Monday, June 30, 2014

Pat Quinn: The Archetype of "Cheeky"

Pat Quinn: The Very Archetype of “Cheeky”

Poor Governor Quinn.  First sent to earth to fix a fiscal crisis in Illinois by calling it a pension problem, not a resulting debt for decades of stiffing what was owed to public workers. 

That’s a challenge. 

Now, he finds himself polling seriously behind a billionaire opponent candidate with only vague visions of a “better business climate,” a devoted love of profitable charter schools, and foggy promises about real plans to be shared in the future.  “We’ll get right back to you on that.”

Certainly, that’s frustrating. 

But Pat Quinn often operates like a Jack Horner, heaping praise upon himself for legislation and political history quite outside of his own doing…like SB1.  That was the work of Madigan, and now Pat, deep in a political corner, is calling out to his past constituency to help him battle Rauner.

Past constituency like me.

Right now, Quinn is running about 80% behind Rauner in donations for his gubernatorial campaign, so he’s reaching out to his past electorate once again for assistance. 

Are you kidding me, Pat?

You think you feel unappreciated?  You ought to be a public sector retiree, or worker, Pat.

I received your note this morning:

Midnight tonight marks the most critical fundraising deadline so far in this election.
It's a test of whether a grassroots campaign built by people like you can compete with a handful of billionaire donors.
Let's show them what we can do:
Thank you for standing with me in this fight.
Governor Quinn

Contributions are not tax deductible. State law requires that the occupation and name of the employer be reported for any individual who contributes over $500. Taxpayers for Quinn does not accept contributions from State employees. In addition, the Illinois Procurement Code prohibits certain businesses and their affiliates that have contracts, bids, and proposals with state agencies from making political contributions to state office holders responsible for awarding the contract. For more information about this campaign contribution limitation, please consult the State Board of Elections website.

Paid for by Taxpayers for Quinn. A copy of our report, filed with the IL State Board of Elections is (or will be) available on the board's website ( or for purchase from the State Board of Elections in Springfield, IL. Taxpayers for Quinn

Quinn for Illinois
676 N LaSalle Street
Ste. 340
Chicago IL 60654 United States

If you believe you received this message in error or wish to no longer receive email from us, please unsubscribe.

I’ve got to admit, Pat, it’s a tough choice.  You, the lesser of two evils; or Rauner, trying to work his dark magic in a state where the real sorcerer will thwart his every breath. 

And, Pat, you know there are hundreds of thousands of us who feel like I do. 

One day, yes; the next day, no way ever. 

As for your campaign, Pat?  Not a chance, not even a dime.

As for you?  Like I said, I sometimes waver, but I always feel unappreciated, Pat.  Thanks for that.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Litigation Costs: Help IRTA!! Help Yourself!!

Litigation Co$t$: Time to Help Out, IRTA Retiree!

President of SSRTA (South Suburban Retired Teachers) Will Odaker reports that Jim Bachman, executive director of IRTA provided updates on June 18th to the membership in the areas of insurance, legislative action, and our pension lawsuit.

NOTE:  Nearly half of the money reserved for the IRTA legal defense fund has been exhausted thus far into the legal battle to save our benefits.
$163,770 spent; $187,745 remaining. 

On June 26th, lawyers representing both IRTA and the other four union groups/plaintiffs with the attorneys defending the State of Illinois met before Judge Belz in Sangamon County to hear arguments of class distinction, etc. 

Following the lead of SUAA, the other union/group plaintiffs filed a joint motion to withdraw their class allegations.  Their argument was that any or all of the aspects of SB1 violated the pension protection clause’ therefore, it should be charged as a singular violation. 

“First, the Court granted the plaintiffs' joint motion to withdraw their class allegations.  The judge said the motion was "wise" and would streamline the case, and he thanked us for taking that step.  He also made clear that the motion was granted without prejudice, which means that if in the future we needed to certify a class, we could ask for leave to re-allege our class allegations and could do so” (

On the other hand, even though the unions’ motion was granted, Judge Belz nevertheless allowed for reviewing and arguing each of the issues within the law that the unions consider unconstitutional.  This, of course, was Speaker Madigan’s original strategy to see what would stick after throwing all the elements into the SB1 law to begin with.

We may expect the ruling of the Judge in Sangamon County to go directly to the Supreme Court, but it will not necessarily travel in one piece.  In fact, the challenge to SB1 (now PA 98-599) could likely arrive in several different packaged challenges, perhaps by several different groups.

