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CTU Responds to Ruling that Halts the Implementation of Unconstitutional State Pension Law

by ctu communications  |  November 21, 2014

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) commends Judge John Belz on his decision regarding the unconstitutionality of Public Act 98-0599, also known as SB 1, that illegally and unfairly slashed the pension of thousands of active and retired public employees across the state. Judge Belz’s clear and unambiguous reading of the Illinois Constitution—combined with the Illinois Supreme Court’s 6-1 decision in July on retiree health benefits—suggests that the state’s highest court will concur with this ruling.

Today’s ruling also suggests that Public Act 98-0641, also known as SB 1922 and allegedly an “agreed” bill that slashed retirement benefits for thousands of retired and active school clerks, teachers assistants, laborers and other members of the Laborers’ and Municipal pension funds in Chicago, is also unconstitutional. The bill, passed over the objections of thousands of pension fund members, contains nearly equivalent  provisions that Judge Belz found unconstitutional, “impairs and diminishes” benefits through reductions in the automatic annual increase; eliminates increases in given years; and adds an additional one-year delay in receiving an adjustment.

“Judge Belz’s ruling makes clear that the solution to the current problem is what our union has been arguing for the last several years—that the pension ‘crisis’ in Illinois is the outcome of decades of insufficient revenue generation and years of employer underpayments to public pension funds,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “The only constitutional solution going forward is to find ways of raising revenue in both Illinois and the city of Chicago.”

“A fair tax on incomes, a financial transaction tax and a surcharge on millionaires all would generate the necessary dollars from those who can most afford to pay, and who have benefited the most from decades of low state income taxes,” Sharkey said. “The fact that investment firms who benefited handsomely from state and city pension business have recently been found to engage in pay-to-play politics with both Rahm Emanuel and the incoming governor—both of whom have advocated for significant pension cuts—only reinforces the wisdom of our constitutional framers’ desire to protect retirees’ benefits and provide appropriate funding for pension funds.”

The CTU continues to call on Bruce Rauner, Illinois governor-elect, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the members of the Illinois General Assembly to make fair revenue generation priority number one in the upcoming months.

Available CPS Teacher and PSRP Positions

by ctu communications  |  November 21, 2014

Click here to download the latest list of Teacher and PSRP Vacancies.

13th Teaching for Social Justice Curriculum Fair

by ctu communications  |  November 20, 2014

13th Teaching For Social Justice Curriculum Fair: 
Democratize Education!
Democratize Chicago! 

Nov. 22   10 am to 4 pm
North Grand HS
4338 W. Wabansia St., Chicago
ALL ARE WELCOME!


Although the main focus of the CF is person-to-person contact through the exhibitors at their tables, we also have a limited number of workshops. These range from curricular innovations about social justice pedagogy to, for example, using multicultural children's literature to organizing for educational justice.

 

Chicago Magazine: Meet Jesse Sharkey

by CAROL FELSENTHAL - chicago magazine  |  November 18, 2014

On October 9, when Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey stepped to a podium to announce that the fiery Karen Lewis was suffering from a serious illness (later revealed to be a brain tumor), his days as a behind-the-scenes policy wonk were officially over. Now the acting CTU president, Sharkey, 44, sat down with Chicagocontributing writer Carol Felsenthal to discuss what lies ahead for the union—and for the city’s public schools.

How is Karen?

She’s Karen. She is recovering well and, you know, cracking jokes, talking crap about people in power, including the mayor. I visited her in the hospital. The union has tried to be careful not putting out information that would invade her privacy.

I’ve heard the comparison that you’re the Karl Rove to Karen’s George Bush—that you are the smarts behind her.

Karen has plenty of smarts. She is very sharp, very well informed. So it’s not an apt comparison at all. There were features of our operation that I was involved in the weeds with more than Karen. That was my role. We didn’t need two people up there with big personalities. I sometimes think of it more that I’m a straight man in her comedy troupe. Like “Who’s on First.” Abbott and Costello.

Please click here to continue reading at chicagomag.com.

