Tag Archives: Illinois

Unit 5 gives First Student until Nov. 1 to fix bus problems

Source: Derek Breigh & Kevin Barlow, Pantagraph, September 29, 2016

First Student has until Nov. 1 to sort out McLean County Unit 5’s busing problems or face termination of its contract with the Normal-based school district. That contract says Unit 5 has until Oct. 1 to tell First Student it will end the contract June 30, but school board members sent an ultimatum after press time Wednesday: push the notice until Nov. 1, or the option will be used now. … The board voted 6-1, with Joe Cleary voting “no,” to extend the termination notice deadline. The board then voted unanimously that a notice be issued immediately if First Student does not accept the Nov. 1 date. Cleary moved to issue a termination notice immediately, but the motion died when no one seconded it. First Student asked Wednesday for a Dec. 1 deadline. Officials appeared before the board with a detailed plan to correct issues with late and missing buses that started after the district reorganized its routes this fall to cut costs. … One of the major components to the plan, he said, was reaching an agreement with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which was in the process of negotiating its first contract for bus drivers and monitors with Unit 5 when the district opted to hire First Student. …


Unit 5 settles with former bus employees
Source: Derek Beigh, pantagraph.com, July 9, 2015

McLean County Unit 5 closed a controversial chapter in its history Wednesday — but for many former employees, the fight continues. The Normal-based school district’s board voted Wednesday to pay $28,000 to former employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. The move ends a series of bitter disputes starting when Unit 5 chose to outsource bus service in 2012 while bus drivers and monitors were negotiating their first union contract with the district….

Unit 5 approves new bus contract
Source: Derek Beigh, pantagraph.com, May 22, 2015

McLean County Unit 5 officials hope to have better communication, more timely service and up-to-the-minute tracking under a new bus contract. Cincinnati-based First Student Inc. will receive $7.4 million to provide bus service to Unit 5 from fall 2015 to spring 2018, with an option for a two-year extension by mutual agreement…..The contract, approved Wednesday night by the Unit 5 board of education, is the first since the Illinois Supreme Court, in a denial of an appeal of earlier court decisions, said Unit 5 did not act in bad faith when deciding to hire First Student rather than keep using district employees, who then were in the midst of negotiating their first union contract as members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees….

Unit 5 bus union denied appellate rehearing
Source: Maria Nagle, pantagraph.com, July 25, 2014

The union representing former bus employees of McLean County Unit 5 will not get a rehearing from an appellate court in its labor dispute with the school district, and it pledged Wednesday to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. In an administrative review requested by the Normal-based school district, the 4th District Appellate Court in June sided with the district in the dispute with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. … Unit 5 hired First Student Inc. to take over busing in May 2012. While some drivers and monitors became First Student employees, others remained on the Unit 5 payroll under First Student supervision while their union waged a legal battle against the outsourcing. Following the appellate court’s decision in June, the Unit 5 school board voted to dismiss 56 drivers and bus monitors still employed by the district during the legal actions. …

Unit 5 dismisses its remaining school bus drivers and monitors
Source: Maria Nagle, Pantagraph.com, June 11, 2014

The McLean County Unit 5 school board voted Wednesday to dismiss 56 drivers and bus monitors still employed by the district after its disputed decision to outsource busing services. The passage as an item on the board’s consent agenda without board discussion drew repeated shouts of “Shame on you” from many of the 50 or more transportation workers in the audience. Unit 5 hired First Student Inc. to take over busing in May 2012. While some drivers and monitors became First Student employees, others remained on the Unit 5 payroll under First Student supervision while their union waged a legal battle against the outsourcing….

Unit 5 votes to dismiss transportation employees
Source: Adam Studzinski, WJBC, June 11, 2014

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees members let out cries of “shame on you” during Unit 5’s Board of Education meeting on Wednesday after the board voted to officially dismiss its transportation employees. It’s a move made after last week’s ruling from the 4th District Appellate Court saying Unit 5 can proceed with outsourcing its transportation needs. AFSCME member and Unit 5 bus driver J.B. Johnson said the decision is “shameful.” ….. AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Kent Beauchamp said the school board’s move to dismiss the employees actually isn’t legal.