In short, this is going to take longer.

In short, this is going to cost more.

In short, it is time to pay it forward, retiree.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pension Suit Update: Next Hearing June 26th Thursday

Pension Suit Update: Class Certification Hearing on June 26

Law is more than just practiced courtesy in litigious warfare; it’s also cautiousness and prudence in the extreme.  In short, don’t expect the lawsuit by We Are One and other organizations to move in any way except slowly and circumspectly.  But also know the wheel is slowly moving forward.

On Thursday, June 26th, a gathering of legal representatives and plaintiff groups, and the defendants (Attorney General’s Office) in the “pension suit” will deliver arguments, share expert witnesses, and present historical position statements to Judge Belz in Sangamon County, Illinois, at 1:30 p.m.  All of this falls under an early but necessary step in the process toward final litigation, one called “class distinction,” or “class certification.”

Even though we pensioners may consider the reprehensible diversion or half-century lack of payments by the General Assembly a criminal refusal of their obligations to a contractual promise, a class action suit does not fall into a category synonymous with criminal law.  Rather, it is common law, considered an area grounded in precedent, even when it touches upon a Constitutional matter at the State level.  This, by the way, is why my friend and blogger Glen Brown is so accurately repetitive in his citations of precedents in earlier attacks on the substance and/or meaning of Article XIII, Section 5 of our Illinois Constitution:  

Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality therof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

See Glen Brown's Listed Precedents in Illinois Law:

Class action suits have been around since as early as the 1100’s, when villagers could choose three or four representatives to file a single complaint against the Lord of the Manor in the name of all his feudal subjects.  This aspect of common law followed our earliest descendants to America, and the judiciary (not a trial jury) was compelled to determine litigious outcome in such cases based upon either precedent or their own good sense of moral and ethical correctness (that is, if no precedent could be determined). 

In the mid 1800’s, the need to codify such laws resulted in what would eventually become rules of civil procedure in such actions: determining who might or might not be members of a representative group seeking compensation for injury or an alleviation of unfair practices on a specific group.  The problematic issue of who was represented by such actions remained a legal Gordian knot for the courts and especially the judiciary.  Eminent Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (1811-1845) was insistently
Justice Joseph Story
concerned about the power of a class action’s final outcome  suit to bind those who were originally not a part of the litigation nor an original  party to the complaint. 

By the mid to early 1900’s the Supreme Court adopted the Rules of Civil Procedures, a careful outline of acceptable procedures and the established differences between common and criminal law courts.  On the other hand, questions of absent parties were not entirely settled. 

Example: You perhaps have received opportunity to become part of a class action suit via letter or on the Internet lately.  One imperative in such litigation is the necessity to identify not only the class of individuals seeking compensation or permanent injunction, but also to inform those who may seek to be or not to be a part of the action.  Providing individuals with the choice to become part of the process is a necessary and lengthy function of due process in the journey of a class action suit from start until final resolution.  Indeed, we can all expect that June 26th is just the first pass in an epic duel of courtroom thrusts that will lead one of these days to an answer about constitutionality or the police powers of the state as being victorious.

In 1966, further revisions of the code provided for a revision (Rule 23) that offered some long needed alterations; although it did not and has not necessarily made anything less complicated in class actions.  During the “discovery” section early on in this process, the exact size and nature and population of the class is called certification, and this is what will begin on this Thursday.

From Rule 23:
Prerequisites: One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if:

1)           the class is so numerous that joinder of all of its members is impracticable;
2)           there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
3)           the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
4)           the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Some people may choose to go it alone.  You might remember the result of the tobacco industry’s fight against the representative class action for smoking borne illnesses.  What began as federal class actions against the tobacco industry in the 1950’s gained real traction when class actions moved to the state levels in the 90’s.  Remember the man with inoperable lung cancer in California who received a $50 plus million settlement from Philip Morris?  In Florida, on the other hand, individual suits were thrown out of court – as those partaking in smoking cigarettes were presumed by the judiciary to have had knowledge of the medical danger to do so.   

Of course, the plaintiffs (Quinn, Topinka, in the Pension Suit defended by the Attorney General of Illinois, have already made clear their disavowal of any harm, any illegality, any breaking of precedent in their adoption of SB1 or invocation of police powers.  Indeed, they will also argue against the representation of individuals per groups of people.  They may argue that an individual does not represent all retired teachers; another individual does not truly represent all current and future actives; one COLA does not truly or accurately represent all other people with dissimilar COLA’s. 

