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State union leader heading to Washington for landmark education bill signing

IFT President Dan Montgomery applauds passage of ESSA, calls for next steps in Illinois

WESTMONT, IL – IFT President Dan Montgomery will join AFT President Randi Weingarten and others to witness President Barack Obama sign a landmark education bill into law tomorrow morning in Washington.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) removes many existing federal obstacles and gives states greater flexibility in key areas of education. The bill sends a clear signal to states that the policies of No Child Left Behind, waivers, and Race to the Top should be abandoned, not replicated. By maintaining funding for the students who need it most, ESSA discourages state support for private school vouchers, portability, and other divisive policies. And by requiring transparency and accountability for charter schools, it suggests that these unproven policies should not be pursued.

“I am very honored to participate in this historic moment and applaud Congress for this significant course correction, acknowledging that a decade’s worth of test-and-punish education policies have been a failure,” said IFT President Montgomery, who also serves as Vice President on the board of the American Federation of Teachers. “Nothing is perfect, and ESSA is no exception, but there is a lot to like about this bill. Overall, it brings us closer to letting states, local school districts, and educators like me focus on students and their success. It's also an important to step in ending the harmful testing obsession that parents and teachers alike have repeatedly rejected. Now, we must use this national momentum to affect more change in Illinois, where misguided state policies continue to drain the joy from teaching and learning."

Illinois educators, school districts, and students will not feel the impact of ESSA overnight. Many onerous, prescriptive requirements that resulted from No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants, and the ESEA waiver process will be eliminated with ESSA, but state laws passed to comply with the previous federal requirements remain. This is notably true in the area of teacher evaluations, which are required to be tied to student growth measures under Illinois’ PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act) law. Changes in state law will be required to fully realize the greater flexibility in accountability systems provided in ESSA.

Montgomery recently penned an op-ed about the harmful impact of high-stakes standardized testing for the Chicago Sun-Times.

ESSA cleared its final hurdle in the United States Senate with overwhelming support today. The White House has advised the President will sign the legislation into law tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

For more info about ESSA, please click here.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers is a large state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. IFT represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees under every statewide elected constitutional officer, and retirees.

IFT President Dan Montgomery has worked tirelessly on behalf of public education and the rights of working men and women for more than two decades. In addition to being a union leader at the state and national levels, Montgomery is a dedicated and experienced educator who taught high school English for 18 years in Skokie, IL.  

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