Principals Should Have A Union

Practically speaking, CPAA is our union because it is how we fight collectively for ideal working conditions for school leaders and ideal learning conditions for our students. Legally speaking, however, school leaders do not have the statutory rights that unions have. It's time to change that.

How School Leaders Lost the Right to Form a Union (Supervisor vs. Policymaker)
In the 1980s, Illinois' Republican governor and Republican state legislature stripped school leaders of union rights by adding one word to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act (IELRA). That word is "supervisor." IELRA gives education employees the right to form a union, but the act excludes "supervisors" from that right. Since we are supervisors, we lost the right to form a union. States like New York and California, however, exclude only high-level "policymakers." Principals are supervisors, but they do not make district policy. In fact, school leaders often find out about policy changes through Twitter and Facebook because district officials don't show enough respect even to inform principals, let alone involve them in policymaking. So school leaders in states with the "policymaker" standard all have the rights given to most unions.

How School Leaders Can Regain Union Bargaining Rights
We need to change Illinois law to remove the word "supervisors" from the list of educators who are excluded from collective bargaining, and replace that word with "policymaker." That's exactly what Senate Bill 3803 does. It was written by CPAA and filed in the Illinois State Senate by our bill's sponsor, Senator Robert Martwick.

How You Can Help
A union has many sources of power, but its greatest source of power and influence is its size. In the past year, CPAA has grown from 550 members to more than 700 today. More than 70 of those new members joined in the past month. We are expanding our power and influence, but there's more to do. In dismissing principals' concerns at the February CPS Board meeting, CEO Jackson stated, "one-third of principals aren't even members of CPAA." That's right; she dismissed the concerns of the majority of principals because of the one-third she said had not yet joined CPAA.

If we're going to convince the state legislature to grant union rights to school leaders, then we have to convince them that principals and AP's want those rights and are willing to invest in getting them. Nothing says that more than the percentage of school leaders who are part of CPAA. The one-third of school leaders that Jackson was referring to will unknowingly be used by our adversaries to try to convince the legislature to deny us our bargaining rights. Union rights are worth 20 times the cost of membership because they will compel the district to bargain in good faith over salary, the working conditions of school leaders, and the learning conditions of our students. You can help in this effort by talking to your colleagues about the importance of joining. Conversations go best when they are from the heart, but here are a few points that might help your conversation:

  1. District officials use the minority of nonmembers as a talking point to ignore the majority. Don't give our adversaries a talking point. Join your colleagues who are investing in our collective destiny. 
  2. Our greatest source of professional power is the number of members in our association. That means it is illogical to delay joining until the organization has more power and influence because it won’t have more power and influence until you join. Membership matters. It is a show of strength that will make policymakers take note.
  3. Join because an individual voice is weak when it is isolated, but strong when it is united with others. CPAA is where we come together to face issues that none of us can address alone. It is a vehicle to solve common problems through collective action.
  4. Join because no one will fight for us, except us. There is no salvation beyond your own power and the collective power of a thousand professional educators to improve and transform our schools.

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