Union to appeal ruling allowing Unit 5 to outsource busing
Source: Maria Nagle, pantagraph.com, June 10, 2014

The union representing McLean County Unit 5 bus drivers and monitors will appeal an appellate court’s decision that allows the school district to continue to outsource its transportation services. At the request of Unit 5, the 4th District Appellate Court reviewed an administrative law judge’s opinion, filed last year with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, that called on the school district to negotiate a union contract with the workers and cancel its busing contract with Cincinnati-based First Student Inc. But the court ruled last week that Unit 5 did not violate the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, so the earlier order was erroneous and must be set aside. In response, American Federation of of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 will ask the appellate court for another review, and “we will be appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court as well,” Renee Nestler, a union representative, said Monday. …

Court upholds Unit 5 bus contract
Source: Eric Stock, WJBC, June 7, 2014

Unit 5 has won a legal battle over its move to outsource transportation services. The 4th District Appellate Court has reversed an earlier decision by the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board to force the district to cancel its contract with First Student and renegotiate a deal with its transportation union. The court ruled this week the district had bargained in good faith with its bus drivers and monitors. In 2012, Unit 5 signed a contract with First Student after the district’s transportation workers had unionized. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees had argued that move was done in retaliation for unionizing. The appellate court noted that AFSCME was given notice that the district would see a third-party contract and that the unions would be able to submit a counter-proposal.

Appellate court upholds Unit 5’s contract to outsource bus services
Source: Maria Nagle, pantagraph.com, June 6, 2014

An appeals court has reversed an earlier decision that ordered McLean County Unit 5 school district to cancel its bus outsourcing contract and resume negotiations with its transportation staff’s union. The 4th District Appellate Court, in an opinion filed Thursday, said evidence indicates Unit 5 bargained in good faith and did not engage in unfair labor practices with its bus drivers and monitors….

Unit 5 still sees bumps in road for bus system
Source: Phyllis Coulter, pantagraph.com, October 15, 2013

McLean County Unit 5 has made progress fixing busing problems from the start of the school year, but lingering issues mean there still may be bumpy roads ahead. The Normal-based district buses about 10,000 students a day along 600 routes in and around the Twin Cities, Carlock, Hudson and Towanda. On top of managing those logistics, the district, which decided to outsource its busing last year, remains locked in a legal battle with the union that represents its drivers and monitors….A First Student routing specialist from Montana assisted Unit 5 this year in fine-tuning routes and establishing a new service for elementary school band students attending practice at junior high schools, said Jim Stonecipher, First Student location manager. Computer-plotted routes may not have matched the reality of student needs and traffic patterns, so adjustments had to be made manually….

Unit 5 OKs budget, calls balancing it no easy feat
Source: Phyllis Coulter, pantagraph.com, September 25, 2013

…In other business, an official of the union representing about 120 bus drivers and 50 bus monitors asked the district to bargain in good faith for a contract and drop the outsourcing approved last year. The reasons given for hiring Cincinnati-based First Student Inc. are not valid, said Ken Beauchamp, regional director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. About 15 bus drivers present at the meeting applauded his remarks. Beauchamp said the district had predicted it would save $1.3 million over three years, but that is not the case. An addendum paying First Student an additional $125,000 plus about $100,000 for attendance bonuses to drivers and monitors were added, he said….The Illinois Education Labor Relations Board last year ruled in favor of AFSCME, calling for Unit 5 to rescind its decision to outsource busing. Beauchamp called for the district to follow that decision….

Unit 5 transportation unfair labor practice hearing begins in Springfield

Source: Kevin Barlow, pantagraph.com, August 21, 2012

Judge Rules in Union’s Favor, Unit Five Bus Drivers Temporarily Protected
Source: Kim Behrens, CentralIllinoisProud.com, July 18, 2012

Judge: Unit 5 can’t outsource buses this fall
Related Ryan Denham, WJBC, July 18, 2012

Unit 5: Bus injunction would be ‘catastrophic’
Source: Ryan Denham, WJBC, July 17, 2012

Unit 5 bus service workers are given termination notice
Source: Chad Weber, CINewsNow.com, July 11, 2012

Unit 5 busing contractor may have to deal with union
Source: Phyllis Coulter, pantagraph.com, June 7, 2012

Unit 5 outsources bus system, eyes $1.5M savings
Source: Ryan Denham, WJBC, June 5, 2012