Mayor Emanuel: Fund 50 Sustainable Community Schools by Recouping District’s Losses to Wall Street

by ctu communications  |  November 18, 2014

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is part of a coalition of labor, community and watchdog organizations asserting that predatory financial deals are undermining the city of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools’ ability to pay for essential services and a decent quality of life for all Chicagoans. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration forecloses on schools, mental health clinics and homes, the financial sector has received record profits. The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) coalition and progressive non-profit Roosevelt Institute demand that Mayor Emanuel holds Wall Street banks accountable and fully fund 50 sustainable community schools.

The coalition will gather at City Hall on Thursday, Nov. 20, at 10:30 a.m. to demand that the mayor immediately file a claim with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and reclaim $100 million from dishonest banks for Chicago and its schools. The group will also present its demand for 50 sustainable community schools and the necessary federal paperwork for the city to challenge the financial improprieties embedded in its swap agreements with big banks.

“Cities and states that entered into swaps also unwittingly took on other risks, such as how the City of Chicago was forced to pay a $36 million penalty in September 2014 in order to terminate a swap so that it could refinance the underlying debt at a lower fixed rate,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “When schools and essential city services are underfunded and under-resourced, this kind of financial irresponsibility cannot be tolerated.”

A recent Chicago Tribune expose shows how Chicago’s schools alone have lost at least $100 million dollars from toxic swaps that the district engaged in without full disclosure from the banks about the long term risks of the arrangements. The Roosevelt Institute, a watchdog organization that has joined the call for Wall Street accountability and 50 sustainable community schools, sounds the alarm in a new report about the growth of municipal bond debt and the use of complicated financial instruments that have put cities across the country in peril. In a national report, “Dirty Deals: How Wall Street’s Predatory Deals Hurt Taxpayers and What We Can Do About It,” the Institute calls out Chicago swaps in particular as an egregious example of what’s wrong with the way cities are financed.

“In the financialized economy, Wall Street firms actually benefit from economic inequality because poor people, struggling small businesses and tax-starved governments are all great sources of free revenue,” said report author Saquib Bhatti, director of the ReFund America Project.

The city of Chicago is at a crossroads where the mayor has the opportunity to show that he will stand up for his constituents against powerful financial interests. The CTU and the coalition call for the creation of 50 sustainable community schools with an small class sizes and an engaging curriculum; wrap-around supports like tutoring, social and emotional interventions and medical facilities; appropriate staffing levels for counselors, nurses, social workers and truancy officers; and parent mentors to help surround children with a village of caring and qualified adults.

“We must stop the sabotage and divestment in our communities,” said Jitu Brown, education organizer for the GEM coalition’s Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. “We want neighborhood schools that possess all the supports at the private school where Emanuel sends his children.”

“This mayor has to act now and show which side he is on,” Brown said. 

HuffPo: Making School Reform a True Civil Rights Movement

by John Thompson  |  November 18, 2014

Temporarily lost in the edu-politics of the mid-term elections is the importance the letter sent to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders by a coalition of civil rights groups. The coalition wrote, "We must shift towards accountability strategies that promote equity and strengthen, rather than weaken, schools in our communities, so that they can better serve students and accelerate success."

The letter - which could become the turning point in our education civil war - was signed by the Advancement Project, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, the National Urban League, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Council on Educating Black Children, the National Indian Education Association, and the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center.

The coalition is diplomatic in phrasing its letter to the Democratic administration that has taken the punitive bubble-in testing of the Bush-era NCLB, and put it on steroids. "While the need for accountability is almost universally agreed upon," they write, "there have been concerns raised about overly punitive accountability systems that do not take into account resources, geography, student populations, and specific needs of schools."

The groups wrote:

The current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow
measures of success and, in some cases, has discouraged schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire. This particularly impacts under‑resourced schools that disproportionately serve low‑income students and students of color.


Please click here to continue reading at huffingtonpost.com.

