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September 2012 Archive

Tribune: There's something happening here

by Steven Ashby  |  September 27, 2012

Teachers go on strike in Chicago and Lake Forest. Chicago symphony musicians walk out. Machinists walk picket lines in Joliet, and Wal-Mart warehouse workers stop working in Elwood. Gov. Pat Quinn gets chased from the state fair by angry government workers, and talk of a state workers strike is rumbling.

Karen Lewis addresses a crowd of CTU members and supporters protesting in front of the Board of Education building during the strike. Full explanatory caption below.Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis attends a rally on the second day of the Chicago teachers strike.
Tribune photo by E. Jason Wambsgans.

"There's something happening here. What it is, ain't exactly clear," wrote Stephen Stills in a 1968 song that came to symbolize the 1960s as a decade of social movements and rapid change.

The same words aptly describe labor relations in the United States today. It seems, as 1960s icon Bob Dylan sang in 1964, "the times they are a-changin'."

In February 2011 we witnessed the Wisconsin workers' uprising. When Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature passed unprecedented anti-union legislation that also deeply cut social services, hundreds of thousands of people came to the state capital to protest, and several thousand occupied the Capitol for two weeks.

That movement ended with the governor beating a recall effort. Similar legislation in Ohio, though, was overturned when, instead of a recall, organizers turned to a referendum and won 61 percent of the vote in support of workers' rights.

Then in September 2011 the Occupy Wall Street movement erupted and rapidly spread to hundreds of cities across the country. Tens of thousands of previously uninvolved young people took to the streets — and tents—– to protest the Great Recession and income inequality, and made "1 percent" and "the 99 percent" part of our national discourse. That movement dissipated as winter weather hit and police tore town tent cities.

Things turned quiet again, leading pundits earlier this year to suggest that Wisconsin and Occupy were blips on an otherwise quiet labor relations landscape.

Then the Chicago Teachers Union strike happened. What was most notable was that this was not a typical strike of recent years, where a small number of strikers passively picket a site and the real action is going on at the bargaining table. Instead, the CTU mobilized nearly all of its 26,000 members in daily mass rallies and marches, and drew in large numbers of supporters.

Historical change is often best understood by looking at turning points — key moments when history began to dramatically change. Three citywide labor strikes in 1934 ended a period of relative passivity and heralded the country's largest and most successful worker uprising. The 1955 Montgomery bus boycott initiated the nation-changing civil rights movement.

So are Wisconsin, Occupy and the CTU strike another turning point that future historians will see as the beginning of a new mass workers' movement demanding social change?

If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on it. One key ingredient in the making of historical turning points is that people begin to view street protests as normal instead of weird. Instead of viewing a mass march on TV or the occupation of a building as strange and scary, many people watch those same events and think to themselves, "Good for them. That's what it takes to get anything done in this country. Maybe I'll join them."

You could feel that if you picketed or marched with the Chicago teachers — the constant horn honking in solidarity, the waves and smiles of people from building windows or porch stoops, even the nods of approval from police officers.

Another ingredient in the making of historical turning points is the creation of hope. Occupy and Wisconsin inspired hundreds of thousands of people — but neither succeeded in making change. But the Chicago teachers strike was a clear victory for the union.

Teachers nationwide watched this strike closely and drew hope. The success of the seven-day CTU strike will undoubtedly encourage teachers unions across the country to stand their ground and escalate their efforts to defend public education.

And unionists across the country noted that the foundations for the teachers' victory were laid over the past two years, as the CTU launched a "contract campaign" to educate, organize and mobilize its members. Every school established an organizing committee. Every member was talked to, their concerns discussed, their activism encouraged. In May the union put 6,000 teachers in the streets of downtown Chicago. In June the union overcame a unique anti-CTU law, Senate Bill 7, and turned out 92 percent of its members to nearly unanimously give the leadership strike authorization.

And during the strike, nearly all of the 26,000 teachers participated in enthusiastic, daily marches; picketed daily at schools; and met regularly to discuss strike issues and actions. They were joined by sizable numbers of supporters who came as a result of two years of the union building strong ties with community and parent organizations, and honing the message that the union fought first and foremost to defend a quality public education for every student.

This is the template for successful organizing. This is the soup from which hope emerges.

Steven Ashby is a professor of labor relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Click here to read this story at ChicagoTribune.com

Dissent Magazine: "Empowerment" Against Democracy: Tinseltown and the Teachers' Unions

by Liza Featherstone  |  September 27, 2012

“You know those mothers who lift one-ton trucks off their babies?” says Jamie Fitzpatrick, a working-class mom (played by Maggie Gyllenhall), in a confrontation with a corrupt union rep in Daniel Barnz’s edu-drama, Won’t Back Down. “They’re nothing compared to me.”

A photo from the protest against the premiere of the movie Won’t Back Down. Full explanatory caption below.Families in New York City protesting the opening of the movie "Won’t Back Down" hold a poster showing News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch and anti-union former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein as the real stars of the movie, with the tagline “If you can’t beat the system…buy it.”
EdVox photo unattributed.

It’s a “you-go-girl” moment. But real moms can’t lift trucks. And just about everything in this movie is as wildly fantastical as that image.

Fed up with her daughter’s horrible public school, Jamie learns about a law that allows parents and teachers to “take over” a failing school. Against the odds, she organizes the powerless and wins over the naysayers. The movie is inspired by real-life “parent trigger” laws, which are pushed by right-wing groups like ALEC, but backed with equal enthusiasm by progressive urban mayors nationwide. The laws allow a charter takeover if 50 percent of the parents agree to it. Charter schools are mostly non-union, and democratically elected officials have little control over them.

Won’t Back Down is liberal Hollywood’s second blast of gas on what was once a bugbear of the Right: the badness of public schools and teachers’ unions, and the magic bullet of hope offered by privatization. The first was Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for Superman. Barnz’s movie, featuring great actresses Viola Davis and Gyllenhall, is far more watchable than Guggenheim’s, but the fantasy world it inhabits is exactly the same. Its release, just on the heels of the Chicago teachers’ strike, feels eerily timely, as its anti-union talking points are just the same as those of Rahm Emanuel and the monied interests of Chicago.

The film’s presentation of the social context is heartbreakingly accurate—poor kids like Jamie’s daughter, Malia, don’t get the education they deserve. But otherwise, the movie presents a Mad Tea Party view of urban education, and of social change itself. In Won’t Back Down, and in the bipartisan neoliberal fairytale that passes for education reform, teachers and parents are good, but the institutions that represent them—unions, the state—are bad. “Empowerment” is desirable, even ecstatic—“Be the change you want to see!” Jamie crows to a throng of cheering parents—but democracy is the enemy. Getting rid of representative government and calling in a private entity to handle things, in our current Opposite Day political moment, represents a glorious triumph of people power. The “parent trigger” invites parents to use their vote to give up their vote—that is, to be enormously powerful for one short moment of direct democracy, which they will use to dispose, in the long run, with the “public” part of public school, and thus with any actual power over their children’s education.

Jamie leads the fictional takeover because her daughter, who is dyslexic, can’t read. Yet not a word is said in the movie about the need for more services and teachers for special needs kids. The school is depicted as depressing and shabby—what about the need for more resources? What about all the extra support poor children need? We see kids acting out and falling asleep in class—where are the social workers to help those kids?

Never mind those wonky details. The problem, we’re repeatedly led to believe, is the teachers’ union. But if unions were to blame for failing schools, wouldn’t unionized public schools in Princeton or Scarsdale also suck?

Hollywood hasn’t been known to let logic get in the way of a good story, and neither do education reformers. Facts are similarly irrelevant. In the movie, Malia’s teacher—a repellent timeserver who locks the little girl in a closet as punishment—can’t be fired because of the union. There are more than a few problems with this scenario. Outside of Tinseltown and the corporate reform imaginary, union members do get fired. In fact, according to data from National Center for Education Statistics, there is no correlation between teacher dismissal rates and union membership. In Massachusetts, where almost all public school teachers belong to a union, the firing rate for experienced teachers is nearly twice that in North Carolina, where just 2.3 percent of the teaching force is unionized.

Despite scapegoating teachers’ unions, Won’t Back Down is not an anti-teacher movie. Most of the teacher characters—especially Nona, played by Viola Davis—are heroic. That’s because one of the film’s messages is that busting teachers’ unions is better for teachers. In one scene, a meeting to discuss the possible takeover, Nona argues that losing the union will be worth it, “because we’ll be able to teach the way we want.” (The movie is vague on Nona’s pedagogy and why the union prevents it. In real life, charter teachers certainly don’t have any more control over curriculum than public school teachers do.) It is a ruling-class wet dream: workers who are happy to help destroy their own institutions. By giving up the organization through which they wield power, the fictional teachers reason, they will gain more power.

We have wandered deep into the swamp of Upsidedownlandia. Yet the same paradox colors the film’s view of parent power. The movie celebrates parents rising up and taking control of their children’s education—in order to rid themselves of all representation. Though the film does not discuss such pesky governance matters, a “takeover,” in real life, usually means that the school is run by a private organization with limited accountability to the public. While the state does decide ultimately which charters to shut down, there is no oversight by the school board, nor the city government, and certainly not the parents.

Of course, democracy and its institutions are horribly flawed. But to conclude that, therefore, dictatorship would be empowering is just weird. It’s not the first time that idea has been presented in film. Daniel Barnz is no Leni Riefenstahl, of course—he’s not as skilled a filmmaker, and there’s nothing racist or hateful in this movie—but the emotional experience of Won’t Back Down is, for the viewer, not unlike that of the best propaganda. As we cheer for Jamie and Nona, we are rooting against ourselves, against our own capacity for self-governance.

Sun-Times Opinion: Expect more union-busting tactics from Emanuel

September 25, 2012

A sign from the CTU Strike of 2012 depicts Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a puppeteer manipulating the schools and the media - Photo courtesy of MsChan on FlickrA sign from the CTU Strike of 2012 depicts Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a puppeteer manipulating the schools and the media.
Flickr photo by MsChan

Expect more union-busting tactics from Emanuel

It’s obvious why Mayor Rahm Emanuel is airing boastful commercials that you correctly term “a poke in the eye” of the Chicago Teachers Union. He is trying to rehabilitate himself with the public that overwhelmingly supported the striking union — while a mere 19 percent thought he was handling the situation properly. This is the first time the mayor has been upside-down in any polling, and he believes he needs damage control and a way of claiming victory.

What is most distressing is not simply that he continues to generate bad will with teachers through this expensive ad campaign, but that he accepts its financing from anti-union advocacy groups whose acknowledged goal is the destruction of teachers unions and, by extension, the eventual breakup of public education itself.

Allying himself with these groups suggests that he wanted the strike, misguidedly hoping that the public would side against the union as it has elsewhere — and that we have not yet seen the end of union-busting tactics emanating from the fifth floor of City Hall.

Don Rose, Old Town

Give it a rest, Rahm

Dear Mr. Mayor: It is far too early to be campaigning for re-election. Stop the commercials and radio ads already. Tell your rich hedge-fund friends to use the money spent on these misleading commercials to help the children of Chicago. You know, those kids whose parents can’t afford the Lab School. Show the children of Chicago you truly have their best interest at heart by forging a relationship with the CTU and draw a line in the sand and play fair.

Linda Hudson, Avalon Park

Click here to read more opinion pieces at SunTimes.com.


Sun-Times: Teachers union official asks CPS for ‘truce of peace’ after strike

by ROSALIND ROSSI  |  September 25, 2012

Michael Brunson addresses the Chicago Board of Education at its September 25th monthly meeting to request a “truce of peace” - Photo courtesy of SubstanceNews.net CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson urges the Board of Education to join CTU in a “truce of peace.”
SubstanceNews.net photo by George N. Schmidt.

The apparent reference was to Education Reform Now Advocacy, an affiliate of Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter advocacy group founded by several New York hedge fund managers.

A Chicago Teachers Union official Tuesday called for a “truce of peace’’ and denounced as “saber rattling” recent ads by what he called a “shoddy organization” that recently bankrolled a television commercial featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel talking about the new CTU contract.

CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson told Emanuel’s hand-picked school board members that CTU and district officials had “worked together” since November to seal a deal that union membership will be asked to ratify on Oct. 2.

However, what “would be most helpful to this process is if we could call a truce of peace,” Brunson told board members during their regular monthly meeting. This is “not a time for saber rattling.”

“Neither of us wants to win the war and lose the peace.”

Brunson cited two developments he described as counterproductive to the mutual agreement the two sides had worked so hard to achieve — but has yet to be ratified.

Without naming the ad or the mayor, Brunson referred to “million dollar ads by a shoddy organization that opposes our process” for bargaining a contract.

The group bankrolled a recent tv commercial in which Emanuel praises the end of the teachers strike and pinpoints what he considers

to be highlights of the new teacher deal.

During contract talks, Education Reform Now Advocacy also ran radio ads, featuring two women sitting on a bus, which questioned how CTU members could have voted to authorize a strike before they saw the recommendation of a fact-finder. The fact-finder’s report was ultimately rejected by both sides.

Brunson also criticized recent comments by venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, a behind-the-scenes force in passing a recent school reform bill who has a Chicago charter school named after him and whose wife sat on Emanuel’s education transition team. Rauner is an investor in Wrapports LLC, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rauner reportedly told a seminar recently that “talented teachers” needed to be broken away from “union bosses.”

School Board member and heiress Penny Pritzker, whose Hyatt Hotels became a protest target during the strike for receiving tax increment financing funds, said she appreciated Brunson’s “sentiments about a truce,” and that the school board and CPS management “share that sentiment.”

However, also a concern, Brunson said, were rumors that the district’s Portfolio Office has “composed a deck” of 100 schools targeted for closure. How to deal fairly with teachers displaced by closures was a key sticking point of contract talks.

School Board President David Vitale said “everyone knows we have excess capacity” — or more seats than students.

“Despite what everybody says, there is no plan,” Vitale said.

“When there is, we will share it with everybody.”

Click here to read the story at SunTimes.com. 

Huffington Post: Jean-Claude Brizard, Chicago Schools CEO, Was Nearly Invisible During Teachers Strike

by Joy Resmovits  |  September 25, 2012

CHICAGO -- When teachers on strike took to the Chicago streets for nine days this month, news cameras followed the union president, the head of the school board and the mayor. The Chicago Teachers Union and city representatives would meet for hours, negotiating technical contract details. A throng of reporters was always waiting outside for the latest update.

But the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard, was nearly invisible.

As the strike began, Brizard had just come off a shaky performance review that so reverberated around Chicago that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had felt compelled to publicly voice confidence in his first schools chief. Aside from a brief appearance at Emanuel's press conference the night the strike news broke, Brizard has defined low-profile over the last two weeks.

So what was Brizard up to?

"I got in a car and drove from school to school," he told The Huffington Post in his first lengthy interview since the strike ended on Sept. 18. From the beginning of the strike, Brizard said he engaged with teachers on the picket lines from 6 a.m. until lunch. "Things were raw," he said. He specifically sought places where reporters would be scarce.

On Sept. 10, the first day of the strike, at the first school where he stopped, Brizard recalled, "They told me, 'Try and fix this quickly,'" and they said, "We just want to go back to our schools."

Next, Brizard visited Disney Magnet School. "I was surrounded by teachers," he said. He remembers they were shouting, "Brizard, Emanuel, give us our money back." Brizard said, "And I thought really, what money did I take from you?" (They were likely referring to the contractual 4 percent raise Emanuel denied the teachers last year.) Then, the school's union leader came out and "we talked for really good minutes" as the others listened.

Click here to read more about J.C. Brizard's absence during the CTU strike at HuffingtonPost.com.

Chicago Reporter: Displacement, segregation, safety: Chicago schools still have a long way to go

by Yana Kunichoff  |  September 25, 2012

Wendy Katten, mother and member of the Raise Your Hand Coalition, hopes that CPS can make changes to create a more dignified school day. “At the Coalition we want a more democratic process in how decision affecting our children are made,” said Katten. Photo by Jonathan Gibby.Wendy Katten, mother and member of the Raise Your Hand Coalition, hopes that CPS can make changes to create a more dignified school day. “At the Coalition we want a more democratic process in how decision affecting our children are made,” said Katten.
Chicago Reporter photo by Jonathan Gibby.

The teachers strike gave people a glimpse of the realities that many low-income urban students face every day. Overcrowded classrooms, weeks without textbooks, and after-school hours marred by violence.

While the teachers' contract won gains for students in some of these areas - textbook distribution on the first day of class, 600 additional art teachers - it was only able to touch on a few of the decades-long problems plaguing Chicago schools.

