well — education reform, attacks on pensions and other issues that directly impact IEA members’ personal and professional lives. The RA is the place where members get to decide the path the IEA will take in addressing these issues. As such, several new business items were introduced. Delegates supported new proposals, including the following:

4 Placing a progressive income tax consti-





IEA Friend of Education — Gary Plummer, president of The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, for his support of the Springfield Education Association and the business/education connection.

IEA Friend of Education — Darlene Ruscitti, Ph.D., regional superintendent of schools in DuPage County, for her dedication to quality education, willingness to collaborate and cooperate with locals.

tutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot and to include ways to determine and publicize loopholes and ineffective tax incentives which allow corporations and other entities to receive tax breaks that don’t build a strong economy. Since then, the Strong Schools, Strong Communities, Strong Economy group has formed within IEA to help educate people about a progressive income tax and how it could boost economic growth in Illinois.

4 Developing a plan to ensure IEA’s voice
would be heard on the issue of school consolidation, a proposal introduced by Gov. Pat Quinn but tabled by the legislature during this session.

Education Support Professional of the Year — Cindy Mitchell, Triad School District Custodial & Maintenance Association, for her leadership not only at the local level but at the state and national levels.

Human Services and Civil Rights Award Winner — John Schwaller, Homewood-Flossmoor Education Association social worker, for leading his community through a dark period by uniting them.

4 Informing IEA members about Koch
Brother Enterprises, the company supporting Wisconsin’s governor, and other anti-public education groups and encouraging a boycott of their products.

4 Building a detailed plan that would support the preservation of pensions, a hard-fought and so-far-successful campaign that was instituted after the RA.

Mary Lou and Keith Hauge Award — Dottie Beeler, South Suburban Retired Chapter president, for her tireless work on behalf of her members.

Bob Haisman Student Award — Katie Kreis, Illinois State University, for leading the ISU student chapter when it was named the best student chapter in the country.

4 Modifying the legislative platform in the
area of taxing pensions (IEA is opposed to the state taxing retirement income unless all retirement income is taxed and the money directed to the state retirement systems, opposes the state using these funds when calculating its annual pension contribution and would oppose this tax unless it is on retirement income in excess of the Social Security wage index).

Bob Haisman Teacher Award — Martha Venetucci, Yorkville Intermediate School fourth grade teacher, for becoming a local leader and president before gaining tenure and rebuilding union-management relationships.

NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence and Illinois Teacher of the Year — Annice Brave, Alton High School journalism and English teacher, for being a tireless advocate for her students and their success.

4 Continuing to fund an ongoing media
campaign focusing on Illinois’ great educators and education employees. Delegates also elected new officers: IEA President Cinda Klickna; Vice-President Kathi Griffin; and Secretary-Treasurer Al Llorens; new members of the NEA Board of Directors Joyce Bailey, Tom Tully, Alex Wallace and Vickie Mahrt.

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Keep in touch this summer!
The IEA is working for you. You are working for you. Together, we work wonders. Congratulations on a successful legislative session! However, the fight is not over. It is imperative that we keep in touch with each other over the summer and into the new school year. New proposals can pop up at any time, including over the summer, when lawmakers don’t think you’re paying attention. What can you do? Check the IEA website at, or follow the IEA on facebook (Illinois Education Association) and twitter (@ieanea). We’ll reach out to you, too, with any important legislative and pension-related news. Please send your HOME e-mail address to

Together, we work wonders.

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