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Aquino expresses support for Noble Charter School teacher unionization

Senator Omar AquinoSPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, expressed his support for a group of Noble Charter Schools teachers in their effort to unionize. A number of Noble staffers recently signed an open letter asking the administration not to interfere with union organizing.

“Hundreds of families in the 2nd district are served by the seven Noble schools in the area. It is very important that the Noble Charter Schools board does not interfere with unionization efforts,” Aquino said. “Noble Charter Schools negotiates contracts with Chicago Public Schools. It seems fair to me that the teachers should be allowed to collectively bargain for a contract with their employer.”

Last Friday, over 130 Noble Charter School teachers signed an open letter asking the administration not to interfere with unionization efforts. With 12,000 students enrolled at 17 campuses around the city, Noble is Chicago’s largest charter school network. If they organize, Noble teachers will form the largest union of charter school teachers in the country. The teachers are organizing for more job stability, better teacher retention and a greater voice in network decisions.

“I believe that unionization is the right choice for Noble Charter Schools,” Aquino said. “When teachers are brought to the table and given a voice, the quality of education improves. Out of respect for these workers, I call on Noble Charter School Network Superintendent Michael Milkie to keep his promise and stay out of the union’s organizing efforts. I believe that every person has the right to organize with their coworkers for better working conditions.”

If formed, the Union of Noble Educators would join Chicago ACTS Local 4343, which represents over a dozen Chicagoland charter schools. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, State Sen. Daniel Biss and Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa have already expressed their support for the teachers’ ongoing efforts to organize.

Superintendent Jarrett works with Stadelman to direct federal funds to at-risk students

Senator Steve StadelmanSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) advanced legislation through committee today that will protect federal funding for the Rockford public school district.

The measure would ensure federal funds meant for Title 1 programs go to help low-income children rather than paying into teachers’ pensions and could free up millions of federal dollars for Rockford public schools.

“Right now, school districts are being required to use federal funds that are meant to go to students to pay down the state’s pension debt,” Stadelman said. “This disproportionately affects at-risk students in the districts that need help the most.”

Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Rockford Public Schools Superintendent, testified in favor of the legislation.

“What we’re advocating for is to let those federal dollars go to what the teachers and the principals in those schools say they need most, which is support for struggling students,” Jarrett said. “This is an opportunity for equity for those schools.”

The legislation would allow school districts to pay into federally funded teachers’ pensions at the same rate as all other teachers, cutting the districts’ contribution rate from 45 percent to 7 percent. Individual teachers’ pensions would not be affected.

SB 0195 passed overwhelmingly in the Senate Licensed Activities and Pensions committee and will be reported favorably to the floor for consideration.

On International Women’s Day, Biss advances measure to close wage gap

Senator Daniel BissSPRINGFIELD – A measure designed to narrow the gender wage gap in Illinois advanced out of the Senate’s Labor Committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 981, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), would prohibit Illinois employers from asking job applicants about their salary history, a practice that perpetuates gender discrimination and wage inequality.
 
“If you’re an employer who prides yourself on not discriminating against your workers but you base starting pay on what they earned at their last job, they may be perpetuating the wage gap,” Biss said.

Women in Illinois make up nearly half of the workforce but earn just 79 cents for every $1 that men earn. For women of color, the wage gap is wider – Black and African-American women earn 63 cents on the dollar to white men; Hispanic and Latina women earn just 48 cents.

Illinois women who work full-time lose nearly $20 billion every year because of unequal pay, meaning less money for their savings, for spending on basic goods and services and for investing back into the local economy.

“We have a troubling wage gap in Illinois and across the country that is unfair and unacceptable. This legislation attempts to confront the problem at its source – during negotiations between a job applicant and a potential employer,” Biss said. “Every time an employer bases a woman’s starting salary on what she made at her previous job, they’re ensuring that she never catches up and that we never close the gap.”

Wednesday was International Women’s Day.

Biss also is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1721, the Family Leave Insurance Act, which would offer up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for employees to recover from serious health conditions, care for a child or other family member, or spend time with a newborn or adopted child within any 24-month period. Employees would receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage, which would be funded through a 0.3 percent payroll deduction.

The legislation is assigned to the Senate Labor Committee.

Holmes demands budget answers

Senator Linda HolmesSPRINGFIELD — In a Senate hearing with Acting Director Anna Hui of the Illinois Department of Labor, State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, asked what cuts could be made in the Department of Labor to close the $4.6 billion hole in Gov. Rauner’s out of balance budget proposal.

“Being that the governor’s proposed budget was $4.6 billion out of whack and we’re now finding that that number might be more optimistic than it’s going to be, I would appreciate hearing from the department itself where you would be most willing to make those cuts,” Holmes said. “Where would you like to see those cuts if we are in a position where they have to be made?”

“We are not in the position to speculate about where those cuts might come from,” Hui said, to which Holmes replied: “Okay. Let’s call that nonresponsive.”

This week, Sen. Holmes and her fellow Democrats in the Senate have asked more than ten heads of state agencies what they would do should they be asked to cut their agencies’ budgets. In this year’s budget proposal, Gov. Rauner put forward a plan that spends $4.6 billion more than it collects in revenue. Rauner’s FY 18 budget proposal relies on the General Assembly to close this $4.6 billion gap by proposing new revenues or making cuts.

“Gov. Rauner has been asking the General Assembly to give him the authority to make budget cuts for months. I would expect the governor’s agency heads to have some cuts already in mind,” Holmes said. “Clearly that is not the case.”

Director Hui is one of at least ten other state agency directors who have appeared before the Illinois Senate this week. None have suggested ways to close the $4.6 billion gap.

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