We can expect to be later outraged by arguments from Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s representatives that police powers trump any precedents in the future, but starting on June 26th we’ll need to carefully muddle through class distinctions and representation before we get to that legal flash point.

Meanwhile, Judge Belz has an equally careful and painstakingly prudent path to tread. 

To be continued…

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Letters from the Inside: Another Teacher's Tough Decision to Leave...

Letters from the Inside: A Great Young Teacher Decides to Leave the Profession
(Reprinted by permission of the author)
Josh Waldron, a veteran teacher of only 6 years and recipient of teaching awards, has made the agonizing choice to leave a profession that he once loved.  His explanation(s), observations, and recommendations reflect a sobering review of what is happening in the classroom across the nation.  For his entire post on his site, click below:   
 As the title of this post suggests, I have made the tough decision to leave the classroom for good at the end of this school year.
The decision is a painful one — both personally and professionally. It is also a public one, as I’ve been honored as recently as last month by the Waynesboro Rotary Club as its 2014 High School Teacher of the Year, my fourth such honor in six years.
In that respect, I feel an explanation is in order, as well as a prescription for what we — as a community — can do to right the ship.
Every workplace has its imperfections and challenges. I accept that. But public education is painted as a career where you make a difference in the lives of students. When a system becomes so deeply flawed that students suffer and good teachers leave (or become jaded), we must examine how and why we do things.
Waynesboro is small enough that we can tackle some of the larger problems that other school systems can’t. I want this piece, in part, to force a needed, collective conversation.
In doing so, I don’t want to come across as prideful or arrogant. I simply want my neighbors and friends to understand the frustrations at issue and what’s at stake for the next round of teachers and students.
When I came to this area in 2008, I believed I would be a teacher for life. My wife and I signed a lease on an apartment we had never seen and arrived only a few days before school started. Words can’t really express how excited I was to land a teaching job, work with high school students, and invest in teenagers the way one teacher invested in me.
That first year coincided with the first round of school budget cuts. Salaries were frozen and spending was slashed. This basic storyline has repeated itself for the five years that followed.
Over this time, I’ve lost my optimism and question a mission I once felt wholly committed to.
I still care deeply about students. I’ve worked hard to brighten their day while giving them an enjoyable and rigorous environment in which to learn. If this job was just about working with students, I couldn’t ask for a better or more meaningful career.
The job, though, is about much more. And I have very real concerns about the sustainability of public education in Waynesboro (and as a whole).
To make a real difference in the lives of students, raise the quality of life in greater Waynesboro, and attract and keep life-changing teachers, we must address five key areas:
1. Tear Down the Hoops
Our teachers spend far too much time jumping through hoops.
Every year, our district invents new goals (such as “21st Century Skills”), measuring sticks (most recently a “Growth Calculator”), time-consuming documentation (see “SMART goals”), modified schedules (think block scheduling and an extended school day), and evaluations (look in our seventy-two page “Teacher Performance Plan”).
As a district, we pretend these are strategic adjustments. They are not. The growth calculator was essentially brought forward out of thin air, SMART goals are a weak attempt to prove we’re actually doing something in the classroom, etc. Bad teachers can game any system; good teachers can lose their focus trying to take new requirements seriously.
These hoops have distracted me from our priority (students). I’ve concluded it’s no longer possible to do all things well. We need to tear down these hoops and succeed clearly on simple metrics that matter.
Over the past six years, I can’t remember a time where something was taken off my plate. Expectations continue to increase and we play along until we invent new hoops.
On a personal level, with 100+ students a year, a growing family, and two side jobs, I can no longer be a good teacher and do all the system expects of me.
2. Have a Plan for the Future
I stepped into the classroom around the time of a major worldwide recession. As the individuals and institutions responsible for this recession escaped accountability for their actions, school districts like ours went into survival mode.
Six years later, we’re still there. We have no plan for the future.
Earlier this year, the school board held its annual budget meeting. I left my second job early to attend and asked board members one simple question: “Is there any cause for optimism?” Each school board member, searching for a silver lining, effectively answered “no” by the time their reasoning caught up with them.
These basic mantras seem to govern what we do:
Just do the best you can.
We need to do more with less.
There’s no money in the budget for that.
We’re hoping things look better next year.
I don’t fault our district for a worldwide economic downturn. I do fault it for how it’s handled it. For six years in a row, we’ve cut, cut, cut. And for six years in a row, students and teachers have paid the biggest price.