Below is look at three systemic issues in Chicago Public Schools that need to be tackled. We’ve pulled the numbers from one South Side neighborhood to illustrate the problems of displacement – students forced to travel to areas that are unsafe for them because of school closures or turnarounds – safety and segregation.

Displacement

The expected closing of more than 100 schools in the next five years, and the plans to open 60 charters in their place, wasn’t far from most conversations during the strike.When announcing the delegates voted to extend the strike into a second week, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the issue of school closings "undergird just about everything they talked about."

The schools chosen for closure or turnaround are schools that are deemed low-performing, and therefore are on probation, or under enrolled. Critics of the practice have argued it displaces students and forces them to venture into neighborhoods where they may not be welcome.

A study by The Chicago Reporter found that nearly 80 percent of the homicides in Chicago since 2008 occurred in 22 African-American or Latino communities. These are many of the same communities where closures and turnarounds have been concentrated in the past 10 years.

The neighborhoods of Englewood and West Englewood have seen at least 10 schools closed since the start of the school reform program Renaissance 2010 in 2004.

West Englewood has a rate of youth homicide five times higher than the citywide mark. Meanwhile, the percentage of schools on probation in the area shows that high violence rates coincide with low school performance, making it a school likely to be on the probation list.

In the areas under the Englewood-Gresham Elementary Network and the South Side High School Network, 78 percent of those schools are on probation. The city-wide average is 45 percent.

Safety

Englewood and West Englewood have seen their share of violence -- altogether the neighborhoods had 28 homicides since the start of 2012. Five of the dead were teenagers.

The Chicago Public Schools Progress Report Card shows students deal with violence inside the school as well. Each school receives a safety score that is developed from the responses of at least 50 percent of the school's students. The scores range from a low of 1, held by Edmond Burke Elementary School on the South Side, to a high of 99, held primarily by several schools on the North Side. Fifty-five percent of schools with a quantified safety score had a score below 50.

The rate of misconduct per 100 students shows 9 percent of schools had a rate of misconduct between 50 and 251.6, meaning at least half the students had a 'misconduct' on their record. To tackle this, CPS officials said they recently pioneered a "holistic approach to creating safer and more positive learning environments" which includes retraining security staff, expanding the number of schools that receive security cameras, bringing more CTA Bus Trackers into schools to keep students safe when leaving school, and creating a district-wide safety team.

Advocates have argued many CPS schools in low-income neighborhoods have disproportionately harsh disciplinary policies and have critiqued the district for suspending or expelling students for non-violent infractions like being late or violating dress code. In 2011, CPS spent 15 times more on security guards in schools than on college and career counselors. The numbers, respectively, were $51.4 million compared to $3.5 million.

Segregation

Segregation in CPS schools is a product of the segregation within Chicago, which still holds the dubious distinction of being the most segregated city in the country. Fifty-two percent of schools have a student body that's 50 percent or more African-American, while another 33 percent have a student body that is50 percent or more Hispanic.

WBEZ estimated a quarter of a million black and Latino children face"extreme racial isolation" in their schools.

The Future

The strike reflected the impact that segregation has in the city in that it brought people's attention to issues they didn't know about, said Wendy Katten, a CPS parent and member of the Raise Your Hands Coalition, an education advocacy group.

"Parents I've spoken to on the North Side said they learned a lot about issues they didn't know existed," said Katten. "It's easy to be disconnected from things in a city where some people never travel past certain line."

For Katten, there is one change that will start CPS on the path toward tackling issues of safety and displacement.

"The biggest issue is who is deciding the policy," she said. "Not enough people are doing that right now, so we have a lot of top-down policies that don't work. It would be better if you had a group of educators, parents, professors and, yes, business people figuring out what the priorities are."

Click here to read more about the Board of Education's status quo at the Chicago Reporter. 

Labor Beat: CTU Strike 2012

by Larry Duncan - Labor Beat  |  September 25, 2012

Labor Beat - CTU Strike 2012

Chicago - CAN TV cable tv Channel 19:
Thurs., Sept. 27, 9:30 pm
Fri., Sept. 28, 4:30 pm
Thurs., Oct. 4, 9:30 pm
Fri., Oct. 5, 4:30 pm
 
Evanston - Cable Channel 6:
Check Evanston Community Media Center website for schedule:

The first week of the historic September 2012 Chicago teachers strike. Interviews and scenes from the picket lines at Amundsen HS, Kenwood Academy, Steinmetz HS, Lawndale Elementary Community Academy, Reilly Elementary, Burley Elementary, Marsh Elementary, Marshall HS, Lane Tech HS, Kelly HS, Monroe Elementary -- all of which are only a small fraction of the schools on strike in the City.

Also scenes from the massive 30,000-strong teacher rally and march in the Loop on Monday, followed by another massive march on Tuesday. After this rally, a crush of TV cameras and reporters, desperate to get more interview footage, tag along with CTU President Karen Lewis as she leaves the event -- a scene which dramatizes the tremendous importance of this story for the City as well as for national media.

On Wednesday, huge CTU protests and picket lines targeted schools called by the union "scab schools" where parents were encouraged by the Mayor to send their children. Striking teacher Steve Pearson said that Lane Tech "typically can hold 4,000-5,000 students. On Monday [the first day of the strike] we were told to expect 4,200 kids to come here. We had 20. And yesterday it was down to about 10.  And today [Wednesday] I'm not sure there are any kids here."

On Saturday, September 15, the time of the completion of this video, the CTU announced that it had reached a "framework for an agreement" but that the strike has not been suspended as of yet. The union negotiating team pointed out that if specific language would be ready for the House of Delegates meeting to consider on Sunday, they would be able to vote on it then. [As of the date of this announcement, the vote to suspend the strike wasn't made by the House of Delegates until Tues., 9/18, and the contract is now being reviewed for final ratification by the entire union membership.]

A unique and essential document on the most important week for the fate of Chicago's and the country's public school system. Length - 26:45

Officers Will Discuss the Tentative Agreement with CTU Members All Week

September 24, 2012

Officers Will Discuss the Tentative 
Agreement with CTU Members All Week

Monday September 24th at 4:30 p.m.
 – Hyde Park High School 6220 S. Stony Island

Tuesday September 25th at 4:30 p.m.
 – Wells High School 936 N. Ashland

Wednesday September 26th at 4:30 p.m.
 – Kelly High School 4136 S. California

Thursday September 27th at 4:30 p.m.
 – Marshall High School 3250 W. Adams

Friday September 28th at 4:30 p.m.
 – Roosevelt High School 3436 W. Wilson

Through our fight, we have secured a good contract and showed the Mayor and the world that CTU will fight for our schools. We have a lot to be proud of, but of course the Tentative Agreement is far from perfect. There were advances, retreats and draws in the process. Please come with any of your questions and concerns.

Click here for useful summaries of the tentative agreement. The full document is still in the proofreading stage. It will be available on the website as soon as it is complete.

 

 

Central aspects of the tentative agreement (both positive and negative) include:

  • Defeats Merit Pay and retains Steps and Lanes.
  • Limits the duration of the contract to 3 years with an optional 4th year
  • Ends unpaid suspensions and establishes the right to grieve unfair discipline
  • Provides that half of all new hires must be displaced members with either a proficient or excellent rating
  • Reduces Appendix H benefits from 40 weeks at regular pay to 20 weeks at regular pay followed by 20 weeks in the cadre
  • Freezes health-care costs
  • Establishes a new wellness program
  • Ends banking of sick-time in the future, replaced by a maternity, paternity and short term disability benefit that can provide 90 days of paid leave
  • Provides that you keep sick-time already banked
  • Establishes the right to appeal Unsatisfactory ratings and two consecutive “Developing” ratings to a neutral Appeals Board
  • Establishes the right to create and design your own lesson plans without format requirements from principals
  • Establishes additional funding to lower class-size and lower case-loads for social workers, counselors, teacher assistants, psychologists, and special education teachers
  • Requires that any new state aid for CPS personnel be spent to hire up to 100 additional Social Workers and Counselors
  • Limits the student growth (test scores) part of our evaluation to the state minimum of 30%

We look forward to going over the tentative agreement. It is important to note that all the things we have won, we won because we fought. The Board’s initial proposal would have slashed our contract to 19 pages, taking away our rights, our benefits and further starving our schools. We protected our union, our jobs and our students because we the Board to task, not because they wanted to be fair and honest with us.

With school closings looming in December, we must draw on the energy, solidarity and community ties we developed during the strike to keep the momentum going and save our public schools from corporate “reformers.”

Please join us.

The Nation: Chicago Teachers, Verizon Workers, and Quebec's Students Prove That Resistance Works

by Allison Kilkenny  |  September 24, 2012

Teachers in Chicago, Verizon workers, and students in Quebec recently proved that not only are strikes and general resistance and dissent essential to any democracy, but they also work.

Despite ongoing efforts by private education lobbyists and a complacent national media working to smear teachers as being selfish, greedy leaches on society, educators in Chicago secured a major victory for themselves and their students.

After just nine days on strike, the Chicago teachers union fought for and won a contract that includes hiring more than 600 additional teachers in art, music, and physical education, making textbooks available on the first day of school, and bringing the percentage of teacher evaluations that are decided by standardized test scores down to the legal minimum of 30 percent.

CTU is the third biggest union in the country, and this was the first time in 25 years the union went on strike, but most importantly: it worked.

CTU President Karen Lewis called the agreement "a victory for education."

Click here to continue reading at TheNation.com. 

Mayor Emanuel's Pre-School Plan

by Carol Caref  |  September 24, 2012

On August 3, Rahm Emanuel announced plans to reform Chicago’s pre-Kindergarten education system. Like other "reforms," this one is likely to lead to privatization, lower-paid teachers, and test-driven pre-Kindergarten programs. The mayor's plan fundamentally alters the funding structure for all early childhood education programs in Chicago, including Head Start (3-5 years old), Early Head Start (0-3), Preschool for All (3-5), and Prevention Initiative (0-3). His announcement was independent of CTU contract negotiations, and CTU was not consulted about this program.
 
By November 2, 2012, at 4:30pm, all CPS principals who wish to provide their neighborhood with pre-Kindergarten classes for the 2013-2014 school year must submit proposals. All schools wishing to provide these programs must apply, even if the institution currently receives funding for early childhood. Program administrators can find the applications, instructions, and evaluation rubrics on Chicago's Ready to Learn! website. 
 
CPS and the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) will then evaluate these proposals, assigning a numerical rating to each proposed program. Using these ratings, CPS will determine which schools and organizations will receive government funding for the 2013-2014 school year. Because all pre-Kindergarten programs will be fighting for a share of the same funding pool, CPS programs will be forced into a competition with charters and religious institutions. "There will be charter schools, the Catholic Church, and neighborhood groups that will be competing," Emanuel said. "And that is going to be our new way of doing business."
CPS principals will submit their proposals to The Office of Early Childhood, at 125 S. Clark. Letters of intent are "encouraged but not required," according to the Ready to Learn! website. CTU recommends that teachers encourage their principals to submit a letter of intent to readytolearnrfp@cps.edu before sending to full proposal. This letter of intent will allow principals to emphasize the proposed program's strengths and supplement the more restrictive questions in the application. . CPS and DFSS will release its funding decisions in spring of 2013, leaving little time for parents to find a new program if their local school does not receive funding.
 
The application process is very detailed and time-consuming. In order to compete with well-funded charter schools, CTU recommends that schools begin working on their proposals immediately. The rubric criteria includes more than simply the quality of education that children receive, but also places an emphasis on a program's outside funding sources. Schools that can acquire large amounts of funding from private donors are more likely to receive a high score for their proposal. This appears to be another advantage for charter and parochial schools and could eventually allow CPS to significantly reduce government funding for early childhood education.
 
Schools' previous results from the new Kindergarten Readiness Test and Teaching Standards GOLD will be one of the factors used in evaluating proposals. This usage of test results to evaluate the quality of education reinforces CPS's emphasis on standardized testing, even for young children, despite the tests' questionable validity. For the 2012-2013 school year, the Chicago Board of Education has already approved approximately $6.4 million to be paid to private companies for testing software for kindergarten through second grade alone.  The Kindergarten Readiness Test, which will be given to all students entering kindergarten, cost Illinois an additional $1.5 million, money that was diverted from the budget for the 2011-2012 school year.
 
The competition does not end with the proposal. All early childhood programs must maintain 100 percent enrollment throughout the school year or risk permanently losing funding for unfilled spots. This funding will be given to a competing program that CPS believes can better maintain full enrollment. CTU is concerned that this process will result in a reduction of funding for public school programs, making it more difficult for teachers to educate their students. 
 
Emanuel said that the city will pay $10 million for the 2013-2014 school year in an attempt to expand early childhood education to 2,000 more children in 2013 and to 5,000 more in the next three years. No extra funding has been guaranteed past 2014, however. While this $10 million increase in funding will help reduce the damage caused by Governor Quinn's $19 million cut to early childhood education, CTU has serious reservations about the mayor's plan. CTU believes that CPS should ensure that all schools receive the funding needed to educate students – especially in the critical area of early childhood education – rather than forcing public schools to compete with the private budgets of charter schools for the resources needed to provide a high-quality education. All children deserve an excellent education, and parents should not have to worry that their child's program may lose this competition, forcing families to look outside of their communities for a new program.
 
[1] In May 2012, $4.7 million dollars was approved for two Wireless Generation programs.  The contracts run from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 with three options to renew for a length of one year a piece.  Despite the cost, these K-2 tests will be optional for schools. In February 2012, the Board also approved a $5 million contract with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) for a computer adaptive test that will replace the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) and will be administered to all K-8 students. This contract started on March 1, 2012, and will continue until February 28, 2013; the contract allows for three one-year renewals. Since CPS has included an end of the year test in its curriculum, it is highly likely that the contract will be renewed. Using 2011-2012 enrollment figures, about 33.4 percent ($1.7 million) of the $5 million contract will be used for K-2, bringing the total paid to private companies for the 2012-2013 school year to $6.4 million.

Healthcare Union Honors Teachers Union, Community Allies For Demonstrating The Power Of Grassroots Unity

September 24, 2012

In the wake of the Chicago Teachers Union's announcement suspending its successful strike to protect the city's schools, Keith Kelleher, President of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, issued the following statement: 

The 91,000 members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana salute their brothers and sisters in the Chicago Teachers Union for their successful stand in defense of a quality education for all of the city's school children. 

At a time when working men and women are constantly embattled by corporate-backed political agendas hostile to collective bargaining, the Chicago teachers' strike represented a resurgence of grassroots power, as educators, parents, children and community leaders united to protect their schools.  They will leave a legacy of inspiration to working families across the country. 

As classes resume Wednesday, parents and their children can credit this courageous strike for drawing the line against unfair school closings, overcrowded classes and under-resourced communities.  

This fight exemplified why the American labor movement remains a vital voice for better public institutions, stronger communities and good jobs at fair wages.  We look forward to working with the teachers to build on this victory for all working families. 

CTU Activist Takes Our Case to the Airwaves

by Produced & Hosted by Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash   |  September 24, 2012

What Chicago Teachers Taught Us - With Kimberly Bowsky, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) rank and file activist and member of the CTU House of Delegates and Brian Jones, former NYC public elementary school teacher, now pursuing a doctorate in urban education, co-narrator of the film “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman” and contributor to the book “Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation”.

 
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has a tentative agreement.  Some have proclaimed the strike as the biggest and most inspiring union victory since the 1997 UPS Teamsters strike. While it clearly demonstrates the resilience of unions and the viability of the traditional strike tactic, it also
raises the limitations of what even the best led unions can accomplish through collective bargaining alone today.  What are the lessons of the CTU strike for N.Y.C.'s school personnel and its students, and for teacher’s unions and public workers across the country facing challenges to their very existence?

Click here to listen.  

Vote YES to stronger schools.

September 24, 2012

We did what the media and the out of town billionaires said was impossible.

26,000 proud CTU members walked off the job and showed passion for better schools and a fair contract.

At the same time, CTU’s officers and attorneys were at the table with Chicago Public Schools officials making sure that the voices of the people in the streets were heard.

No contract is perfect, but we made some historic gains in the current tentative agreement to be ratified next week.