Final vote on Unit 5 busing comes tonight
Source: Ryan Denham, WJBC, June 5, 2012

Unit 5, bus drivers union to meet as outsourcing decision looms
Source: Phyllis Coulter, pantagraph.com, June 1, 2012

Two Bids Accepted for Unit Five Bus Services
Source: Jacob Long, WMBD/WYZZ-TV, April 2, 2012

Two companies want to take over bus services for McLean County’s Unit Five School District. Proposals were unveiled Monday from Ohio-based First Student and Illinois-based Durham School Services. …. The district expects a contract to be finalized by May. It would be for three years, with the option for two. Unit Five would still own the buses and equipment, and would still be required to pay for capital improvements.

How Charter Schools Bust Unions

Source: Hella Winston, Slate, September 29, 2016

Alliance educators began their push to unionize in large measure, Mernick says, because they were concerned their employer was not “actualizing its core values,” including the establishment of smaller classes and a personalized learning environment for its students, most of whom are poor and Latino or black. Mernick says that teachers who have signed on to the union effort want more input into decisions regarding curriculum and pedagogy. They’re also questioning how the school assesses their performance and discloses how it spends its funds. Making changes in these areas, Mernick believes, will help Alliance retain the kinds of qualified teachers it prides itself on hiring. … Attempts by charter school administrators to thwart teachers’ efforts to unionize are hardly unique to Alliance. While there are charters that have voluntarily agreed to recognize a teachers union at their school—or have even taken the lead in crafting collective bargaining agreements with employees—many others have refused to do so, fighting unionization at every turn. A 2014 study found that in 2012 about 7 percent of charter schools were unionized. (The same year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 68 percent of public school teachers were represented by unions.) And a survey of organizing efforts involving close to 50 schools across 10 states reveals that administrators engage in a wide variety of tactics to try to prevent that percentage from growing. These actions include harassment and outright intimidation of teachers by the administration; anti-union appeals to school parents and, in some cases, even students; the use of hired guns to try to influence teachers and others to oppose unionization; and the deployment of a variety of management strategies to stall the unionization process, leaving the teachers and schools in limbo. … While the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools maintains state and national data on charters, there is no comprehensive information about how many charters have unionized or attempted to do so. I surveyed nearly 50 schools where efforts to unionize had taken place. At almost all of them, teachers have alleged—at times in formal complaints to labor boards—being subjected by management to a variety of tactics to get them to reject unionization. This information came from press reports, official complaints, and interviews with teachers, staff, and union representatives. …


When Charters Go Union
Source: Rachel M. Cohen, American Prospect, June 19, 2015

Most charter school funders hate unions and unions generally hate charters. But more and more charter teachers want to unionize, and labor is helping them do it. …. For teachers, unions, and charter school advocates, the moment is fraught with challenges. Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice. Though 68 percent of K-12 public school teachers are unionized, just 7 percent of charter school teachers are, according to a 2012 study from the Center for Education Reform.

Rock Valley College to explore outsourcing, eliminating paid days off

Source: Corina Curry, Rockford Register Star, September 21, 2016

Rock Valley College will explore outsourcing and the elimination of paid days off as it continues to face state budget uncertainty. RVC President Mike Mastroianni informed members of the college’s Operations Committee tonight that he would like to get a financial analysis on the outsourcing of auxiliary services — functions such as snow plowing, landscaping, information technology, publishing, printing and purchasing co-ops. … The number of employees that could be affected by outsourcing is not known at this time, Mastroianni said. The college went for almost a year without state aid payments. It was anticipating $7.1 million to support college operations for FY 2016 and ended up getting $1.2 million in April after several months of receiving no revenue. Rock Valley made about $1.3 million in staff cuts in December. Classes and educational programs remained intact, but students lost men’s and women’s tennis and men’s golf programs. The college also placed a moratorium on unnecessary travel, community sponsorships, catering expenses and cellphone allowances. In March, it approved a nearly 9 percent tuition increase. …

Are charter schools the solution to the high costs of public education?

