Rahm Emanuel will be sworn in today as mayor of Chicago, having campaigned on promises to fix a school system that graduates only half its students. The veteran Democrat talks a good game and has appointed a schools CEO with strong reform credentials. But Mr. Emanuel has miles to go before he proves that his famous political toughness is a match for the unions and bureaucrats who will oppose any reform worthy of the name.
In addressing Chicagoans today, Mr. Emanuel will likely celebrate Illinois Senate Bill 7, which last week passed the state legislature and awaits Governor Pat Quinn’s signature. The law is certainly welcome, and Mr. Emanuel was right to support it. But its provisions say less about the boldness of lawmakers than about the implacability of the status quo.
On the plus side, the law ties teacher tenure and layoffs to student performance, not just to seniority. The law also makes it easier to fire ineffective teachers–easier, that is, than the traditional process that in Chicago can include more than 25 distinct steps. And while it’s good that the law makes it harder for the Chicago Teachers Union to strike, Illinois remains one of only 11 states to allow teachers to strike at all.