Wednesday, November 19 is PSRP Day

by June Davis, PSRP Field Services Coordinator  |  November 17, 2014

CTU member
PSRPs are:

  • Audiometric and Vision Screening Technicians
  • Audio-Visual Technicians
  • Community Relations Representatives
  • Computer Technicians
  • Educational Sign Language Interpreters
  • Guidance Counselor Assistants
  • Head Start Educational Resource Assistants
  • Head Start Health Resource Assistants
  • Head Start Parent Resource Assistants
  • Head Start Social Service Resource Assistants
  • Health Service Nurses
  • Hospital Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Instructor Assistants
  • Interpreter Clerks
  • Occupational Therapist Assistants
  • Parent Advocates
  • School Assistants
  • School Clerks
  • School Clerk Assistants
  • School Community Representatives
  • School Library Assistants
  • School Social Service Assistants
  • Special Education Support Clerks
  • Speech/Language Pathology Paraeducators
  • Student Special Needs Program Assistants
  • Student Special Services Advocates
  • Teacher Assistants
  • Technology Coordinators

Since 2006, the State of Illinois has designated the third Wednesday in November as Paraprofessional and School Related Personnel Day.

PSRPs are essential educators. Their non-instructional services are a vital link in the educational chain. In the Chicago Public Schools, all PSRPs are members of the Chicago Teachers Union. Some may be in the same school—or even the same classroom—every day, while others only visit each school a few times per year!

Teachers and clinicians know that their jobs would simply be impossible if not for the hard work of their fellow educators. Below are a few ways for every CTU member to show appreciation for PSRPs especially on this day—and every day!

  • Highlight solidarity with PSRPs by wearing red on Wednesday, November 19.
  • Organize an appreciation breakfast or lunch.
  • Offer a card or buy a small gift.
  • Send a letter to the editor, write a blog post, or share your thoughts in another forum on the important work that PSRPs do for students.
  • If you are a teacher or parent, have your students write letters to the PSRPs that help them. If any students would like to write to Vision & Hearing Screeners or other citywide PSRPs, email us and we will gladly deliver letters or gifts.

In Solidarity,
June Davis, PSRP Field Staff Coordinator
Anita Burks, PSRP Field Representative and
Anthony Lopez, PSRP Field Representative

New Poll Shows Mayor Emanuel Headed to Runoff with Jesus "Chuy" Garcia

by ctu communications  |  November 17, 2014

CHICAGO—A recent Lake Research Partners survey of likely 2015 mayoral voters in Chicago shows Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a precarious position a little more than three months until Election Day.[1] Chicagoans have rejected Rahm’s abrasive, ineffectual leadership and are looking for a change. The data suggests Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is the candidate in the best position to offer Chicago voters a fresh start from Rahm’s divisive and counterproductive first term. 

The Political Environment in Chicago

Chicagoans are dissatisfied with the direction of their city; just 35 percent say things are headed in the right direction, while 50 percent say things are pretty seriously off on the wrong track. Rahm’s inability to deal with Chicago’s epidemic violence is particularly troubling to Chicago voters; nearly half (47 percent) say crime, gangs and public safety are one of the top two issues for the next mayor to do something about.

Rahm’s image has deteriorated to the point where he is held in low regard on both personal and professional dimensions. Only 43 percent of Chicagoans have a favorable opinion of him, with 50 percent holding an unfavorable opinion – including 32 percent who say they have a very unfavorable opinion. Even worse, nearly two-thirds of voters (63 percent) rate his job performance as “just fair” or “poor”, and only 34 percent say he has done an “excellent” or “good” job.

Dissatisfaction with Rahm’s job performance is widespread and is not limited to any subgroups.  

Given his anemic job performance ratings, it’s no wonder that only 25 percent of Chicagoans say they are planning to vote to re-elect Rahm as mayor. Voters are more likely to say they will vote to replace Rahm (32 percent) or that they will consider someone else (31 percent).

While Rahm is disliked well enough on his own, his policies are even more unpopular. Voters overwhelmingly reject the mayor’s policies to cut pensions for city workers; 68 percent say pensions should be fully funded. Emanuel’s dictatorial approach to education policy also has voters clamoring for an elected school board; 65 percent say that they want an elected school board, more than twice as many (28 percent) who want the mayor to continue to appoint its members. 