Source: Ted Slowik, Chicago Tribune, September 14, 2016

Amid concern over the ability of Illinois taxpayers to fund public education, charter schools continue to emerge as a more affordable option. CPS says 125 of its 660 schools are charters. Criticism of charter schools includes accusations of union busting. Amid debate about where charter schools fit into the spectrum of public education options, I accepted an invitation to visit Horizon Science Academy-McKinley Park on Chicago’s South Side. The school opened in 2013 as one of only two new schools authorized by the Illinois State Charter School Commission. The commission reversed a CPS decision to deny the proposal by Concept Schools, a Des Plaines-based nonprofit management company, to open the two schools. … Charter schools attribute their lower operating costs in large part to reduced employee salaries and benefits. Illinois Report Card data for 2014-2015 says the average salary for the 41 full-time equivalent teachers at HSA-McKinley Park was $40,203, compared to a state average of $62,609. The average salary for administrators at HSA-McKinley Park was $54,181 compared to $100,720 statewide. HSA-McKinley Park has an annual operating budget of about $8 million, Principal Cafer Cengiz told me. Ninety percent of its revenue comes from state per-pupil allocations and 10 percent is from federal grants, he said. … With public tax dollars and grants as its only sources of revenue, HSA-McKinley Park needs to devote its operating surplus to paying for capital improvements, Cengiz said. The Chicago Teachers Union has questioned the school’s finances. Concept Schools is also under federal investigation over its use of federal grant funds. The company also has responded to criticism that it recruits Turkish citizens to teach in its schools, and that some may be unqualified. …

OSHA Cites Joliet Contractor for Allowing Workers in Unsafe Trench

Source: Scott Viau, Joliet Patch, September 6, 2016

A Joliet construction contractor cited six previous times by OSHA has received another citation after allowing employees to work in an unsafe trench. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors issued one willful and two serious safety citations to P.T. Ferro Construction Co. for putting workers at risk at a Lansing work site, according to a news release from OSHA. Workers were excavating utility lines 7 feet deep. … OSHA cited Ferro for allowing its employees to work in the trench without cave-in protection and a means to exit the trench quickly in a collapse. In addition, inspectors determined a competent person was aware of the hazardous conditions but still allowed the worker to enter the trench. … Established in 1964, P.T. Ferro is a Joliet-based construction contractor that has held contracts awarded by the Illinois Department of Transportation, county and local governments, and the private sector. Its current projects include multi-million contracts in Joliet, Lockport/Romeoville, Crest Hill, New Lenox and Shorewood. …

Rauner turning to a private foundation to fix Illinois State Fairgrounds

Source: Monique Garcia, Chicago Tribune, August 16, 2016

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is again turning to the private sector as he tries to reshape state government amid resistance from Democrats who control the legislature, this time announcing a private foundation aimed at raising money to fix up the crumbling Illinois State Fairgrounds. … Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has long raised concerns about various efforts to privatize government operations, and has formed a committee to look into a private corporation Rauner founded to handle the state’s business recruitment efforts. Critics argue the groups could push projects that undermine public sector unions, which Rauner repeatedly has sought to weaken, arguing that curbing collective bargaining agreements could cut costs on businesses and taxpayers. … Details about the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation were few Tuesday, beyond the large-scale goal of raising enough money to cover an estimated $180 million to repair dilapidated barns, aging sewer and electrical systems and deteriorating roadways. Several board members have been appointed, but the group has yet to secure any pledged donors — beyond a promise by Rauner that he and wife Diana Rauner plan to kick in an unspecified sum. Diana Rauner also is spearheading private fundraising to revitalize the dilapidated governor’s mansion and has said she’s secured $4.5 million in pledges so far, including $1 million from herself and the governor. …