A YES vote is a vote for the following provisions we won:

  • Secure Raises & Ensure Fair Compensation:  A 3% raise  in the first year, 2% raise in the second and 2% raise in the third, with the option to extend to a 4th year by mutual agreement at another 3% raise.
  • Defeat Merit Pay: The CTU successfully fought the star of national misguided school reform policies. The Board agreed to move away from “Differentiated Compensation,” which would have allowed them to pay one set of teachers (based on unknown criteria) one set of pay versus another set of pay for others.
  • Preserve Steps & Lanes:  The new contract will preserve the full value of teachers and paraprofessionals career ladder (steps); and, it will increased the value of the highest steps (14,15 and 16)
  • Provide A Better School Day: The Board will hire 512 additional ‘special’ teachers in art, music, physical education, world languages and other classes to ensure students receive a better school day, a demand thousands of parents have called for since last year
  • Ensures Job Security: Creates a “CPS Hiring Pool,” which demands that one-half of all of CPS hires must be displaced (laid-off) members.
  • Adds An Anti-Bullying Provision: No more bullying by principals and managerial personnel.  The new language will curtail some of the abusive practices that have run rampant in many neighborhood schools.
  • Paraprofessional & Clinicians Prep Time: The new contract will guarantee preps for clinicians.
  • Racial Diversity: The CTU continues to fight the District on its lay-off policies that has led to a record number of African American educators being laid off and eventually terminated by the District.  The new contract will ensure that CPS recruits a racially diverse teaching force.
  • New Recall Rights & Tackling  School Closings:  Acknowledging, the CTU will continue its ongoing legal and legislative fight for a moratorium on all school closings, turnarounds and phase-outs, the new contract requires teachers to “follow their students” in all school actions. This will reduce instability among students and educators.  The contract will also have 10 months of “true recall” to the same school if a position opens.
  • Fairer Evaluation Procedures:  The new contract will limit CPS to 70% “teacher practice,” 30% “student growth” (or test scores)—which is the minimum by state law.  It also secures in the first year of implementation of the new evaluation procedures there will be “no harmful consequences” for tenured teachers. It also secures a new right—the right to appeal a Neutral rating.
  • Reimbursement for School Supplies: The contract will require the District to reimburse educators for the purchase of school supplies up to $250.
  • Additional Wrap-Around Services:  The Board agrees to commit to hire nurses, social workers and school counselors if it gets new revenue. Over the past several months, the CTU has identified several sources of new revenue, including the Tax Increment Financing program.
  • Books on Day One: For the first time, the new contract will guarantee all CPS students and educators have textbooks on day one and will not have to wait up to six weeks for learning materials.
  • Unified School Calendar:  The new contract will improve language on a unified calendar. The District will have one calendar for the entire school district and get rid of Track E and Track R schools.  All students and teaching personnel will begin on the same schedule.
  • Reduced Paperwork: The new contract ensures the new paperwork requirements are balanced against reduction of previous requirements.

Click here to see a new summary and the full text of the tentative agreement.

Wall Street Journal: A Gold Star for the Chicago Teachers Strike

by CTU President Karen GK Lewis and AFT President Randi Weingarten  |  September 24, 2012

Click here to read at WallStreetJournal.com. 

After more than a decade of top-down dictates, disruptive school closures, disregard of teachers' and parents' input, testing that squeezes out teaching, and cuts to the arts, physical education and libraries, educators in Chicago said "enough is enough." With strong support from parents and many in the community, teachers challenged a flawed vision of education reform that has not helped schoolchildren in Chicago or around the country. It took a seven-day strike—something no one does without cause—but with it educators in Chicago have changed the conversation about education reform.

These years of dictates imposed upon teachers left children in Chicago without the rich curriculum, facilities and social services they need. On picket lines, with their handmade signs, teachers provided first-person accounts of the challenges confronting students and educators. They made it impossible to turn a blind eye to the unacceptable conditions in many of the city's public schools.

Teachers and parents were united in the frustration that led to the strike. Nearly nine out of 10 students in Chicago Public Schools live in poverty, a shameful fact that so-called reformers too often ignore, yet most schools lack even one full-time nurse or social worker. The district has made cuts where it shouldn't (in art, music, physical education and libraries) but hasn't cut where it should (class sizes and excessive standardized testing and test prep). The tentative agreement reached in Chicago aims to address all these issues.

Chicago's teachers see this as an opportunity to move past the random acts of "reform" that have failed to move the needle and toward actual systemic school improvement. The tentative agreement focuses on improving quality so that every public school in Chicago is a place where parents want to send their children and educators want to teach.

Its key tenets:

First, use time wisely. The proposed contract lengthens the school day and year. A key demand by educators during the strike was that the district focus not just on instituting a longer school day, but on making it a better school day. Additional seat time doesn't constitute a good education. A well-rounded and rich curriculum, regular opportunities for teachers to plan and confer with colleagues, and time to engage students through discussions, group work and project-based learning—all these contribute to a high-quality education, and these should be priorities going forward.

Enlarge Image

 
Associated Press

The students gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years.

Second, get evaluation right and don't fixate on testing. Effective school systems use data to inform instruction, not as a "scarlet number" that does nothing to improve teaching and learning. One placard seen on Chicago's picket lines captured the sentiment of countless educators: "I want to teach to the student, not to the test." If implemented correctly, evaluations can help Chicago promote the continuous development of teachers' skills and of students' intellectual abilities (and not just their test-taking skills).

Third, fix—don't close—struggling schools. Chicago's teachers echoed the concerns of numerous parents and civil rights groups that the closing of struggling schools creates turmoil and instability but doesn't improve achievement. Low-performing schools improve not only by instituting changes to academics and enrichment, but also by becoming centers of their communities.

Schools that provide wraparound services—medical and mental-health services, mentoring, enrichment programs and social services—create an environment in which kids are better able to learn and teachers can focus more on instruction, knowing their students' needs are being met. Chicago, with an 87% child-poverty rate, should make these effective—and cost-effective—approaches broadly available.

Fourth, morale matters. Teachers who work with students in some of the most difficult environments deserve support and respect. Yet they often pay for their dedication by enduring daily denigration for not single-handedly overcoming society's shortcomings. These indignities and lack of trust risk making a great profession an impossible one.

In a period when many officials have sought to strip workers of any contractual rights or even a collective voice, the Chicago teachers strike showed that collective action is a powerful force for change and that collective bargaining is an effective tool to strengthen public schools. Chicago's public-school teachers—backed by countless educators across the country—changed the conversation from the blaming and shaming of teachers to the promotion of strategies that parents and teachers believe are necessary to help children succeed.

It is a powerful example of solution-driven unionism and a reminder that when people come together to deal with matters affecting education, those who work in the schools need to be heard. When they are, students, parents and communities are better for it.

Ms. Lewis is president of the Chicago Teachers Union. Ms. Weingarten is president of the CTU's national union, the American Federation of Teachers.

Chicagoist: Rahm "Strike Is Over" Ad Paid For By Anti-Teachers Union Group

by Chuck Sudo - Chicagoist  |  September 21, 2012

If you were watching local television last night chances were good you saw this commercial featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel praising the end of the teachers strike and promoting the gains made by Chicago Public Schools in the new deal.

The group that paid for the ad, Education Reform Now, shelled out $1 million to blanket the ad across local airwaves, according to CBS 2’s Jay Levine. Education Reform Now is a New York-based non-profit that with offices across the country, including in Wisconsin, but none in Illinois.

The group, according to its website, “envisions an America in which every child, regardless of class or race, has the social and economic opportunities afforded by an excellent public education. Achieving this vision necessitates a powerful chorus of voices within the education policy debate advancing a true agenda of reform, and speaking up on behalf of America's children. Education Reform Now seeks to empower individuals with reliable information so that the chorus will be informed and effective.”

It also involves fighting teachers unions across the country. Education Reform Now had inserted itself in the struggle between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union for months, dating back to the union’s June strike authorization vote. CPS parents told Progress Illinois they received robo-calls in which a woman identifying herself as a “Local School Council Member” said,

“Teachers deserve a raise. But it bothers me that the union is taking a strike vote before an independent arbitrator offers a compromise.” The woman then gives parents a number to text message to let CPS and CTU know their disapproval of a strike authorization vote, and notes that Education Reform Now paid for the message.

Jake Breymaier, advocacy director for the group, issued a statement to Progress Illinois that read, “Education Reform Now is advocating for a solution that avoids a strike and does what is best for Chicago’s children.” (So we know Breymaier and Emanuel share an affinity for vague platitudes.)

Education Reform Now also placed a July radio advertising buy for a spot urging CPS and CTU to keep the longer school day proposal intact in whatever agreement they reached. That ad was produced by John Kupper of AKPD Message and Media, who was the “lead message strategist” for Emanuel’s mayoral campaign.

Education Reform Now has helped fund the Illinois branch of Democrats for Educational Reform. Angela Rudolph, Illinois Policy Director for the group, and Rebecca Nieves Huffman, the group’s State Director, saidthey’ve been mislabeled as anti-union.

Click here to watch the videos at Chicagoist.com.


Crusader: New teachers' contract satisfies both parties

by Wendell Hutson   |  September 21, 2012

Depending on whom you listen to the tentative contract the Chicago Teachers Union agreed to benefits teachers, school administrators and most importantly students. According to Chicago Public Schools, teachers will get a 3 percent raise this school year and 2 percent raises for each of the next two years. If the school district and Chicago Teachers Union elect to extend the contract to a fourth, optional year, teachers would get a 3 percent raise. Although Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said pay was never a sticking issue during negotiations. 


“We did not want teachers being evaluated based on how well their students performed on tests because we know that there are other issues that affect a child’s school performance that is beyond a teacher’s control,” said Lewis. “There are children who are homeless; live in economically depressed communities where they are exposed to violence and drugs; children who do not eat properly at home; children who are abused and have psychological issues. These are all things that a teacher cannot control but is held accountable for and that is not fair.” Also included in the tentative contract, according to CPS, is maintaining current class size policy, not raising healthcare premiums and the elimination of sick leave payout without penalizing existing banks. A “bank” is accumulated sick time. Previously, employees could accumulate up to 325 days for payout and pension service credit after 20 years of service. 

The CPS contract summary identified a new provision negotiated by the CTU that teachers would be reimbursed for school supplies up to $250 and that textbooks would now be available on the first day. Jean-Claude Brizard, chief executive officer for Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third largest school district with 675 schools and 402,000 students, who are predominately Hispanic, said he is happy to see students back in school. 

“Our students [are] back with their teachers where they belong,” said Brizard. “There, they will continue their learning with the full school day, using more time for reading, math, science, world languages and enrichment such as arts, music and physical education.” And Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who instructed city attorneys to file an injunction in Cook County to force teachers back to work, added everyone gave a little to end the strike. 

“This settlement is an honest compromise. It means returning our schools to their primary purpose: the education of our children,” the mayor said. Emanuel said. “In this contract, we gave our children a seat at the table. In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more, but our kids got less. This time, our taxpayers are paying less, and our kids are getting more.” Teachers, on average lost $295 a day while on strike, according to CPS. And while parents said teachers were inconvenienced, so were they. 

Iesha Davis is used to running errands and working out at the health club while her kids are in school. But during the seven-day teachers’ strike she was forced to take her two, small children with her to run errands and was not able to do her normal work outs. “It was a big inconvenience to me because when my kids are in school that is my time to do whatever it is I need to do,” said Davis, 28. “Whether it’s laundry, grocery shopping or getting my hair and nails done.” The single mom, whose sons are in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten at Martha Ruggles Elementary School on the South Side, added that if there were a charter school close to her home she would transfer her kids there. 

“Gas is expensive and I am not working right now so I cannot afford to drive them far to a charter school,” she explained. “But if there were on in walking distance I would surely look into sending them there. This way if another strike occurs my kids won’t be affected.” Students attending charter schools were not affected by the teachers’ strike because charter teachers are not members of the Chicago Teachers Union, which represents more than 25,000 teachers working at traditional public schools. 

Davis McFarland, a 67 year-old grandfather whose granddaughter is in the third grade at John Calhoun North Elementary School on the West Side, said parents were not the only ones inconvenienced by the recent teachers’ strike. “I retired five years ago and was enjoying retirement until the strike occurred. My daughter is a single parent and works two jobs and needed my help,” McFarland said. “So instead of playing my normal Friday golf game last week I was babysitting my nine year-old grand daughter. And let me tell you, when you get my age watching a nine year-old is rough.”

One parent missed out on a job opportunity because of the strike. “I had a job interviewed last week (Sept. 12) but had to cancel it because I had no one to watch my 7 year-old son,” said Cynthia Bass, 31, a single parent working part-time. “ I was laid off in 2009 and have been struggling looking for full-time employment since. This job interview would have been for a full-time position that would have allowed me to quit my part-time cashier job at McDonald’s. I asked if I could reschedule the interview and they said they would call me back to do so. I am still waiting.”

 

The Prospect: Advanced Placement

by MICAH UETRICHT  |  September 21, 2012

Chicago Public School teachers and students were back in classrooms Wednesday morning after union delegates voted Tuesday to end their seven-day strike. The union won a number of significant victories—including a provision that student test scores will count for no more than 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation and another that will give teachers more pay for longer school days and years. The proposed contract should be finalized and approved in the coming weeks. By almost all accounts, though, in its fight with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the union is emerging as the clear winner.

One of the sticking points in negotiations was over teacher evaluations and the role students’ test scores play in them. Emanuel is one of a number of national reformers who see unions as a roadblock to improving student performance and who subscribe to the philosophy that what poor, underperforming school districts need most are better teachers. Chicago teachers have emphasized throughout this fight that they want to weigh in on the education-reform debate and that their mission to do so extends far beyond an individual contract.

With a newly mobilized membership, widespread relationships with community groups, and much of the public’s trust, the Chicago Teachers Union has positioned itself to play a leading role in the debate in their city, which has an education system highly stratified between well-funded public magnet and private schools and crumbling, neighborhood-based schools—where more than 91 percent of public-school students are children of color,more than 90 percent attend hyper-segregated schools, and 82 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch. Their efforts could lead the way for teachers in other cities to organize in the same way.

As union delegates streamed out of their meeting Tuesday evening, many said they were elated to return to work. Teachers embraced one another in the parking lot, and supporters chanted while holding signs reading “We’re Proud of You, CTU.” Teachers also immediately began talking about how to translate the momentum from the contract victory into a broader movement. These teachers want to refocus an education-reform debate that has centered on teacher performance to one that addresses structural barriers to student achievement, including the vastly unequal resources allocated to poor students and students of color in public schools throughout the country. Education reformers have cast teachers’ unions as a problem for urban public-school students; the Chicago union wants to present itself as a solution.

Parents had been on the teachers’ side in large numbers during the fight. They formed a support organization, Parents 4 Teachers, in early 2012 to back the teachers’ contract goals and show that they did not view teachers and their union as enemies. An active Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign mobilized community members who weren’t parents to support the union. Community groups like the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization and the Grassroots Collaborative took key roles in organizing marches and town-hall meetings.

These relationships were not hastily thrown together to give a veneer of neighborhood-based union support. They were based on long-term relationships developed since the Congress of Rank and File Educators (CORE) took control of the union’s leadership in 2010 and emphasized in their platform opposition to school closures and encroaching privatization through the opening of new charter schools—reforms pushed for years under Mayor Richard M. Daley and former Chicago Public Schools CEO (now Secretary of Education) Arne Duncan—and strong relationships with community and parent organizations. While the teachers are legally limited to striking over economic issues, Karen Lewis and the rest of the union’s leaders insisted from the beginning of the contract negotiations that their fight extended past what could be won in a contract.

“That contract only governs a portion of what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for public education itself,” says Eric Skalinder, a delegate and music teacher at Kelly High School in Brighton Park, a poor, mostly Mexican neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Skalinder is looking to the union’s allies for direction in the union’s next fights. “These community partners and parent alliances are new,” he says. “We’ve never been more mobilized or unified. We have to focus that energy on fighting privatization, advocating for neighborhood schools, all of it.”

It’s school closures, in particular, that union delegates and community organizations are concerned about. Mayor Emanuel has proposed closing 80 to 120 public schools and opening 60 charter schools in their stead, seen by many as a not-so-subtle scheme to weaken teachers unions and push privatization. Outside the union hall in an industrial district of Chinatown where delegates met, Kirstie Shanley, an occupational therapist at Walt Disney Magnet School, says the end of contract negotiations should lead to a quick shift in the mobilization to fight those closures.

“The community, clinicians, parents, teachers—they all need to be there when there’s a closing,” Shanley says. “Rahm and [Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude] Brizard have to be aware that every time they announce a school closing to turn it into a charter, we’re ready to mobilize and fight back.” She says there is also significant movement on a referendum calling for an end to what she calls the “abuses” of the city’s unelected school board.