When times are tough, human beings and institutions have the rare opportunity to reflect and refocus, to think differently and creatively. But instead of seizing the opportunity and gathering stakeholders for collective conversations and solution building, we’ve wandered around aimlessly hoping to make ends meet.
We should have a clear plan for sustainability. Instead, we’re really just worried about balancing the budget.
When we have a desperate need like football bleachers that have to be replaced, or turfgrass that isn’t up to par, we somehow find the money. We — through public or private avenues — meet those needs. Why can’t we find funds to address the areas that seem more pertinent to our primary mission?
3. Scrap Obsession with Flawed Assessments
I’ve seen teachers cry over Standards of Learning scores. I’ve seen students cry over SOL scores. I’ve seen newspaper and TV reports sensationalize SOL scores. These are all indications of an unhealthy obsession with flawed standardized tests.
SOL tests are inherently unfair, but we continue to invest countless hours and resources in our quest for our school to score well. This leads me to the following questions:
   Do we care more about student progress or our appearance?
   Why can’t we start a movement to walk away from these tests?
   Why can’t we shift our focus to critical thinking and relevant educational experiences?
It’s tough to acknowledge that people in Washington, D.C., and Richmond (and sometimes decision makers in Waynesboro) develop systems and policies that affect my students and me negatively. But as they retire and sail off into the sunset, we’re the ones left with the consequences of ineffective measurements and strategies.
Our new teacher evaluations focus heavily on test scores. But while teachers are continually under pressure to be held accountable, there seems to be very little accountability for parents, the community, or district offices.
It’s only going to get worse, and it seems that we have no intention of taking a stand or advocating against flawed assessments. Instead, we have submitted ourselves to these tools that misrepresent student growth. It is a game, and it is a game I no longer wish to play.
4. Build a Community That Supports Education
Stop by the high school for a sporting event (and I love sports) and you’ll be impressed with the attendance and enthusiasm. Stop by the high school on a parent-teacher night and you’ll see tumbleweed blowing through the halls.
If parents and local decision-makers really value education (and there is a small portion of the community that does), student and teacher morale would be much different.
Our school and political leaders must help build a community that truly supports education. A real investment from residents across all neighborhoods and groups would change the climate immensely and allow us to truly tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
Unfortunately, the community seems disengaged with such struggles and more concerned with whether or not we’ll ever land an Olive Garden.
Until the community boosts its value of education…
   How can we provide high quality to all students?
   How can we build strong academic programs that meet student needs?
   How can we prepare students to be productive citizens?
   How can we successfully partner with parents and others?
If we can’t reflect the values of our mission statement, then we need to change our mission statement.
We simply can’t move forward when there is such little community connection to our educational goals. And if we can’t move forward together, I don’t want to tread water alone.
5. Fairly Compensate Educators
Compensation alone has not pushed me away from education. At the same time, the years of salary and step freezes have taken a toll.
If educators are as valuable as we claim they are (our district website says we “strive to hire and retain quality employees”), then we would make sure we take care of employees and their families. We must fairly compensate educators.
Keeping a sixth year teacher on a first year salary is not looking out for someone who looks out for students. For those like me, there’s only a $100 difference in our December 2009 and January 2014 monthly paychecks.
My wife and I live on a very strict budget. We are thankful for the quality of life we enjoy compared to other people in the world and try to keep things in their proper perspective. But the only financial reason I can afford to keep teaching is because of two side businesses and the generosity of family and friends. I’m not the only educator who manages extra work to make ends meet. Here are some efforts we’ve made to make this job sustainable:
   We lived with one car (a car that was given to us) for 4 ½ years. During that time, I walked or rode my bike to school to save on gas. We recently bought a second car with money I saved from my web design business.
   We rarely eat out and maintain our own garden to cut down on food costs.
   We bought a $114,000 house that needed lots of work. This kept our mortgage payments in the $700 range, which is about what it would cost to rent a decent apartment.
   We haven’t taken a vacation since I started teaching six years ago.
I love Waynesboro. I’m rooting for Waynesboro’s success. But there needs to be real, quantifiable change if we’re going to create a bright future for everyone.
A love for students and teaching drove me for the past six years. Now I’m watching my own kids grow up and am starting to think more and more about my own family.
What will I have to show for myself 10 years from now when I’ve missed crucial time with my own kids to barely break even and exist in a place where educators aren’t really valued? What happens when I dedicate my life to a place only to discover I’m part of their 10th round of budget cuts?
We need answers. I hope this can move us one step closer to asking the questions that will get us there."
Josh Waldron