By comparison, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is well liked, and he is the best positioned candidate to defeat Rahm. Endorsed by CTU President Karen Lewis and an ally to former Mayor Harold Washington, he has a strong personal image among those who know him (27 percent favorable, 7 percent unfavorable) and has built a real base among Latinos in Chicago, where he is viewed in intensely positive terms (45 percent favorable, 7 percent unfavorable). Many of the voters who are the most unfamiliar with Chuy, like voters under 50 (70 percent no opinion/never heard), have the lowest opinion of Rahm (38 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable).

On a three-way ballot between Rahm, Chuy, and 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, if the election were held today, Garcia takes 18 percent of the vote compared to 13 percent for Fioretti. Emanuel only takes 33 percent of the vote, well short of the total he needs to avoid a runoff.

When the race is narrowed to a head-to-head contest between Rahm and Chuy, the race closes to only five points: 36 percent for Emanuel, 31 percent for Garcia and 30 percent undecided. Ominously for the mayor, the undecided voters view him very negatively. By a more than a two-to-one margin, undecided voters view Rahm more unfavorably (62 percent) than favorably (26 percent). Meanwhile, the Cook County commissioner is largely unknown to undecided voters (37 percent no opinion, 45 percent never heard), affording him the opportunity to expand his base and win their support.

The survey reveals that Chicago voters are ready for a change and looking for an alternative from Rahm’s divisive first term. They are looking for fresh leadership that will put the needs of ordinary voters, not the big moneyed interests, first. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is the best positioned candidate to bring real change to City Hall and put everyday Chicagoans first for a change.

___________________________________________________

[1] Lake Research Partners designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by telephone using professional interviewers. The survey reached 621 adults in Chicago, 18 years or older, who are registered and likely to vote in the 2015 Mayoral Election. The survey was conducted November 6th – 11th, 2014. The margin of error for this poll is +/-3.9%.

Rahm Emanuel - Job Performance

 

Group

Excellent/Good

Just Fair/Poor

Don’t Know

 

Men

37%

61%

2%

Women

31%

64%

4%

Black

32%

62%

5%

White

37%

62%

1%

Hispanic

33%

61%

6%

Democrats

36%

60%

4%

Independents

27%

67%

5%

Republicans

27%

71%

2%

License Renewal Requirements Have Changed

by Walter Taylor, CTU Quest Center  |  November 12, 2014

ISBE SealCTU members please be aware that new legislation (Public Act 98-610, which was effective December 27, 2013) has changed some of the requirements for renewing the Professional Educator License (what used to be a certificate) endorsed in a teaching field, or in a school support personnel or administrative area.

Click here to see the requirements stated in the law. Please be aware that the deadlines may affect you immediately. Therefore, please read the document now and act swiftly.

More CPS layoffs

by jesse sharkey - ctu vice president  |  November 12, 2014

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Vice President Jesse Sharkey released the following statement regarding the layoff of 23 teachers and school support staff by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014:

“The district’s decision to lay off 23 teachers and support staff a quarter of the way through the school year is extremely painful and disruptive for these teachers and their schools. These are individuals whose livelihoods are their work in the classroom, and who are now expected to find new positions more than a month into the school year—and right before the holiday season. It is clear that when CPS announced in late September that there would be no 20th day budget cuts, the stage was being set for last Friday’s first-quarter cuts that put more teachers on the chopping block.

“This is a particularly harsh development in the wake of recent reports of $100 million that CPS owes to financial firms for its irresponsible swap deals—deals that our union has for years called for the district to assume accountability. Now, teachers, counselors, clinicians and paraprofessional lay-offs remain the result of CPS’ attempts to balance its budget, much like last year’s mass school closings tried to balance a negligent budget on the backs of our students and their families.

“The CTU will continue to push for the mayor and his handpicked Board of Education to stop their attack on our neighborhood schools and end their relationship with the banker bandits who are making millions while our schools are under-resourced and teachers and staff lose their jobs.”

Chicago Teachers Union