As noted in a recent Illinois Review article (HERE), the issue of teachers union reform is a hot topic of the GOP gubernatorial primary. But hard-nosed Illinois political realities may make plans for real reform a pretty tall order.
Aside from needing to win the executive branch in 2014, a Republican reformer would need to prevail in the General Assembly, which is likely to remain solidly under the control of the Democrat Party. A party, some argue, that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the public-sector unions.
However, politics is quirky - especially in Illinois. So the teachers unions are hedging their bets and investing in the Republican side of the aisle as well. According to reports, the National Education Association (NEA), the Illinois Education Association's PAC (IEA), the American Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) have all donated to a significant number of Illinois Republican lawmakers.
Illinois Education Association
So far this year, Illinois State Senators Tim Bivins and Dave Luechtefeld along with Illinois State Reps. Raymond Poe, Mike Fortner, Sandra Pihos and Don Moffitt have all been the beneficiaries of IEA largesse.
State Rep. Sandy Pihos received a $25,000 check from the IEA in September, just before she introduced legislation to reduce state educational grants going to Chicago schools. With a growing controversy over how Illinois education funds are distributed, the IEA, which represents the vast majority of Illinois' teachers outside of Chicago, has millions at stake. Pihos is influential as the Republican spokesperson on the House Elementary & Secondary Education, as well as serving on the House Approp-Elementary & Secondary Education committees.
State Rep. Raymond Poe represents a Springfield populated with a lot of government union workers. He received $15,000 in mid-June when he was maneuvering as the next possible Republican House Leader. And the IEA has been a long-term supporter of State Rep. Don Moffitt, with over $100,000 in total campaign donations.
State Sen. David Luechtefeld, a former teacher, principal and high school basketball coach, is the Minority Spokesman on the Senate Education Committee. The IEA has given him over $115,000 in campaign donations over the years.
Other GOP lawmakers who have received at least $5,000 of support from the IEA include State Reps. Keith Sommer, Chad Hays, David Reis, Mike Bost, John Cavaletto, David Leitch, Adam Brown, Dan Brady, and Dennis Reboletti; and State Senators Dale Righter, Sam McCann, Chapin Rose, and DuPage County's Kirk Dillard.
Dillard, who received $250,000 from teachers unions in his 2010 gubernatorial bid, is the only current Republican lawmaker to receive support from the radically left-wing Chicago Teachers Union.
The amount of money and diversity of recipients speaks to the depth and breadth of political influence the teachers unions have in the state. No matter who the governor is in 2015, one of their most formidable opponents will be the many teachers unions. Time will tell if a gubernatorial David will ever be able to fell this union goliath.