Whatever their next battle, the 26,000 teachers seem ready, as a text alert circulating among them late Tuesday night suggested: "CTU ALERT: Wear red Wednesday. Meet in your parking lot before swiping in. Everyone walks in TOGETHER. This is the beginning."

Click here for the original link. 

Washington City Paper: The Statistical Illiteracy of Washington Post Wonk Blogger Dylan Matthews

by Mike Paarlberg - Washington City Paper  |  September 21, 2012

The recently concluded Chicago teachers strike widened cleavages that Democrats wish would go away: between organized labor and the charter school movement, between public sector workers and Democratic mayors likeRahm Emanuel. President Barack Obama refused to pick sides, but everyone else did. Mainstream media were no exception. Over at the Washington Post, few were less abashed in cheering the defeat of the Chicago Teachers’ Union and providing intellectual cover to its detractors than Dylan Matthews.

Matthews, a fresh-out-of-Harvard writer for Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog at the Post, is one of a new breed of journalists: the young, bean-counting, charts-and-graphs-obsessed, policy geek. Mostly found on the left side of the political spectrum, their ranks include Slate’s Matt Yglesias, the New York Times’ Nate Silver, and, of course, Klein himself. They don’t usually crunch the numbers themselves (the poll-model-building Silver's an exception). Instead they report on those that do, from a perilous perch somewhere between academic objectivity and issue advocacy.

Here’s where they run into trouble. They’re not academics—nor do they claim to be—but their job is to distill economic and poli-sci jargon into understandable, policy-relevant bite-sized chunks. And problems arise when they get it wrong—whether due to a lack of understanding of statistics, misrepresentation of the studies they cite, or, in Matthews’ case, both.

Click here to continue reading. 

Official Statement from 8 Aldermen who stood with CTU during the strike

September 20, 2012

Official Statement from 8 Aldermen who stood with CTU during the strike: 

Today we are happy to say that the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools have reached an agreement and our kids will be returning to school where they belong. It has been a difficult nine days but the conversations about the future of Public Education in our city were long overdue. These conversations did not just happen in the bargaining room or in City Hall but at dinner tables around our city.

We believe that from the very beginning Chicago's teachers wanted what is best for their students and for our schools. Their experience and knowledge should be the basis for future improvements to the Chicago Public School System. They deserve to work in an environment that respects their work as educators helping to ensure that every child has an equal chance to succeed.

 

As we move forward from today, we hope that the conversations about improving our public education system continue. It is our job as elected officials and educators to work together to provide the highest quality public education possible.

 

  1. Ald. Bob Fioretti (2)              
  2. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5)         
  3. Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6)     
  4. Ald. Toni Foulkes (15)           
  5. Ald. Rick Munoz (22)           
  6. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32)    
  7. Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36)    
  8. Ald. John Arena (45)

Sun-Times: Exclusive: CTU’s Karen Lewis on Emanuel, Vitale — and Steinem

by Rosalind Rossi  |  September 20, 2012

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis hasn’t heard from Mayor Rahm Emanuel yet — but she has heard from Gloria Steinem and hundreds of supporters from as far away as Australia, France, Italy and Canada.

And she isn’t interested in running for mayor, but she will run for a second term as president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

As Lewis basked Wednesday in what some say is her new status as a union rock star, she looked back on a teachers’ contract battle and seven-day strike that won her national and even international attention. But she also looked forward.

She dug in her heels about an optional fourth year of the contract after hearing what CPS officials had shared in an “on background’’ briefing with local education reporters Wednesday.

District officials said that if CPS had the money to cover an extra three percent raise in year four and was willing to extend the contract to four years, an automatic change in the teacher evaluation formula would come with it. Student growth — including on standardized tests — would rise from the state minimum of 30 percent to 35 percent as part of any year-four deal, they said.

“Oh really? Hmm,” said Lewis, her back stiffening.

 

“Well, we would probably not extend then. I’m glad they mentioned that,’’ Lewis said.

“What I understood is that we were going to have a joint committee to decide how we were going to tweak that. So since they decided we’re going to 35 percent growth, I guess we won’t go to year four…

“So they are already not in good faith about the joint committee we’re going to have….

“The law is 30 percent. So why do we have to pile onto the state law? … This is all the board showing off. . . . They are showing off [so they can say] ‘I’m tougher than you are on your people.’ It’s ridiculous.’’

Lewis sat down Wednesday for an exclusive print interview with the Chicago Sun-Times at the same mahogany table where she stared down Chicago School Board President David Vitale and other CPS negotiators.

Vitale, she said, was a “sweet guy’’ who “absolutely’’ played a critical role in the final weeks of the talks.

Vitale sent her a “nice text’’ after the union’s House of Delegates voted Tuesday to end the city’s first teachers’ strike in 25 years, Lewis said. As the system now struggles to find $74 million to pay for the first year of the deal, Vitale said he “looked forward to working together to find solutions,’’ Lewis said.

“I’m very excited about working with him,’’ Lewis said.

Waiting for Lewis in a very messy private office only a few feet away, was a stack of mail two feet high, over 100 voice mail messages and over 300 emails.

The CTU’s battle, especially over issues such as teacher evaluations and layoff policies that districts nationwide also are wrestling with resolving, has prompted calls and emails from not only Boston, New York, St. Paul and Washington, D.C., but also Australia, France, Italy and Canada, Lewis said.

Has the mayor called?

“No.”

But “I’m not surprised he didn’t call,’’ said Lewis, who said previously the mayor threw the f-bomb at her during one of their early private meetings.

“I haven’t had a relationship with him so I don’t know why it would start today,’’ Lewis said. “People want to make this out to be a big fight. I don’t even think about him.’’

However, Lewis conceded, union literature about the deal specifically mentions that if the two sides don’t extend the contract to four years, it will conclude in the middle of a mayoral campaign.

The union had wanted a two-year deal, and CPS wanted a four-year one. The timing of the three-year deal, Lewis said, was mentioned in union literature because “I’m trying to sell this to my members. Our members have a very low opinion of the mayor.’’

Lewis said the strike “absolutely’’ was worth it. She scoffed at contentions raised Wednesday by CPS officials that the union always intended to strike, no matter what, but could have avoided doing so if it had raised some creative solutions earlier.

“That’s what they have to say,’’ Lewis said. “We never always intended to strike. This was their move. The union has not had a strike in 25 years.’’

The union ultimately “needed to strike,’’ Lewis said because it did not meet a time deadline set by the House of Delegates after CPS had dragged its feet for months at the negotiating table.

The union not only won improvements in the contentious areas of job security and teacher evaluation by striking, Lewis said, but the walkout united the membership like never before and “changed the narrative.’’ It showed CPS officials — and the public who watched strike coverage on TV — that teachers were rebelling against inadequate, stifling and unfair working conditions.

The contract provision that won the biggest round of applause at Tuesday’s House of Delegates vote, Lewis said, was one that cost nothing — and was nailed down post-strike. It allowed teachers to write their own lesson plans rather than follow some superior’s pre-scripted format.

To follow some CPS formulas, Lewis said, some teachers were writing out 40-page lesson plans. Said Lewis: “That’s crazy stuff.”

At the House of Delegates, Lewis said, as lesson plan contract language she herself had written was projected on a screen, “you wouldn’t have believed the roar. That’s how bad things got that people got excited about lesson plans. That’s how micromanaged we have become in Chicago.’’

The strike forced Lewis, a normally observant Jew who converted 20 years ago, to work through the Rosh Hashana holy day period — although she did participate in Sabbath services.

“I’ll steal a line from [the movie] ‘Yentl,’’’ said Lewis. “‘God will understand. I’m not so sure about the neighbors.’’’

But one highlight of the ordeal was a call from feminist and author Gloria Steinem.

How did the call go? “O – M – G,’’ Lewis said dragging out the abbreviation for “oh my god.’’ Although she was not certain, she said the call could have come in Sunday, Sept. 9 — the same day Vitale told reporters he was unable to reach Lewis for two critical hours.

Steinem, Lewis said, called to say that she was proud of the union for “standing up’’ against “teacher bashing,’’ which Steinem said amounted to “anti-feminist behavior.’’

Within a few hours of the strike announcement, a column by Steinem appeared on the union website, announcing her solidarity with the CTU.

How Lewis, a former chemistry teacher, led the union through its latest battle has some CTU members suggesting she run for mayor.

“[My] ego just isn’t that big,” Lewis said.

On a national scale, she’s garnered enough interest to run for American Federation of Teachers president. Lewis insisted she’s not interested. The only job she wants to run for is CTU president, and she will be doing so next spring.

“I don’t have any more ambitions. This is it. I didn’t even want this job,’’ Lewis said. “I don’t want any other job, that’s for sure.’’ 

Click here for the original link.

Curtis Black: Strike Notes (Newstips)

by Curtis Black  |  September 20, 2012

The teacher walkout was entirely a result of the mayor’s bumbling. Bumbling on the longer school day and bumbling on the contract negotiations.

That was clear to the two-thirds of CPS parents who supported the teachers in the strike.

His statement yesterday focused on the longer day, as if that was what he had won with the strike. It wasn’t at all – that had already been decided, after he cut it back to seven hours in April and reached an interim agreement on staffing in August.

A year ago, he could easily have made the longer day a collaborative project. Let parents weight in on what the optimal length would be and what it should cover. See what teachers needed – they were already on board with restoring recess, which got you halfway there at no cost. Give the school district, principals, teachers and parents a year to plan it and do it right.

Listen, consult, give and take. But that wasn’t his style.

Instead he chose to deploy the longer day as a weapon against the teachers union, trying to go around the union’s contract to get individual schools to sign on — a process the labor board put an end to. And parents throughout complained that information was not available and planning was not happening (a point that apparently came up inJean-Claude Brizard’s performance review).

***

When it came to contract talks, Emanuel apparently thought he wouldn’t really have to negotiate. He believed Jonah Edelman of Stand For Children when he said that the union could never meet the higher threshold for a strike vote in SB 7. (And let’s recall Edelman, in the same video, bragging that Emanuel had repeated SFC’s talking points on the longer day throughout his campaign last year.)

CPS refused to even entertain a number of subjects of major concern to the union until the impossible happened and teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in June. And no serious negotiating took place until board president David Vitale joined the talks – which was only after the union issued a ten-day strike notice.

“We’ve been in negotiations since November,” John Cusick, a union delegate from Ray Elementary said. “We could have settled this during the summer, but the board negotiators didn’t get serious” until the strike notice was issued.

The mayor also claimed victory on teacher evaluations. In fact the new contract keeps the weight of student performance on standardized tests in teacher ratings to the minimum mandated by law (it also includes important protections for teachers). “It wasn’t won by the mayor in negotiations,” as Beachwood Reporter points out.

***

Then there was the remarkable hand-wringing by pundits when the union’s House of Delegates decided they wanted to see the contract before agreeing to it. Can’t Karen Lewis control her delegates? they asked, bewildered.

“What, do they want us to operate like the City Council?” one teacher said to me.

Yes, that’s what we want. We’re much more comfortable with concentrations of power. It makes the story line easier, for one thing – it’s just Rahm Emanuel versus Karen Lewis. Dispersal of power, participatory democracy, a style of leadership that consults its constituents – you have to excuse us, we’ve just never seen it before.

***

One notable factor was the degree to which the strike “was personalized to Rahm,” said veteran political consultant Don Rose. “Even the teachers’ strikes in the ’70s were not personalized…. It went on for days, in the marches and rallies and signage.”

It may be that Emanuel sought that out in order to prove his bona fides as a pro-business “New Democrat” willing to dis a traditional party base. “It was his Sister Souljah moment,” said Rose.

“The bottom line,” he argues at the Chicago Daily Observer, “is that Emanuel is out of the running as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate in 2016.” Maybe you can run without labor support, but running against active labor opposition is something else.

***

One East Coast pundit told me Lewis was hurting her cause by arguing that standardized tests don’t take into account all the issues faced by students. It may even be true, he conceded, but opponents of the union were having a field day depicting her as making excuses.

It’s a complicated issue, but it’s a potent one – particularly because, like teachers and students, parents hate excessive standardized testing and know how much harm it can do.

It may be worth looking again at the statement by FairTest, the leading critics of over-testing, on the Chicago strike — which it called “the latest example of the growing national resistance to failed, top-down, test-driven educational policies.”

“Across the nation, parents, teachers, and school leader are rising up to say ‘enough is enough’ to so-called reforms based on standardized exam misuse,” explained FairTest public education director Bob Schaeffer.

“From Texas to Long Island and Washington to Florida, people with first-hand knowledge of the damage being done to academic quality and equity are pushing back against the out-of-touch politicians and their funders who insist on doubling down on strategies that have not worked,” he said.

The question of fair and effective evaluation – and the use of skewed evaluation systems to get rid of veteran teachers – resonates with teachers. With parents, it might be the increase in standardized testing and yet another push toward teaching to the test.

And someday, someone’s going to start looking at how many millions of dollars are spent on these tests, and who’s making all that money from them – and maybe, what kind of lobbying these companies are doing.

***

Mayor Emanuel has his own public relations conundrum at this point, and it’s not just a matter of rhetoric: he (and the business leaders and newspapers) are claiming that in order to pay for the new contract, they’re going to have to close down schools.

In the meantime they’re planning to open up 60 new charter schools. In fact, this year’s budget has an additional $76 million for charters, which cost the district well over $500 million a year.

“We’re kind of confused about that,” said Wendy Katten of the Raise Your Hand Coalition. “If they’re claiming they have 130,000 unfilled seats in the district, why are they opening 60 new schools? That’s crazy. That’s just absurd.”

How to make the case? Always ready to help, the Tribune offers this line of argument:: charter schools are the best tool for busting the teachers union. Bruce Rauner, private equity mogul and major charter sponsor, chimes in that the goal is “separating teachers from the union.”

***

Everyone who’s talking about banning teacher strikes needs to take a deep breath and face reality. “That ship has sailed,” said Julie Woestehoff of PURE.

***

Instead, an advisory referendum for an elected school board will be on the ballot in nearly 250 precincts in November. Then there will be a push in the legislature to roll back mayoral control, under which student achievement has stagnated and the gap between black and white students has grown – and under which we’ve now had our first teachers’ strike in 25 years.

I don’t know what prospects may be in Springfield, but at a hearing of the legislative task force on Chicago school facilities reform last week, members were making a list of the ways CPS has failed to abide by the requirements of the new facilities law. A CPS representative didn’t attend. Plenty of community activists did.

The list included failure to consider public comments on the mandated School Action Guidelines last year; CPS is so used to holding and pro-forma public hearings and ignoring the testimony that they must not have realized task force was watching. Indeedsome legislators were saying, a year ago, that the guidelines issued then didn’t meet the requirements of the law.

Also, mandated school transition plans were lost when staff handling them were replaced; mandated support services for students in temporary living situations weren’t provided for the entire year; CPS failed to track thousands of students affected by school closings last year; and more.

CPS has to submit an updated set of School Action Guidelines in December. This year they’re reportedly planning to include utilization rates along with performance levels.

But news outlets reporting plans to close “underperforming and underutilized schools” should be warned that members of the task force have challenged CPS methods for determining both these standards. They have a strong case, too.  (A lawsuit filed earlier this year by LSC members, charging CPS abuses probation to take away local school control while failing to provide legally-mandated support is being appealed.)

If there are 145 schools on a list of “underperforming, underutilized” schools, as Catalyst reports, task force members argue that transparency requires an explanation of why some schools are chosen over others, and why they are chosen for closing rather than phaseout or consolidation.

At this point it would seem to behoove Emanuel and CPS to pay some heed to the issues raised by the legislators, who are representing the concerns of their constitutents.

McFadden on the Value of Certified Educators

by Brian McFadden  |  September 20, 2012

Thanks to cartoonist Brian McFadden for permission to post the cartoon and for his solidarity.

