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CTU applauds pro-teacher legislation; calls lawmakers ‘courageous’ for stance on school closings, class size, and fiscal responsibility

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) applauds state lawmakers who, this week, introduced critical pieces of legislation that will benefit thousands of educators, students and taxpayers if turned into law.  The proposals could put a halt to the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) plan to shut down, consolidate or turnaround several neighborhood schools; increase fiscal accountability within the district; and, would significantly reduce swelling class sizes in many elementary and high school classrooms.

“The 30,000 CTU members commend the work of Illinois Representatives Cynthia Soto (4th ),  Marlow Colvin (IL-33rd) and Luis Arroyo (IL-3rd) for joining the fight for education justice in our Chicago,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “All of our students deserve access to high-quality neighborhood schools that offer them a comprehensive, well-rounded curriculum.  These courageous lawmakers are standing up for the families and communities of more than 400,000 public school students in our district.

“These bills come at a time when teachers, paraprofessionals and school leaders are under tremendous assault by anti-public education and anti-labor forces that have used the law and media to attack our profession, our pensions and our schools,” Lewis said.  “We implore the General Assembly to do what is in the best interest of Illinois taxpayers and act judiciously to ensure these bills become law and the moratorium on school actions is enforced.”

TEACHERS AND SPRINGFIELD

CTU Political Director Stacy Davis-Gates explained that the Union’s efforts in Springfield are designed to illustrate through policy our commitment to sound, research-based educational practices that impact students and educators. “Too many times policy is created without the benefit of the practical classroom knowledge of teachers and those who work in our schools,” she said. “Our policy, this session, will emphasize the small “r” reforms that often go unheralded but have sound success in promoting student achievement.  These initiatives will go a long way in narrowing the achievement gap, boosting the graduation rate, and keeping the District accountable to taxpayers.  These are reforms that work.”

Teachers across the nation have increasingly become more active as the coordinated national assault on their unions, benefits, and profession escalate. In Chicago, more than 400 CTU delegates voted to support a slate of “pro teacher/pro public education candidates” seeking office in Illinois’ upcoming primary election.  Thousands vowed to increase their lobbying efforts in order to educate lawmakers about their fight for education justice.

“This year could bring one of the greatest assaults on teacher unions in recent times with Chicago serving as the testing ground,” said Lewis. “We’ve already seen aggressive moves from the Board of Education and the Emanuel administration on our collective bargaining rights and our benefits.  A teacher’s pension or 4 percent cost of living increase is not the reason why a school is under resourced or doesn’t have a library or air conditioning.  When the district will not reason, we need laws that protect students from more of their harmful, failed policies that have stymied public education in Chicago for years.”

BILL SUMMARIES

Stop CPS School Actions -HB4487 (Rep. Soto): Amends the Chicago School District Article of the Illinois School Code. Provides that there shall be a moratorium on school closings, consolidations, and phase-outs in the school district in the 2012-2013 school year. Provides that any of these actions that are subsequently appropriate must be carried out no sooner than the end of the 2013-2014 school year, subject to any new set of requirements adopted by the General Assembly.

During this moratorium period, the bill requires the district to establish polices that address and remedy the academic performance of schools in which Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) scores reflect students performing at or below 75%. Requires these policies to establish clear criteria, or processes for establishing criteria, for making school facility decisions and include clear criteria for setting priorities with respect to school openings, school closings, school consolidations, school turnarounds, school phase-outs, school construction, school repairs, school modernizations, school boundary changes, and other related school facility decisions, including the encouragement of multiple community uses for school space. Effective immediately.

Smaller Class Sizes - HB4455 (Rep. Colvin): Amends the Chicago School District Article of the Illinois School Code. Provides that each year, on or before the September fall enrollment count, (1) the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher who is teaching courses in public school classrooms for prekindergarten through grade 3 may not exceed 18 students; (2) the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher who is teaching courses in public school classrooms for grades 4 through 8 may not exceed 22 students; and the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher who is teaching courses in public school classrooms for grades 9 through 12 may not exceed 25 students, which maximums must be maintained after the September fall enrollment count. Sets forth exceptions. Requires the State Board of Education to annually calculate class size measures based upon the September fall enrollment count.

Greater CPS Accountability -HB3871 (Rep. Arroyo): Amends the Illinois School Code. Provides that any school district receiving a block grant under the provision concerning block grant funding for districts with more than 500,000 inhabitants shall be required to testify every year before the General Assembly regarding their overall annual budget and their budget request to the General Assembly for the following fiscal year. Provides that the testimony shall include plans to build or repair schools and to close or consolidate schools.

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

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Chicago Teachers Union