Education reform in Illinois features two major storylines: politics and policy. On the political front, two powerful forces - the business community and teacher unions - have competing proposals. On the policy end of things, the primary educational question is whether and to what degree teacher performance will be a factor in school-district workforce decisions, from budget-related layoffs to dismissals to tenure.
As the law stands now, layoffs and tenure are simply functions of teachers' years of service and don't take into account whether students are actually learning. Firing a tenured teacher is time-consuming and costly, and the current teacher-evaluation system, all sides agree, is ineffective. Common-sense reform is long overdue.
Given Illinois' history and reputation, however, one might expect politics to dictate the outcome at the expense of sound policy. Somewhat surprisingly, the substance of the different proposals appears to be getting a careful vetting, and politics have thus far taken a back seat.