CTU Strike Newslinks

September 19, 2012

Judge Rejects Mayor’s Effort to End Chicago Strike http://www.democracynow.org/

Rebel Diaz - Chicago Teacher
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yN7cRZP58k

Stand Against Rahm!
http://www.alternet.org/tags/rahm-emanuel

Teachers demand respect
http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/teachers-demand-respect/

Teachers, students return to Chicago public schools http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-todays-assignment-seal-deal-with-chicago-teachers-20120918,0,7319589.story

Karen Lewis takes aim at a critic of CPS teachers http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-14/news/ct-perspec-0914-lewis-20120914_1_cps-teachers-charter-schools-karen-lewis

Chicago Teachers Union leader Karen Lewis pushed back — and won http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/chicago-teachers-union-leader-karen-lewis-pushed-back-won-article-1.1161008?localLinksEnabled=false

Feisty firebrand has emerged as new champion for millions of public school teachers

Emanuel adviser Bruce Rauner blasts Chicago Teachers Union leadership http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-bush-institute-event-20120919,0,7581607.story

Emanuel wants strike declared illegal
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/17/chicago-emanuel-teachers-strike-illegal


Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel seeks court order to end teachers' strike http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/17/chicago-emmanuel-court-teachers-strike


Chicago teachers' union extend strike as Emanuel threatens court action http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/17/chicago-teachers-union-extend-strike


Big Rumbling in Chicago Teachers Move Toward Historic Strike http://www.alternet.org/big-rumbling-chicago-teachers-move-toward-historic-strike

What if Businessman Bruce Rauner, a charter school backer and an adviser to Mayor Rahm Emanuel Were Evaluated Like a Teacher? 
http://www.alternet.org/hot-news-views/what-if-rahm-emanuel-were-evaluated-teacher

Mayor Rahm-Ney’s Attack on the Chicago Teachers Union http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2012/9/13/mayor_rahm_neys_attack_on_the_chicago_teachers_union

Chicago Public Teachers Stage Historic Strike in Clash with Mayor Businessman Bruce Rauner, a charter school backer and an adviser to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Education Reforms http://www.democracynow.org/2012/9/10/chicago_public_teachers_stage_historic_strike

Going To School In Chicago: High Poverty, Short School Days, Crumbling Buildings http://thinkprogress.org/education/2012/09/11/828761/chicago-school-experience/?mobile=nc

Occupy Chicago Mic Checks Mayor Businessman Bruce Rauner, a charter school backer and an adviser to Mayor Rahm Emanuelhttp://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/11/22/374860/occupy-chicago-mic-checks-mayor-rahm-emanuel/?mobile=nc

Anti-Union Ads in Chicago Paid for By Hedge Funds, Billionaires

by David Dayen - FireDogLake  |  September 19, 2012

I wish I had known about this before the Chicago Teachers Union suspended their strike and returned to work, but it may shed some light on the timing of the suspension. At the least, it provides a little more context for what teachers unions have to deal with on the ground.

Apparently [an] anti-union ad played non-stop on television in Chicago throughout the strike. It’s the product of Education Reform Now, a group that also sometimes goes by Democrats for Education Reform, depending on what pot of money they want to use. Formed in 2005, Education Reform Now has spent millions of dollars over the past few years, whether massaging public opinion or lobbying state legislatures or intervening in school board races.

Education Reform Now spent $10 million in New York state over a two-year period, lobbying Albany for changes to state law on teacher evaluations. They plan to be active in next year’s mayoral election. Former New York City school chancellor Joel Klein, who eventually made his way to work for Rupert Murdoch at News Corp, was the chairman of the Education Reform Now board. The group is closely affiliated with Students First, Michelle Rhee’s lobbying and advocacy group.

Take a look at some of the other members of the New York effort:

Joel Klein isn’t the only connection between Democrats for Education Reform and StudentsFirstNY. The Education Reform Now board includes some heavy-hitting charter school donors from the hedge fund world, including John Sabat of SAC Capital and Sidney Hawkins Gargiulo of Ziff Brothers Investments. Democrats for Education Reform was co-founded by John Petry of Columbus Capital Management, who also serves on the board of both that organization and Education Reform Now. All three board members are deeply involved in the Success Charter Network run by former City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz – who herself will serve on the StudentsFirst board.

In other words, a coterie of hedge fund managers, who have a vested interest in privatizing education through the charter schools they fund. The group got the Senate Majority Leader in New York to insert a provision into the budget allowing for for-profit charters in New York. It eventually got removed, but it’s sure to be back. That’s the whole enchilada.

Education Reform Now doesn’t disclose its donors, but we do know the other source of funding for the group: foundation money.

Private foundations are playing a growing role in financing the nonprofit educational wings of several prominent K-12 advocacy groups, according to reviews of the foundations’ grant records and annual tax filings.

The efforts they underwrite run from the mundane—translating school district materials into Spanish, for instance—to activities deeply intertwined with policy, such as providing information to parents on topics like teacher evaluation and school choice.

Since 2005, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated or pledged some $5.2 million in grants to Stand for Children’s Leadership Center, including a two-year, $3.5 million grant in 2010 focused primarily on its teacher-quality work. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation provided $500,000 in startup costs to StudentsFirst and has funded Education Reform Now to the tune of $2 million since 2008.

And beginning in 2010, the Walton Family Foundation has supported all three of those advocacy organizations, including $2.5 million for Stand for Children, $1 million to StudentsFirst, and $2.4 million to Education Reform Now, which is associated with the political action committee Democrats for Education Reform.

The Walton Family Foundation is what you think, that’s the foundation of the founders of Wal-Mart. Eli Broad is slowly buying up all of Los Angeles. The reputation of Bill and Melinda Gates [precede] them. The Pershing Square Foundation, run by Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman, has also donated to Education Reform Now/Democrats for Education Reform. This site has much more on their donor network.

This is a BIG money game. So when a teachers union, even one with a formidable war chest, challenges the prevailing ideology on education reform, they go up against hedge funds and billionaires who will attack and smear them. That’s just a sampling of the pressure they face. They also have to contend with a biased media and a general culture tilted against them as well. Despite all that, parents supported the strike in Chicago. But there was going to be a time limit to that.

I just think that needs to be part of the context of understanding this fight.

Click here to read at FireDogLake.com.

WBEZ: Social media acts as megaphone and sword in CTU strike

by Andrew Gill - WBEZ  |  September 19, 2012

As the Chicago Teachers Union strike drags closer to the one-week mark, it's clear the CPS and CTU have more differences than just at the negotiating table. Take, for instance, how each organization has utilized social media throughout this process. For the CTU Facebook and Twitter are wielded like a battleax, for CPS its more like a billboard.

The guy behind the union's social media efforts is Kenzo Shibata. To say he's had a good week is an understatement. Take a look at the activity on CTU's Facebook page over the past week:

The union picked up 16,000 new Facebook fans since the strike began. As an administrator of a Facebook page, I can attest that is a very enviable traffic graph. For the CTU, this activity didn't come by accident. Shibata says he's been training union members for months. "We have focused a lot of attention on social media through this strike. We knew that we could not rely completely on traditional media to tell the story, so we empowered our members to become citizen journalists on the ground," Shibata said in an email interview.

He praises union leadership for being forward looking in changing his position from Publications Editor to New Media Specialist. He considers himself an "online organizer." The union claims close to 30,000 members and has more than that total backing their Facebook page. Those fans have been successful at their online activism since more than 81,000 Facebook users have been talking about CTU.

What have those activists been doing on social media? For one, they've been making photos like this go viral. Shibata says they've also been sharing a video the union made in August called "Chicago Teachers Union Vs. Astroturf Billionaires."

The union made this video specifically for members to share on social media and it has clearly influenced the agenda of many of the marches and signs. Their Facebook fans have also been sharing photos and videos of those marches (including some adaptations of "Call Me Maybe").

The CTU page is full of photos of marches and links to blog posts on the CTUNet website.

On the first day of the strike Shibata says the union was responsible for the two top trending topics on Twitter, "#1 was #CTUStrike and #2 was #FairContractNow. We promoted both hashtags through email blasts, listservs, and word-of-mouth. The #FairContractNow hashtag was hatched by Michael Cherone, one of our delegate leaders."

"Social media empowered members to tell their own stories through video and photos. It allowed people to connect throughout the city, nation, and world," says Shibata.

For the Chicago Public Schools social media efforts it's a different story. Social Media Director Alex Soble says their goal is to "keep parents and students informed about the options CPS can provide and explain what CPS is doing to fight for a better education for their children."

Soble says the leadership of CPS is focused on social media as well. "I work closely with our Chief Communications Officer on how to approach social media during the strike. Higher-ups at CPS definitely appreciate the importance of social media. They understand that many of our parents and students get information from Facebook and Twitter via their mobile phones, and they support what we’re doing to engage them."

That reflects what CPS has been doing on their Facebook page- mostly sharing information about childcare options as well as a few op-ed articles that support the CPS position in the contract negotiations. The posts are much more spread out and based on much less original content.

That subdued tone is reflected in subdued numbers of fans:

Though they've seen a bump from the strike news, their audience is smaller than CTU's by a factor of ten. This could speak to the bulletin board style their posts take, or the fact they don't have 30,000 members to enlist in their cause.

The scope of the CPS social media efforts are to inform and it appears they are successful at that. CTU, however, has a bigger imagination and their efforts reflect that.

Click here to read at WBEZ.org.

Thank you parents!

September 19, 2012

Thank you for your support in our fight for quality public education and a fair contract. Parents, students, teachers and other school staff joined together to demand what our students need and deserve.

What we’ve won

Chicago Teachers Union members’ determination and your support during the strike forced the Board of Education to agree to:

  • Hire over 600 additional teachers in Art, Music, Phys Ed and other subjects
  • Maintain limits on class size, increase funding for smaller classes
  • Add a parent voice on class size committees
  • Make textbooks available on the first day of school
  • Increase racial diversity in hiring at CPS
  • Lessen the focus on standardized testing – keep the focus on teaching instead of tests
  • Provide more attention from school Social Workers and Nurses
  • Increase funding for Special Ed teachers, social workers, psychologists, classroom assistants and counselors in schools with high caseloads.

The strike is not the end of the fight for the schools Chicago’s students deserve. We need a better school day, not just a longer one. We will keep working together to stop the Mayor’s plan to close 100 schools.  The Board of Ed will continue starving schools in low income neighborhoods, denying them air conditioning, libraries, playground facilities and resources unless we fight back. We need your help to continue the fight for Educational Justice in Chicago.

We are in this together – for the schools Chicago students deserve.

South Town Star: Miller: CTU plays school reform group for suckers

by Rich Miller - South Town Star  |  September 19, 2012

For several months, beginning in late 2010, teachers union lobbyists warned that teachers went out on strike a whole lot more back in the days when they were prohibited by law from striking than in the years since they gained the statutory right to strike.

They warned that attacking teachers was a dangerous game.

They said the education reforms being pushed by groups such as Stand for Children risked creating a dangerous and possibly uncontrollable backlash.

In the case of Chicago, anyway, they were right on point. Despite a bold prediction last year by Stand for Children’s founder Jonah Edelman that “the unions cannot strike in Chicago,” the Chicago Teachers Union did so.

Stand for Children tipped the political scales in 2010 by filling a void created when the Illinois Federation of Teachers decided to boycott House Speaker Michael Madigan’s campaigns. The new group pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into legislative races, gained Madigan’s allegiance and shook up the entire Illinois political dynamic — all while flying under the mainstream media’s radar screen.

“The press never picked up on it,” Edelman said last year at the Aspen Institute’s annual conference.

Except for my publication, he was right. Stand for Children’s contributions were ignored by the major media until months later, when it was obvious to even an amateur what had happened.

Edelman’s group added more fuel to the fire when its biggest donors, including Republican businessman Bruce Rauner (a possible 2014 gubernatorial candidate) dumped huge money into Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral race.

Emanuel was lobbying for school reform in Springfield before he was elected. Emanuel and plenty of others figured that the Chicago Teachers Union was preparing to strike in 2012 and wanted to pass a law to make sure it didn’t happen.

Edelman claimed last year that he and the people at Stand for Children had “done our homework.” The group, he said, “knew that the highest threshold of any (teachers) bargaining unit that had voted one way or the other on a collective bargaining agreement contract vote was 48.3 percent.”

So Stand for Children demanded that the threshold for striking in Chicago be increased to 75 percent of eligible union voters.

The Chicago Teachers Union, Edelman bragged last year, “will never be able to muster the 75 percent threshold necessary to strike.” He also claimed that the CTU took the deal without realizing the implications.

One can’t help but wonder what Edelman was thinking last week as thousands of Chicago schoolteachers walked picket lines.

And not only did the teachers defy Edelman, so did the Chicago public.

After three days of the strike, I commissioned a poll to find out what Chicagoans thought of the walkout. It turned out that the striking Chicago teachers enjoyed strong support, including an overwhelming majority of Chicago parents with public school students, the poll found. And a strong majority blamed management instead of the union.

The poll of 1,344 voting Chicago households was taken last week by We Ask America. When asked, “In general, do you approve or disapprove of the Chicago Teachers Union’s decision to go on strike?” 55.5 percent said they approved and 40 percent disapproved. Another 4 percent had no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.

But that support jumped to 66 percent among parents of public schoolchildren. Less than a third of those parents, 31 percent, disapproved of the strike, according to the poll.

Asked who they thought was “most to blame” for the strike, about 34 percent pointed their finger at Emanuel, while 29 percent blamed the union and 19 percent blamed the school board. In other words, a solid majority blamed management, one way or the other.

Edelman and a whole lot of other people thought they had outsmarted and outmaneuvered the teachers unions. He and others involved continually poked the Chicago union in the collective eye without fear of consequence.

Instead of taming the beast, Edelman and his allies spent a king’s ransom on Madigan’s and Emanuel’s political campaigns and ended up creating a monster.

There’s a reason why Illinois is known as the “Sucker State.” Edelman, Rauner and others most certainly got played for one.

Congratulations.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

Click here  to read the original story. 

Strike Ends

September 18, 2012

On Tuesday, September 18th, the CTU House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to suspend the strike and send the contract to all 26,000 CTU members for a ratification vote. Teachers, clinicians and PSRPs will return to school on the morning of Wednesday, September 19th.

Click here to download the latest summary of highlights in the new tentative agreement.

Chicago teachers continue strike as Mayor, CPS attempt to trample free speech, right to protest

September 17, 2012

Chicago teachers continue strike as Mayor, CPS attempt to trample free speech, right to protest

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement in response to a complaint filed by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to force public school teachers and other school personnel back to work six days after they went on strike over poor working conditions and fair compensation.

“The Chicago Teachers Union is striking over mandatory subjects of bargaining such as compensation, evaluation procedures and the conditions within our classrooms. If this was an illegal strike the Chicago Public Schools would have sought injunctive relief on day one.  The law provides that if a strike is illegal only the labor board has jurisdiction to stop a strike. CPS has never filed any claim with the labor board that our strike is illegal,” said CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin.

“CPS’ spur-of-the-moment decision to seek injunctive relief some six days later appears to be a vindictive act instigated by the mayor.  This attempt to thwart our democratic process is consistent with Mayor Emanuel’s bullying behavior toward public school educators. As teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians continue to fight to make our city’s public schools stronger, the mayor, CEO Brizard and members of the board want to trample our collective bargaining rights and hinder our freedom of speech and right to protest.”

###

The union is not on strike over matters governed exclusively by IELRA Section 4.5 and 12(b).

Sun-Times: Judge punts on forcing teachers back; no school likely Tuesday

by LISA DONOVAN, LAUREN FITZPATRICK and FRAN SPIELMAN  |  September 17, 2012

Chicago Public School students appeared less likely to be heading back to school Tuesday after a Cook County judge declined Monday morning to take up immediately a lawsuit by Chicago Public Schools asking the judge to end the teachers strike. 

In a brief hearing, Cook County Judge Peter Flynn told a city attorney he preferred to schedule a hearing on the matter for Wednesday, a city law department spokesman said. The spokesman could not immediately provide a reason for the delay.

Wednesday is, for now, the earliest possible time students could return if the teachers union House of Delegates votes to approve the tentative deal at its meeting Tuesday.

Click here to continue reading at SunTimes.com.

House of Delegates Votes to Continue Strike

by CTU Communications  |  September 16, 2012

Some 800 delegates of the Chicago Teachers Union duly elected from each school and workplace convened Sunday afternoon to discuss the framework established during negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education. Officers presented a 23-page document outlining the most important points of the agreement whose outline has been worked out between the two parties. That tentative agreement is expected to number over 180 pages.

After a civil and frank discussion, the House of Delegates voted NOT to suspend the strike, but to allow two more days for delegates to take the information back to the picket lines and hold discussions with the union’s more than 26,000 members throughout Chicago. Teachers and school staff will return to the picket lines of the schools at which they teach at 7:30 a.m. Monday and, after picketing together, will meet to share and discuss the proposal. Citywide members will picket at the Chicago Public Schools Headquarters, 125 South Clark, at 7:30 a.m. and will meet thereafter at a downtown location.