Source: Jerell Blakeley, NJ Spotlight, August 15, 2016

Unfortunately, Bush is not alone. He and his hardworking colleagues in Camden and other cities are losing their jobs as more and more districts choose to privatize school custodial staff. School districts in New Jersey as diverse as Clifton, Woodstown, Lacey, and Paterson are privatizing school custodial-staff members at alarming rates. As members of the Healthy Schools Now coalition, we are concerned about the impact of school privatization on school facility quality, as well as the social costs of this troubling trend. … According to noted education scholar Walter Farrell, privatization leads to lower quality services, accountability problems, and hidden costs; most importantly, the financial benefits remain unproven. According to the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, custodial privatization processes suffer from loopholes in contracts, misleading cost-benefit analyses, indirect costs, and unrealistic introductory rates. Due to the inexperience of the privatized school custodial staff and its lack of appropriate staffing, President Clarice Berry of the Chicago Principals Association, testified before a Chicago City Council committee that she was “terrified” of what would happen when the snow began. According to the Chicago Tribune, parents claim that the unsanitary bathroom conditions, overflowing garbage cans and soiled napping cots are the result of inadequate custodial care following the Chicago Board of Education’s decision to award multimillion-dollar custodial management contracts to two firms, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC. … Healthy Schools Now is also concerned with the disproportionate impact of cuts on custodians of color. As noted in a recent article in The New York Times, roughly one in five black adults are employed in the public sector and are about 30 percent more likely to have a public-sector job than non-Hispanic whites, and twice as likely as Hispanics. …

Emergency dispatch consolidation plan advances

Source: Leon Lagerstam, QC Online, July 27, 2016

A decision to consolidate emergency dispatch centers into what’s called Public Safety Answering Points was approved Tuesday by a statewide 911 administrator. Administrator Cindy Barbera-Brelle emailed Rock Island County Emergency Telephone System Board chairman Steve Seiver that the county’s proposal has been accepted. … Agencies were required to submit a consolidation plan by the end of June and now have until June 30, 2017, to finish developing specific operational guidelines. Rock Island County was tasked with cutting its centers to three. Emergency telephone system board members decided to keep Rock Island and Rock Island County’s centers open, but close a Centre Station center handling Moline and East Moline calls, as well as Milan and Silvis. Moline, East Moline, and Milan decided to create a new dispatch center to be housed in Milan. Silvis has started negotiations with Rock Island’s department. …


RI County begins plans to merge police dispatch centers
Source: Leon Lagerstam, Dispatch Argus, July 10, 2016

A plan to consolidate local police dispatch centers was filed a day before its state-mandated deadline. The plan for what is officially known as Public Safety Answering Points — PSAPs– was needed by June 30. It was filed June 29, Rock Island County Emergency Telephone System Board chairman Steve Seiver said. … On June 29, 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law that required reducing the six Rock Island County emergency dispatching centers to three by June 30, 2017. … Milan, Moline and East Moline will consolidate and be housed at Milan. Where Silvis will go will be determined later by the newly consolidated PSAPs, according to information in the “Application for 9-1-1 Consolidation or Modified Plan.” Silvis city administrator Jim Grafton said city leaders were disappointed they didn’t get to see a copy of the proposed application before a city council meeting could have been convened. An emailed copy of it arrived in Silvis June 28. Revisions were suggested, but a council meeting couldn’t be called in time to approve it. … Dispatch centers employ about 54 full-time employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, as well as part-time employees and supervisors, according to reports. Staffing and budgetary requirements will be addressed this year ahead of an implementation stage. Ignoring or postponing a PSAP consolidation decision would have jeopardized future 9-1-1 surcharge funding, according to materials.

Public-private project to improve truck access to Joliet hub

Source: Associated Press, July 11, 2016

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says state and local governments are partnering with a private company to relieve traffic congestion and provide easier access to a major commercial transport hub near Joliet. Rauner announced the agreement Monday at CenterPoint Intermodal, a rail and truck freight transport center near Interstates 80 and 55. It’s considered the nation’s largest inland port. Under the agreement, Illinois will spend $21 million to improve the Houbolt Road exit off Interstate 80. CenterPoint will spend about $170 million to build a toll bridge over the Des Plaines River and extend Houbolt Road south to the facility. …

Illinois Districts Renew Contract with First Student

Source: School Bus Fleet, June 24, 2016

The Rockton School Consortium recently awarded First Student a two-year contract extension to operate and manage a fleet of more than 80 vehicles that serve 14 schools. The consortium is comprised of six school districts and serves more than 7,500 students, according to First Student. The districts that comprise the consortium include:
•    Rockton School District 140
•    Kinnikinnick Community Consolidated School District #131
•    Hononegah Community School District 207
•    South Beloit Community Unit School District 320
•    Prairie Hill School District #133
•    Shirland Community Consolidated School District 134

… First Student has operated in Illinois for more than 70 years, and has nearly 140 school district contracts in the state.