“This union is a democratic institution, which values the opportunity for all members to make decisions together. The officers of this union follow the lead of our members,” President Lewis said. She continued, “the issues raised in this contract were too important, had consequences too profound for the future of our public education system and for educational fairness for our students, parents and members for us to simply take a quick vote based on a short discussion. Therefore, a clear majority voted to take this time and we are unified in this decision.”

The delegates voted to reconvene on Tuesday afternoon.

###

The union is not on strike over matters governed exclusively by IELRA Section 4.5 and 12(b).

The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve.  The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois.  For more information please visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com.

House of Delegates to review new contract language this Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

September 15, 2012

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)’s ruling body will decide whether or not to call off its strike against the Chicago Public Schools during a 3 p.m. House of Delegates meeting tomorrow at Operating Engineers Hall, 2260 Grove Street.  The Bargaining Team is expected to share new details about proposed contract language which includes a number of victories for teachers, paraprofessionals, clinicians, and students. 

The earliest teachers and other school personnel could return to their schools could be Monday; however, no decision has been made to do so. Delegates, the elected leaders of their schools, have the authority to suspend or lengthen the strike. They could also ask for at least 24-hours to talk to individual members in their schools before making a decision on what to do next. The 29,000-member CTU has been on strike since Sept. 10.

“We are a democratic body and therefore we want to ensure all of our members have had the chance to weigh-in on what we were able to win,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “We believe this is a good contract, however, no contract will solve all of the inequities in our District. Our fair contract fight has always been about returning dignity and respect to our members and ensuring resources and a quality school day for our students and their families.”

The new proposed CTU/CPS contract will:

  • Secure Raises & Ensure Fair Compensation:  The CTU wants a three-year contract.  It will secure a 3% raise  in the first year, 2% raise in the second and 2% raise in the third, with the option to extend to a 4th year by mutual agreement at another 3% raise.
  • Defeat Merit Pay: The CTU successfully fought the star of national misguided school reform policies. The Board agreed to move away from “Differentiated Compensation,” which would have allowed them to pay one set of teachers (based on unknown criteria) one set of pay versus another set of pay for others.
  • Preserve Steps & Lanes:  The new contract will preserve the full value of teachers and paraprofessionals career ladder (steps); and, it will increased the value of the highest steps (14, 15 and 16)
  • Provide A Better School Day: The Board will hire over 600 additional ‘special’ teachers in art, music, physical education, world languages and other classes to ensure students receive a better school day, a demand thousands of parents have called for since last year
  • Ensures Job Security: Creates a “CPS Hiring Pool,” which demands that one-half of all of CPS hires must be displaced (laid-off) members.
  • Adds An Anti-Bullying Provision: No more bullying by principals and managerial personnel.  The new language will curtail some of the abusive practices that have run rampant in many neighborhood schools.
  • Paraprofessional & Clinicians Prep Time: The new contract will guarantee preps for clinicians.
  • Racial Diversity: The CTU continues to fight the District on its lay-off policies that has led to a record number of African American educators being laid off and eventually terminated by the District.  The new contract will ensure that CPS recruits a racially diverse teaching force.
  • New Recall Rights & Tackling  School Closings:  Acknowledging, the CTU will continue its ongoing legal and legislative fight for a moratorium on all school closings, turnarounds and phase-outs, the new contract requires teachers to “follow their students” in all school actions. This will reduce instability among students and educators.  The contract will also have 10 months of “true recall” to the same school if a position opens.
  • Fairer Evaluation Procedures:  The new contract will limit CPS to 70% “teacher practice,” 30% “student growth” (or test scores)—which is the minimum by state law.  It also secures in the first year of implementation of the new evaluation procedures there will be “no harmful consequences” for tenured teachers. It also secures a new right—the right to appeal a rating.
  • Reimbursement for School Supplies: The contract will require the District to reimburse educators for the purchase of school supplies up to $250.
  • Additional Wrap-Around Services:  The Board agrees to commit to hire nurses, social workers and school counselors if it gets new revenue. Over the past several months, the CTU has identified several sources of new revenue, including the Tax Increment Financing program.
  • Books on Day One: For the first time, the new contract will guarantee all CPS students and educators have textbooks on day one and will not have to wait up to six weeks for learning materials.
  • Unified School Calendar:  The new contract will improve language on a unified calendar. The District will have one calendar for the entire school district and get rid of Track E and Track R schools.  All students and teaching personnel will begin on the same schedule.
  • Reduced Paperwork: The new contract ensures the new paperwork requirements are balanced against reduction of previous requirements.

“This Union has proven the Chicago labor movement is neither dormant nor dead,” Lewis continued. “Our members are on the line because we all believe there is an assault on our profession and public education in general.  We will always do what is in the best interest of our students and our own children, many of whom attend these schools. We showed our solidarity and our strength, and with this new contract we have solidified our political power and captured the imagination of the nation. No one will ever look upon a teacher and think of him or her as a passive, person to be bullied and walked on ever again.”

###

The union is not on strike over matters governed exclusively by IELRA Section 4.5 and 12(b).

The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve.  The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois.  For more information please visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com.

CBS: Analyst - Contract Dispute Has Strengthened Chicago Teachers Union

by CBS: John Cody  |  September 14, 2012

CHICAGO (CBS) – With both sides in the Chicago teachers’ strike optimistic a deal to end the walkout could be done by the end of the day, one Chicago political analyst said the Chicago Teachers Union could come out a big winner, and not just in terms of the contract they’re likely to get.

Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who is now a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been watching the strike closely.

Simpson said Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s confrontational style has galvanized the CTU.

“He has made the CTU a much more effective union, and much more unified than it would be, normally,” Simpson said.

Click here to listen to the report. 

Pictures from Strike Day 4 March to Grant Park

September 13, 2012

As Chicago teachers strike enters fourth day, a new poll proves majority of parents and taxpayers approve of fair contract fight

September 13, 2012

 

CHICAGO –As contract talks continue to two steps forward and one step backward, the city’s 29,000 public school educators enter their fourth day of a labor protest that has shut down schools across the city. An independent new poll indicates the majority of the public and parents support the teachers strike and blame Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked school board for the District’s education woes.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) negotiation team finished Wednesday’s labor talk’s minutes before midnight saying “there has been significant movement in the last 24-hours—but we aren’t quite there yet,” said President Karen Lewis. “They’ve moved inches in some areas, now we need them to move yards; there’s no reason to prolong this any longer than they have. Until we have a clear landing, our members will stay engaged on the picket lines.”

On Saturday, labor, civil rights and education justice allies from around the country are expected to descend upon Chicago and join CTU members, parents and allies in a massive march for education justice.  Today, pickets at Board headquarters started again at 6:30 a.m.  Negotiations continue today at 9:30 a.m. at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Later in the afternoon demonstrators are expected to highlight the Board’s misplaced budget priorities by picketing billionaire Board of Education member Penny Pritzker. Demonstrators will meet at 3:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency at 151 E. Wacker Drive.

According to Capitol Fax, an influential political report that covers state politics, “Chicago teachers have a strong majority of Chicagoans behind them, according to a new poll.  Also, an overwhelming majority of Chicago parents with public school students support the strike, the poll found.  And strong pluralities blame Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”

Conducted by We Ask America, the poll of 1,344 voting Chicago households asked, "In general, do you approve or disapprove of the Chicago Teachers Union's decision to go on strike?" 55.5 percent said they approved and 40 percent disapproved.  Another 4 percent had no opinion.  The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent,” according to Rich Miller, the report’s publisher.

Miller also noted:

(CTU) support jumped to 66 percent among parents of public school children.  Less than a third of those parents, 31 percent, disapproved of the strike, according to the poll.  Among people with no school-age children, 51 percent approved of the job action, while 44 percent disapproved.

A very strong 63 percent of African-Americans polled approved of the strike, while 65 percent of Latinos expressed approval.  Women and men almost equally approved of the strike - 55 percent of women and 56 percent of men. 

Asked who they thought was "most to blame" for the strike, just over 34 percent pointed their finger at Mayor Rahm Emanuel, while 29 percent blamed the Chicago Teachers Union and 19 percent blamed the school board.  In other words, a solid majority blames management, one way or the other.

But almost a majority, 48 percent, of Latinos blamed Mayor Emanuel, as did 33 percent of African-Americans, 42 percent of parents of public school children and 40 percent of parents of school-age children.  All age brackets except those aged 55-64 blamed Emanuel the most, with 50 percent of 18-24 year olds pointing their finger at hizzoner, as well as 41 percent of 35-44 year olds.

At this point, there's not much Emanuel can do.  The union has so much energy and real anger behind it right now that finding a way to end this thing is impossible in the near term….” 

###

The union is not on strike over matters governed exclusively by IELRA Section 4.5 and 12(b).

Tribune: From the picket line - Why a teacher feels she had no choice but to strike

by Leslie Russell  |  September 13, 2012

I have one hour to teach both reading and writing. One of my classes is broken into two sections — 30 minutes in the morning and 25 minutes at the end of the day. There are 41 seventh-graders in one classroom, and since I have only 31 desks in my room, we start the period borrowing chairs from two or three different classrooms. And the solution to an overcrowded class of 41? It is not to hire a new teacher. It is to take 10 seventh-graders out of their seventh-grade homeroom and add them to my eighth-grade homeroom, making a seventh-/eighth-grade split class. That essentially means teaching four different classes in the same hour.

If reform is the order of the day, start with the radical reforms of reducing class size to 20 students, provide enough teachers so that each grade level has its own instructor and provide an instructional period for every subject.

Let's not even talk about the fact that I cannot give each student a literature textbook because I do not have enough of them, or the fact that many of the books I distribute are missing covers. I will spare you the details of the email I received from my principal telling me that I am required to use nonfiction books on the Industrial Revolution in my instruction.

Last year my students had a reading and a writing class. This year there is just a reading class. Last year my students had Spanish three days each week. This year they have it once. Last year my students had physical education two days each week. This year they have it once. My students are definitely getting a longer day, but I am hard-pressed to see how it is a better one.

To add insult to injury, my classroom was a blazing inferno last week, I was not even given accurate lists of the students in my five classes, and did I already tell you that one of my classes is broken into two discontinuous sessions?

This strike is a strike of no choice. When the mayor gets on television spinning fairy tales about the conditions in our schools and does so with conviction, when my professional judgment is pre-empted by illogical instructional mandates, when my students and I are given challenges to overcome in the place of the resources we need to excel, and when the Chicago Board of Education sets me up for failure and then evaluates my performance based on test scores, I have been left with no choice.

Rahm Emanuel picked the wrong union to try to bust. I will be shouting that from the picket lines for as long as it takes to get teachers a fair contract and for as long as it takes to get students the schools they deserve.

Leslie Russell is a Chicago Public Schools teacher.

Los Angeles labor movement supports Chicago teachers

September 13, 2012

The Los Angeles County labor movement lends our support to the Chicago teachers in their efforts to save and rebuild our public education system for the sake of America’s students. We know the teachers do not want to be on strike, but are taking a stand for their students and the quality of public education. It is no longer acceptable to force our students to learn in classrooms that are bursting at the seams.  It is no longer acceptable to reduce the numbers of much needed support staff and paraprofessionals including counselors, nurses, and lunchroom servers. In order to optimize our students’ learning and achievement, our elected leaders must learn to work with teachers, staff and parents to find real solutions and do whatever it takes to properly fund our public education system.


“No one knows more about teaching than teachers.  Politicians and other so-called education experts think they know more about educating children than the professionals who are in the classroom every single day.  Some politicians want to blame teachers for a poorly-funded public education system,” said Maria Elena Durazo, leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “We hope the strike is resolved as quickly as possible.  In the meantime the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is sending $10,000 to support teachers as they continue to fight for public education.”

“The women and men who spend every day with Chicago's children—want to have their voice and experience respected and valued. They want to be treated as equal partners in making sure every student in Chicago succeeds. That has been the Chicago Teachers Union's guiding philosophy throughout these negotiations, and it remains so on the picket lines,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO.

AP: Striking Chicago teachers get support from parents

by Don Babwin  |  September 12, 2012

Some of the striking Chicago teachers union's closest allies are also the people who are the most inconvenienced: parents. Mothers and fathers are joining teacher protests outside schools in this union-built city where organized labor has many friends. But how long will that support endure if the walkout stretches on?

As Chicago teachers walked the picket lines for a second day, they were joined by many of the very people who are most inconvenienced by their walkout: the parents who must now scramble to find baby-sitters or a place for children to pass the time.

Mothers and fathers — some with their kids in tow — are marching with the teachers. Other parents are honking their encouragement from cars or planting yard signs that announce their support in English and Spanish.

Unions are still hallowed organizations in Chicago, and the teachers union holds a special place of honor in many households where children often grow up to join the same police, firefighter or trade unions as their parents and grandparents.

"I'm going to stay strong, behind the teachers," said the Rev. Michael Grant, who joined teachers on the picket line Tuesday. "My son says he's proud, 'You are supporting my teacher.' "

But one question looming over the contract talks is whether parents will continue to stand behind teachers if students are left idle for days or weeks.

Mary Bryan, the grandmother of two students at Shoop Academy on the city's far South Side, supports the teachers because she see "the frustration, the overwork they have." A protracted labor battle, she said, would "test the support" of many families.

Parents "should stick with them, but they might demand teachers go back to work," Bryan added.

To win friends, the union has engaged in something of a publicity campaign, telling parents repeatedly about problems with schools and the barriers that have made it more difficult to serve their kids. They cite classrooms that are stifling hot without air conditioning, important books that are unavailable and supplies as basic as toilet paper that are sometimes in short supply.

"They've been keeping me informed about that for months and months," Grant said.

It was a shrewd tactic, said Robert Bruno, professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"This union figured out they couldn't assume the public would be on their side so they went out and actively engaged in getting parent support," Bruno said. "They worked like the devil to get it."

But, said some reform advocates, public opinion could swing against the union relatively soon if the dispute seems to carry on with no resolution in sight.

Juan Jose Gonzalez is the Chicago director for the education-advocacy group Stand for Children, which has hundreds of parent volunteers and was instrumental in pushing legislative reforms in Illinois. He says parents "are all over the map" in terms of their support for teachers or the school district.

"Within a day or two, all parents are going to turn their ire toward the strike," Gonzalez said. "As parents see what the district offers and see the teachers not counter-propose, they will become increasingly frustrated with the grandstanding."

Already, there are some parents who don't understand why teachers would not readily accept a contract offering a 16 percent raise over four years — far more than most American employers are giving in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Rodney Espiritu, a stay-at-home dad whose 4-year-old son just started preschool, said the low test scores he's read about suggest teachers don't have "much of a foot to stand on."

Chicago's history of labor strength is one reason why this dispute is seen as a test of organized labor at a time when unions' political influence is being threatened across the country.

"What you're seeing here is a massive show of solidarity that is as widespread as anything we've seen in decades," said Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

On Tuesday, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said negotiations were still far apart, with the two sides having agreed to just six of 48 articles in the contract. She said it would be "lunacy" to expect an agreement before Wednesday.

In many ways, Chicago is the perfect place for teachers to wage this battle, Bruno said.

With an estimated half-million workers in the metropolitan area belonging to a union and a full quarter of the workforce unionized — a percentage rivaled only by New York and a handful of other big cities, Bruno said teachers have the most sympathetic public they could hope for.

"I do think if you were going to craft or design a strategy and determine the geographical space with the right politics, the right values, you couldn't do better than Chicago," he said.

Chicago's union membership includes every teacher in the city except for those in charter schools.

Ellen Bernstein, president of the teachers union in Albuquerque, N.M., where only about half of the 7,500 teachers are members, said a strike in her district would fail.

"As long as only 50 percent of your teachers are in the union, it is clear we would not prevail. It takes solidarity — and that's what Chicago has," she said.

At the same time, Chicago's stature as a union town raises the stakes for all unions. And it is particularly important to other teachers who are engaged in or are contemplating a similar tug of war with city officials.

"If you can weaken the capacity of the teachers union to represent its members in Chicago, then there is simply no place across the land where you couldn't do this," Bruno said. "It will mean that we'll be locked into a level of reduced union relevance for a generation."

Associated Press writers Michael Tarm and Jason Keyser contributed to this report.

AP: Chicago Teachers Strike for First Time in 25 Years

by DON BABWIN and TAMMY WEBBER -- Associated Press  |  September 10, 2012

Board President VitaleThousands of teachers walked off the job Monday in Chicago's first schools strike in 25 years, after union leaders announced that months-long negotiations had failed to resolve a contract dispute with school district officials by a midnight deadline.

The walkout in the nation's third-largest school district posed a tricky challenge for the city and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said he would push to end the strike quickly as officials figure out how to keep nearly 400,000 children safe and occupied.

"This is not a strike I wanted," Emanuel said Sunday night, not long after the union announced the action. "It was a strike of choice ... it's unnecessary, it's avoidable and it's wrong."

Some 26,000 teachers and support staff were expected to join the picket. Among teachers protesting Monday morning outside Benjamin Banneker Elementary School on Chicago's South Side, eighth-grade teacher Michael Williams said he wanted a quick contract resolution.

"We hoped that it wouldn't happen. We all want to get back to teaching," Williams said, adding that wages and classroom conditions need to be improved.

Contract negotiations between Chicago Public School officials and union leaders that stretched through the weekend were expected to resume Monday.

 

Officials said some 140 schools would be open between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. so the children who rely on free meals provided by the school district can eat breakfast and lunch, school district officials said.

City officials acknowledged that children left unsupervised — especially in neighborhoods with a history of gang violence — might be at risk, but vowed to protect the students' safety.

"We will make sure our kids are safe, we will see our way through these issues and our kids will be back in the classroom where they belong," said Emanuel, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff.

The school district asked community organizations to provide additional programs for students, and a number of churches, libraries and other groups plan to offer day camps and other activities.

Police Chief Garry McCarthy said he would take officers off desk duty and deploy them to deal with any teachers' protests as well as the thousands of students who could be roaming the streets.

Union leaders and district officials were not far apart in their negotiations on compensation, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said. But other issues — including potential changes to health benefits and a new teacher evaluation system based partly on students' standardized test scores — remained unresolved, she said.

"This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could have avoided," Lewis said. "We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve."

Before the strike, some parents said they would not drop their children at strange schools where they didn't know the other students or supervising adults. On Monday, as only a trickle of students arrived at some schools, April Logan said she wouldn't leave her daughter with an adult she didn't know. Her daughter, Ashanti, started school just a week earlier.

"I don't understand this, my baby just got into school," Logan said at Benjamin Mays Academy on the city's South Side before turning around and taking her daughter home.

Some students expressed anger, blaming the school district for interrupting their education.

Click here to keep reading. 

Salon: Standing up to Rahm

by Sally Kohn - Salon   |  September 10, 2012

When I was a kid, teachers were like gods. In eighth grade, my school had a day where students got to take over and make lesson plans, teach a class or two, try and get our fellow students to pay attention. After being selected to teach English, I still remember the thrill of going in the teacher’s lounge for lunch — a place that usually only the most special people got to go.

Those special people called teachers didn’t get paid very well, particularly when you factored in the long hours grading papers and prepping, but they got our gratitude. And that, plus a decent pension, was enough.

When I was a kid, having a good teacher was the key ingredient to getting a good education, just as it is now. And when I was a kid my teachers were unionized, just as they are now. But now the same teachers who want the same decent wages and working conditions and the same promise of a reasonably secure retirement are accused of being the problem in our schools today. Special interests who want to push standardized testing and privatize our nation’s public schools are demonizing the teachers who oppose these measures.

In Chicago, where teachers are already one of the city’s lowest paid professions, the city public school system wants to lengthen the school day by 20 percent. In exchange, the district at one point agreed to a mere 4 percent raise for teachers, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled that agreement and is now only offering a 2 percent raise.

The Chicago teachers also object to their performance and jobs being tied to standardized tests. In March, education researchers from 16 universities sent a letter to Emanuel and the head of the Chicago Public Schools warning against such measures, pointing out among other things that such test-based teacher evaluations have been shown to be highly unreliable measures of teacher quality. Moreover, standardized test results are often influenced by poverty, homelessness, crime and other social issues beyond the influence of teachers. And we know this type of teacher evaluation risks creating teachers who “teach to the test” instead of the creative, dynamic teachers we need.

Keep reading at Salon.com

Press Release: CPS Fails To Negotiate Fair Contract To Prevent First Strike In 25 Years

September 09, 2012

More than 29,000 teachers and education professionals will not report to work today 9/10

CHICAGO— After hours of intense negotiations, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent the first teachers strike in 25 years. Pickets are expected to begin Monday at 675 schools and the Board of Education as early as 6:30 a.m. Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians have been without a labor agreement since June of this year.

Union leaders expressed disappointment in the District’s refusal to concede on issues involving compensation, job security and resources for their students. CTU President Karen Lewis said, “Negotiations have been intense but productive, however we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike. This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could avoid. Throughout these negotiations have I remained hopeful but determined. We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve.

“Talks have been productive in many areas. We have successfully won concessions for nursing mothers and have put more than 500 of our members back to work. We have restored some of the art, music, world language, technology and physical education classes to many of our students. The Board also agreed that we will now have textbooks on the first day of school rather than have our students and teachers wait up to six weeks before receiving instructional materials.

“Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation. However, we are apart on benefits. We want to maintain the existing health benefits.

“Another concern is evaluation procedures. After the initial phase-in of the new evaluation system it could result in 6,000 teachers (or nearly 30 percent of our members) being discharged within one or two years. This is unacceptable. We are also concerned that too much of the new evaluations will be based on students’ standardized test scores. This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator. Further there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control.

“We want job security. Despite a new curriculum and new, stringent evaluation system, CPS proposes no increase (or even decreases) in teacher training. This is notable because our Union through our Quest Center is at the forefront teacher professional development in Illinois. We have been lauded by the District and our colleagues across the country for our extensive teacher training programs that helped emerging teachers strengthen their craft and increased the number of nationally board certified educators.

“We are demanding a reasonable timetable for the installation of air-conditioning in student classrooms--a sweltering, 98-degree classroom is not a productive learning environment for children. This type of environment is unacceptable for our members and all school personnel. A lack of climate control is unacceptable to our parents.

“As we continue to bargain in good faith, we stand in solidarity with parents, clergy and community-based organizations who are advocating for smaller class sizes, a better school day and an elected school board. Class size matters. It matters to parents. In the third largest school district in Illinois there are only 350 social workers—putting their caseloads at nearly 1,000 students each. We join them in their call for more social workers, counselors, audio/visual and hearing technicians and school nurses. Our children are exposed to unprecedented levels of neighborhood violence and other social issues, so the fight for wraparound services is critically important to all of us. Our members will continue to support this ground swell of parent activism and grassroots engagement on these issues. And we hope the Board will not shut these voices out.

“While new Illinois law prohibits us from striking over the recall of laid-off teachers and compensation for a longer school year, we do not intend to sign an agreement until these matters are addressed.

“Again, we are committed to staying at the table until a contract is place. However, in the morning no CTU member will be inside our schools. We will walk the picket lines. We will talk to parents. We will talk to clergy. We will talk to the community. We will talk to anyone who will listen—we demand a fair contract today, we demand a fair contract now. And, until there is one in place that our members accept, we will on the line.

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the state and country who are currently bargaining for their own fair contracts. We stand with those who have already declared they too are prepared to strike, in the best interests of their students.”

“This announcement is made now so our parents and community are empowered with this knowledge and will know that schools will not open on tomorrow. Please seek alternative care for your children. And, we ask all of you to join us in our education justice fight—for a fair contract—and call on the mayor and CEO Brizard to settle this matter now. Thank you.”

###

The union is not on strike over matters governed exclusively by IELRA Section 4.5 and 12(b).

The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com .

Media Advisory: CTU Officers/Delegates to Hold Press Conference on Contract Talks Tonight

September 09, 2012

CHICAGO— The Chicago Teachers Union will conduct news conference at 10:00 p.m. tonight to update the public on ongoing contract talks with the Chicago Public Schools. The press briefing will be held at CTU headquarters at 222 Merchandise Mart, 4th Floor and will be conducted by members of the CTU Bargaining Team an attended by members of the House of Delegates. No further information will be provided at this time.

###

Gloria Steinem supports Chicago teachers on strike.

by Gloria Steinem  |  September 09, 2012

Gloria Steinem, Co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center, released the following statement this evening: 

“Tonight, I proudly wear a red t-shirt in support of the Chicago Teachers Union strike.  They have been forced to strike – for the first time in 25 years – by the false economy of firing and penalizing the experienced teachers most needed by the students and by new teachers; by lengthening the school day as warehousing without educational services, healthy school buildings, and paid teachers; by what they have the knowledge to call the “apartheid-like system” of differential discipline policies; and by what seems to be a national tactic of demonizing teachers in order to turn public schools into corporate profit centers.

“For instance, three years ago, a Stanford Study found that ‘students in charter schools are not faring as well as students in traditional public school.’ I’m glad to see that in a recent poll, twice as many Chicagoans trusted the Chicago Teachers Union, not the Mayor, when it comes to public education.  

“As an 87% female workforce, and one that is nearly half African American and Latino, the Chicago Teachers Union know what their students need. This is why this country needs unions, collective bargaining, and mayors who recognize, honor and fairly pay the people our children know – and who know our children.” Steinem continued, "I join my colleagues at The Women's Media Center, in calling on the media to ensure that women are part of this story — as teachers, parents, union members, and as journalists.”  

Gloria Steinem, is an author, organizer and co-founder of Coalition of Labor Union Women and the Women's Media Center.  She is also proud to be a member of SAG-AFTRA and the Authors Guild.

The Women’s Media Center was founded in 2005 by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem. The Women’s Media Center works to make women and girls visible and powerful in the media and level the playing field. It does this through media advocacy campaigns, media monitoring for sexism, creating original content, training women and girls to participate in media, and connecting women experts with the media. The Center has offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Ravitch: Tomorrow is Decision Day in Chicago.

by Diane Ravitch  |  September 09, 2012

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has tried to bully the Chicago Teachers Union and its leader Karen Lewis.

Lewis was elected by the members because they knew she would stand up for them.

Emanuel has the support of the Wall Street hedge fund managers organization, somewhat absurdly called Democrats for Education Reform. He also has the other big-monied people in Chicago, as mentioned in this article in the Chicago Tribune, including billionaire Penny Pritzker.

The article mentions that DFER staged a protest at union headquarters to oppose a strike. I wonder how many hedge fund managers send their children to Chicago public schools. I am trying to imagine hedge fund managers marching in front of union headquarters and carrying signs. I am guessing that what happened was that they “staged” a protest, meaning that they hired out-of-work actors to carry protest signs. Maybe the unemployed actors have children in the Chicago public schools.

The great thing about having Karen Lewis there is that every teacher in America knows she will stand strong for them. She will not sell them out. And she will not sell out the children.

She knows that teachers’ working conditions are children’s learning conditions.

Both Rahm and Penny know that too. That’s why they don’t send their children to the schools for which they are responsible. They send their children to a school with small classes, lots of arts and physical education, a great library, experienced teachers, and a full curriculum. The school where they send their children doesn’t give standardized tests and does not evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores.

Rally to Support Chicago Teachers Union and the Fight for a Fair Contract

September 07, 2012

Let's show the Board that we are united for a fair contract! 

Monday, September 10th at 3:30pm at CPS Headquarters 125 S. Clark Street

Just show up or register with Facebook. 

 

Chicago Labor Day Rally

Contract Talks Remain Hopeful but Strike Plans Continue

September 07, 2012

The Chicago Teachers Union released a mid-day statement about ongoing contract negotiations and the potential threat of a teachers strike.  Negotiations began today at CTU headquarters at 10 a.m. and are expected to go throughout the day. In the meantime, about 700 delegates attended a series of strike training sessions in anticipation for a Monday, September 10th walk-out. 

“While it was encouraging to see Board President David Vitale at the table  yesterday, both sides remain far apart on core issues such as job security, compensation and how to give our students a better day,” said Stephanie Gadlin, union spokeswoman.  “We recognize the tight budget constraints and have always been willing to work with the District to see how we can best utilize the budget and compensate our members and ensure our schools are well-resourced. 

“Talks are expected to continue through the weekend,” she continued. “Our negotiating team is available 24 hours, around the clock. If a contract is produced, a special session of our House of Delegates would be called in order to cancel a strike.  As it stands there is no plan to do that. 

“We also have concerns about CPS’ ‘Contingency Plan.’ It sounds like a train wreck.  It calls for parents to drop off their children at holding centers for a half day of babysitting staffed by strangers, suits from Central Office and preachers.  Most of these people have zero experience working with schoolchildren or large groups of teens.  It’s the equivalent of opening a fire station without firefighters and giving a bunch of lawyers, accountants and clerical workers a few fire hoses and rubber boots. According to a ‘how-to-be-a teacher guide’ distributed to holding center workers, CPS tells them to provide eighth graders with the same activities as third graders.

Click here to download the holding center "lesson plans."

“Chicago’s public school educators can think of better ways to spend a whopping $25 million in taxpayer funds--how about on books, librarians, working computers, heat and cooling systems and hiring more teachers, counselors and social workers? The first item on any so-called contingency plan should be to settle the contract,” Gadlin said.

“We call on CPS to stay at the table, get serious about the issues and get this contract done. Whether we strike or not depends on them.  Otherwise, we are asking parents to consider utilizing the same plans they had for their children over the summer or they employ on weekends and during the holidays.  For those who feel they have no choice but to send their student to a CPS holding center, we ask them to make sure they know who is staffing those facilities and what activities will actually take place.”

Education Activist Don Moore’s Legacy

by Curtis Black - Newstips  |  September 07, 2012

Click here to read the original post at Newstips.org.

Don Moore’s life had an impact far greater than many more famous and powerful people:  more than anyone, he was responsible for creating and defending Chicago’s Local School Councils, while demonstrating their value as the most effective vehicle this city has seen for improving urban education.

He was among the first to push democratic school governance as the solution to Chicago’s schools crisis in the 1980s, and in the following decade, as politicians and CPS administrators sought to recentralize power – and brought the city’s business and philanthropic elites back under their sway – he defended LSCs from legislative attacks and mobilized community involvement in LSC elections.

Meanwhile, in a remarkable body of research, he demonstrated that while central office interventions from probation to turnarounds had little effect, the high-poverty schools that showed steady long-term improvement in Chicago were those with what he termed “school-based democracy.”

“It’s not a stretch to say that had he not been doing this work, Local School Councils would have disappeared from the scene – and we would have lost one of the most important engines of educational improvement in the nation,” said Ray Boyer, who directed public affairs for the MacArthur Foundation until 2004 and collaborated on projects with Moore after that.

As reported by SubstanceCatalyst and the Sun Times, Donald R. Moore died last week at age 70.

In 1977 Moore founded Designs For Change, a multi-faceted organization that housed his rigorous research along with organizing, training, and advocacy efforts.  When a decade-long school crisis came to a head with the 1987 teachers strike, Moore seized the opportunity to rally community groups and business leaders to his vision of school-based democratic governance.

Critical role

Amid a vast and often conflicting array of groups pushing reform, Moore “played a critical role” in creating and pushing legislation that established LSCs in 1988, according to Mary O’Connell’s fascinating account of that struggle.  As Catalyst notes, when O’Connell asked participants in that movement who was “most responsible” for school reform, Moore was named most often.

He was “brilliant” in “bringing a theoretical concept into reality,” said Rod Estvan ofAccess Living, a former Designs board member, and he was commited to the idea that even in a society scarred by poverty and racism, “if people had some democratic control over their schools, they could make them better.”

In the following years – especially as LSCs came under attack from the mayor and CPS administration — Moore amassed what Boyer calls “an amazing body of work,” a series of studies showing that high-poverty schools with sustained academic improvement were overwhelmingly open-enrollment neighborhood schools led by effective LSCs.

His 2005 report, The Big Picture, identified 144 such schools (with 100,000 students) with 15 years of steady improvement, while showing that schools where CPS appointed principals under probation had “no significant improvement.”  Those 144 schools’ success should be studied with an eye to replicating it in other schools, he argued.  While new top-down reform efforts aimed at creating a network of successful schools that could serve as models for others, he pointed out, “that network already exists,” he wrote.

Those 100,000 students, and all those who’ve followed them, owe much to their parents and teachers – and much  also to Don Moore, who helped build and defend the local governance model under which their schools are able to come together and thrive. (Contrary to the media image, most LSCs function well, according to research; they certainly function better than the Board of Education, where no committees meet and decisions are routinely rubber-stamped.)

Moore also identified the key elements contributing to school success, which he termed “the five essential supports”:  effective leadership, family-community partnerships, a supportive school environment, teacher development and teamwork, and a focus on the instructional program.  The Chicago Consortium for School Research subsequentlytested and validated Moore’s framework for school success.

Transformative

“It was a transformative idea,” said Boyer.  “You’re not talking about personnel changes – you’re not saying we need a new principal, or replace all the teachers – you’re talking about changing the structure of the school, how it works.”

“It’s a lot smarter than just looking at test scores from one year to the next,” said Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education, another group with roots in the late-’80s reform movement.

Moore’s “user-friendly reports were truly the ‘wind beneath the wings’ of the LSC reform movement,” Woestehoff commented in a PURE blog post.

His research had little impact on CPS policies, however, which have veered from one expensive fad to the next, disrupting schools, communities and students’ schooling without measurably impacting student achievement.

His most recent study identified 33 high-poverty neighborhood schools performing above the city average on reading scores, and compared them to turnaround school, not one of which meets that standard, even after several years and millions of additional dollars.  It recommended that “the resources now used for turnaround schools …be shifted to helping these effective [neighborhood] schools become resources for other schools.”

Moore was at the forefront of successful fights against a series of legislative attempts by Mayor Daley, CPS chief Paul Vallas, and others to take away LSCs’ power to hire principals, and he was among those raising awareness of LSC elections every other April and mobilizing community groups to recruit candidates.

Last April he spearheaded a protest when CPS for the first time refused to routinely release candidate information to community groups and neighborhood news sites.

“I wonder what’s going to happen at the next election, when he’s not there to beat the drum,” said Boyer.

As the Sun Times notes, his groundbreaking work on high-school dropouts revealed that Chicago’s drop-out rate was far higher than claimed; his research on CPS’s failure to meet its obligations to special education students led to a major civil rights lawsuit and consent decree.

Last November he raised the concern that CPS was closing schools based on their probationary status, decided by very questionable use of data — while failing to meet its legal obligations to assist schools that were placed on probation.  That led to a civil rights lawsuit by LSC members at schools being closed by CPS.

‘He cared’

Maria Hernandez was referred to Moore in 2009 after her alderman blew off a meeting at his office with 100 parents and children from Carpenter Elementary School.  They’d just learned that CPS was planning to phase out their school.

“He cared,” she said.  “He really cared.  He listened to us.  He came to our school, he met the parents, he talked to the children.”

It was a marked contrast to her alderman or to CPS officials, as she tells her story.  Parents testified at the school board, but “they ignored us.”  CPS chief Ron Huberman promised to come to a meeting but didn’t show.  When they then scheduled a meeting at his office, “he was there three minutes,” she remembers.  “He came in and shook our hands and said thank you for coming, pleased to meet you, we’re going to work this out. And now I have another meeting to go to.”

Moore threw himself into the fight by parents to save Carpenter and nearby Andersen Elementary.  They were the kinds of schools he’d championed:  academically successful, LSC-run schools in low-income communities of color.  Carpenter had an effective principal, a strong program in fine and performing arts and a thriving special ed program; its students were to be sent to a school that was on probation. Both schools were being displaced to accommodate new campuses for Gold Coast schools.

“He was with us throughout the entire fight,” Hernandez says.  After the school board ignored arguments that CPS’s claim that the schools were underutilized overlooked the needs of special ed students, Moore helped parents file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights.

She remembers him calling late in the evening, still working on the complaint, asking one more question, nailing down one more detail.  They didn’t win that battle, but he made shared their outrage and helped them speak truth to power.

That fight led to another that Moore threw himself into: State Rep. Cynthia Soto’s legislation to increase transparency and accountability in CPS facility planning.  Along with Valencia Rias, his colleague at Designs, he served on the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force created by the bill.

A week before his death he was at a task force hearing with CPS officials, demanding greater clarity on the district’s criteria for closing schools, said Jacqueline Leavy, a consultant with the task force and longtime community activist.

“Don was passionate about the persistent, inequitable pattern of inadequate resources for neighborhood schools,” she said.  “He never gave up.”

What amazed me about Don Moore was his sheer tenacity in the face of so many frustrations.  His data was so strong, yet it was ignored by politicians and bureaucrats with agendas impervious to on-the-ground realities. He kept cranking it out.  The school board voted to close schools despite the most compelling arguments.  The attacks on LSCs never ended – but he knew the people who serve on the councils, and he knew what they are capable of accomplishing.

He had a quiet sense of righteous indignation that was anchored by a vast patience and unfailing sense of humor – and a meticulous attention to detail.  Wisdom, is what it was.

Moore faced many defeats and never gave up – but looked at historically, considering the 100,000 kids learning every year in thriving neighborhood schools that he helped make possible, recognizing the model of successful urban education that he helped create and keep alive in the face of such odds, his life was one of great success and accomplishment.

Parent Information Flyer Available for Download

September 07, 2012

Click here to download the English version.

Click here to download the Spanish version.

Solidarity from Around the Country and World

by Sarah Hainds  |  September 06, 2012

Global Solidarity

"Teachers are placed in a position where they have to defend themselves and their students to save our system of public education.  I applaud and support the teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals in Chicago for their courageous act.  You take this bold action on behalf of our nation.  Si Se Puede," Dolores Huerta, president Dolores Huerta Foundation for Community Organizing, Co-Founder United Farm Workers.

The Chicago Teachers Union wants to thank the many individuals and organizations who have written letters of solidarity or contributed to our Solidarity Fund over the last few weeks. The list below represents the many organizations to which the many individual contributors belong and organizations who have themselves written letters of support. People across the country and the world are looking at our confrontation with the Chicago Board of Education as a key fight against the specious attacks on our public schools and the teachers and paraprofessionals who make them work. Thank you for this tremendous outpouring of support that will help sustain us in our struggle for educational justice. See the map below and the list along with it (zoom out to see more far-flung supporters).  Also, please visit the Messages of Solidarity page to see solidarity messages and photos. Also, please see the page with individual donors' names and affiliations here.


View CTU Solidarity in a larger map

CPS hit with unfair labor practice charges for unlawfully imposing changes in working conditions

September 06, 2012

Download ULP Part 1

Download ULP Part 2

The Chicago Teachers Union today filed unfair labor practice charges against the Chicago Public Schools with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB).  The charges arose because CPS unlawfully imposed changes in working conditions – including canceling annual longevity pay increases (known as Step increases), discontinuing a longevity sick leave benefit, and imposing new teacher evaluation procedures beyond what is required by the new state teacher evaluation law known as PERA.  State law prohibits employers from making changes in employment conditions while bargaining is ongoing, unless and until the parties reach impasse or a new agreement. 

The charges come five days before more than 29,000 CTU members are schedule to walk off the job in demand of a fair labor contract. If contract negotiations have not settled by midnight September 9th, all teachers, counselors, school nurses and other education professionals will go on the strike.

CPS has imposed these changes because its contract proposals call for the elimination of Step increases and the longevity sick benefit, and imposing onerous teacher evaluation procedures.  CPS is attempting to force these terms on teachers despite the fact that negotiations have not concluded and the CTU has not agreed to them.

Due to the seriousness of today’s charges, the CTU has requested the IELRB to seek a preliminary injunction ordering CPS to rescind these changes and restore to teachers the benefits that it unilaterally took away.  Injunctive relief was previously granted by the IELRB on October 20, 2011, when CPS impermissibly tried to impose the longer school day on teachers without bargaining with the Union. 

The Union’s charges also allege that CPS is refusing to arbitrate grievances, give the Union relevant information, and it has intimidated teachers who engaged in informational picketing at James Monroe Elementary School. 

On August 29th, the CTU filed a strike notice and, unless there is an agreement on a new contract, the CTU has announced that it will commence the strike on September 10th.  Due to CPS’s unlawful conduct, any strike that occurs will be converted to an unfair labor practice strike.

CPS’s “Strike Contingency Plan” Schools List

September 06, 2012

CPS has announced that their Strike Contingency Plan will involve holding students in 145 schools without teachers, nurses, counselors, social workers or clerks. Is your school one?

Click here to download the list organized by school name.

Click here to download the list organized by zip code.

Some lesson plan ideas on labor

by Nathan Goldbaum  |  September 05, 2012

If you need to come up with some good labor-related lesson plans, here are a few links to get you started.

http://www.shankerinstitute.org/

http://labor-studies.org/featured-resources/labor-history-lesson-plans/

http://mea.org/pd/labor_union_resources_for_teachers.html

http://www.niu.edu/~rfeurer/labor/teacherscorner.html

Labor Day 2012 -- Rally Video

by CTU New Media  |  September 05, 2012

Facing difficult contract talks and a Sept. 10 strike deadline, Chicago Teachers Union united with dozens of other unions in a Labor Day rally for Jobs, Dignity and a Fair Contract. 

When we Fight We Win!

by Jackson Potter - CTU Staff Coordinator  |  September 04, 2012

A little over a week ago a newly minted principal at Social Justice High School, in the neighborhood of South Lawndale, laid off two highly qualified, beloved and dynamic educators who were founding members of the school. The decision left half of an English position and substitute teachers in core classes with students outraged at the disruption to their education. Social Justice students had conducted a sit in just a week before the firings,  to protest the elimination of AP courses that many of them had spent a week of their summer preparing for. It was clear that the decision to remove the two teachers, Angela Sangha Gadsen and Katie Hogan, was in retaliation for them being outspoken advocates for students and supporters of a school culture that was democratic and collaborative.

In the old days, our members would have filed grievances and prepared an Unfair Labor Practice and waited for justice. While the Union did that, the community sprung into action to fight for restoration of the positions, the student programs and a return of the old principal chosen by the school’s Advisory Local School Council.

Within days both teachers were returned to their positions and their AP courses reinstated. This is yet another powerful example of what happens when our members are well organized at their schools and have strong connections with students and their families.

 

As union membership has declined, wage inequality has grown

September 04, 2012

In his new report, Unions, inequality, and faltering middle-class wages, EPI President Lawrence Mishel finds that as union membership has declined, wages for middle-class workers have suffered. Declining unionization was responsible for roughly a third of the growth of wage inequality among men from 1973 to 2007 and about twenty percent of the wage inequality among women. Mishel noted that "it’s important to take into account the impact of collective bargaining on wage and benefit standards for all workers."

Click here to read the report. 

UNO Charter School Profiteer Juan Rangel Wants to Bust Chicago Teachers Union [VIDEO]

by CTU New Media  |  September 04, 2012

WGN: Chicago Teachers Union holds Labor Day solidarity rally

September 04, 2012

Members of several labor unions joined the Chicago Teachers Union for a solidarity rally at the Daley Plazaon Labor Day.  It takes place on the eve of the first day of fall classes, and one week before a possible walkout.

Like a pastor from the pulpit, Chicago Teacher's Union president Karen Lewis, preached to thousands of educators and other labor unions , just a stone's throw from city hall and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

Just across the street at his office, Emanuel pointed to other union contracts signed in the last week including with teachers at the city colleges.  Contracts he says, that will save the city money.   A proposition which, so far, the CTU has rejected, calling for more pay for a longer day and longer school year. 

“The lesson is, we can't keep doing the same old same old,” Emanuel said.  “So I've been clear that we need a longer school day and longer school years equal to what's happening around the country.”

Nearly 800 miles away, the contract dispute, and potential teachers strike September 10th, fueled discussion at the Democratic National Convention.

“It’s been 25 years since a school strike in Chicago and I don`t think either Karen Lewis or these people at the school board are interested in a strike if it can be avoided,” said Mike Madigan.

But with less than a week until the strike deadline, it's a negotiation that, from the outside at least, still seems far from over.

“Let's be clear, this fight is about the very soul of public education not just in Chicago but everywhere,” said Lewis.

Click here to read the story at WGNTV.com.

Sun-Times: Teachers rally; Lewis calls Emanuel ‘liar and bully’

by David Roeder and Fran Spielman - Chicago Sun-Times   |  September 04, 2012

Tactically, it was a risk to hold a Labor Day rally in the Loop, where there was no audience of office workers to influence and the targeted decision makers were absent.

But with a potential teachers strike approaching, the Chicago Teachers Union and its friends among public employee unions put on an impressive show of strength Monday, drawing thousands of red-shirted supporters to a Daley Plaza rally that turned into a protest march around City Hall and outside the Clark Street headquarters of the Chicago Public Schools.

With a fervor reminiscent of the Occupy Chicago marches, the teachers chanted labor slogans, waved placards and were fired up by several speakers, including CTU President Karen Lewis, who brought the crowd to a roar when she called Mayor Rahm Emanuel “a liar and a bully.”

Thousands of teachers and public workers attended the speeches in the Loop plaza, with many wearing red shirts in support of the teachers. After the rally, the crowd moved across Clark Street to march around the City Hall-County Building, then headed south on Clark to the CPS offices.

The crowd in the plaza appeared to be at least 10,000 people. The teachers union said 18,000 people showed up. Police blocked off traffic in the otherwise lightly populated Loop as the orderly protest briefly took over the streets.

Teachers in the crowd said the school system is treating them with disrespect and, in its drive to cut expenses, refuses to spend on needed facilities such as libraries and lunchrooms. “All the parents have told me that they support a strike. They realize it’s about the kids,” said Tiera Robinson, who teaches preschool special education at Hughes Elementary School

“The news media makes it out that it’s just about salary,” said teacher Mike McCormick. “But really we are fighting for public education and strong neighborhoods.”

Asked about parents or taxpayers who might oppose a strike, McCormick replied, “It’s really the only action we have to advocate for the type of education that all students in Chicago deserve.”

The rally, which lasted more than two hours, came a week before more than 26,000 teachers and other school workers could hit the street, disrupting what would be just the second week of school for hundreds of thousands of Chicago public schoolchildren.

“The commitment to the children of the City of Chicago is in our hearts, in our minds,” Lewis told the cheering crowd. “It’s in the work we do.”

Lewis called the ongoing negotiations “a fight for the very soul of public education — not only in Chicago, but everywhere.”

Lewis at one point lit into Emanuel, saying: “He’s a liar and a bully.” She accused the mayor of advocating that money not be spent on the lowest-scoring 25 percent of students, and then denying saying so.

Click here to continue reading. 

Don Moore, education activist and ally, dies at 70

by Sarah Hainds  |  September 04, 2012

Donald MooreIt is with tremendous sadness that we share the news of the loss of our great friend and ally, Dr. Don Moore, this last Friday. Don was the executive director of Designs for Change which recently published a scathing report on AUSL schools, “Chicago’s Democratically-Led Elementary Schools Far Out-Perform Chicago’s ‘Turnaround Schools’ Yet Turnaround Schools Receive Lavish Extra Resources.” Designs for Change was one of the leaders of the Chicago school reform movement in the 1980's and has been a huge advocate and supporter of public education and parent and community leadership for 30 years.  We worked with Don on the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force (CEFTF).

Don dedicated his entire life to promoting Local School Councils (LSCs) and their potential for leading significant improvement in public education. He documented their successful impact on parent empowerment, teacher collaboration, and overall student learning. His user-friendly reports were truly the “wind beneath the wings” of the LSC reform movement. Check them out here: www.designsforchange.org.

Don Moore testifies against plans to shutter Andersen Community Academy in April 2011
Don Moore testifies in April 2011 against Board plans to shutter Andersen Community Academy. CTU File Photo

According to his sister, Susan:

Don was born February 15, 1942 and grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. He graduated with a B.A. In English from Haverford College (1964). Earned a master's degree (1966) and doctoral degree (1971) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He received the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Education Alumni Council Award in 1998. 

In 1977, Don Moore founded Designs for Change, a research and advocacy organization focused on improving urban schools. He and his organization played a central role in the Illinois General Assembly's passing the Chicago School Reform Act, which established Local School Councils at every Chicago public school. These school-based governance councils had the right to hire and fire principals, sign contracts, and approve annual budgets and school improvement plans. 

He is survived by his sons Peter Moore of Boca Raton, FL and Adam Moore of Chicago and his sister, Susan Moore Johnson, of Newton, MA.

He had coronary heart disease and suffered a heart attack at his home in ChicagoDon was born February 15, 1942 and grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. He graduated with a B.A. In English from Haverford College (1964). Earned a master's degree (1966) and doctoral degree (1971) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He received the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Education Alumni Council Award in 1998. 

In 1977, Don Moore founded Designs for Change, a research and advocacy organization focused on improving urban schools. He and his organization played a central role in the Illinois General Assembly's passing the Chicago School Reform Act, which established Local School Councils at every Chicago public school. These school-based governance councils had the right to hire and fire principals, sign contracts, and approve annual budgets and school improvement plans. 

He is survived by his sons Peter Moore of Boca Raton, FL and Adam Moore of Chicago and his sister, Susan Moore Johnson, of Newton, MA.

He had coronary heart disease and suffered a heart attack at his home in Chicago last Tuesday, August 28. He passed away Friday, August 31, 2012.

Chicago Teachers Union