Chicago Teachers Union on Strike

Chicago Teachers Union on Strike


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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.



Chicago Public Schools teachers’ strike over

By Rosalind Rossi



9 September 2012

CTU President Karen Lewis said the vote was approved by a margin of “like 98 percent to 2.” “We said that it was time, that we couldn’t solve all the problems of the world with one contract. And it was time to suspend the strike.” There were, nevertheless, some “die-hard hold-outs” in favor of continuing the walk-out, Lewis said. “We cannot get a perfect contract,” Lewis said. “There is no such thing as a contract that is going to make all of us happy.”

She said teachers were excited to return to work.  “I am so thrilled people are going back,” she said. “. . . Everybody is looking forward to seeing their kids tomorrow, I can guarantee you that.”  Chicago’s 350,000 children return to school after missing seven days of class during the strike. . . . “I realized how much support we have from the parents and the community,” said Tom Brady, a writing teacher at Henry Clay Elementary.

“The parents and the [people in the] city were with us, three-to-one against [Mayor] Rahm Emanuel,” said Rolando Vazquez, a delegate from Brighton Park Elementary School. “And we made a great show of strength.” . . . Teachers who Lewis said are “frightened’’ by an expected wave of school closings and charter school expansions were relieved to see provisions that allow highly-rated tenured teachers to follow their students from a closed school to a new one, if vacancies exist in their subject in the new building. Plus, union officials said, CPS committed to letting highly-rated laid-off tenured teachers comprise half of all new hires, and to opening new full-time substitute teacher positions for them if necessary to make that quota.

On the teacher evaluation front, said CTU attorney Robert Bloch, the union was able to prevent any tenured teacher from being threatened with dismissal based solely on a drop in gains of her students from one year to the next. Even the best teachers turn out different gains in different years with kids, Bloch said. . . . CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle said one of the biggest rounds of applause went to the clause that let teachers write their own lesson plans, rather than be forced to use a strict format.

“There were moments throughout the whole thing where people just got up and cheered,’’ said Gage Park’s Martinek. “They were like, ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe we got that. . . . Wow.’ Those little things that really impact our work da —that’s huge.’’ The contract did drop an opt-out provision that the board invoked last year to cancel the 4 percent raise, and according to a summary handed to reporters outside the meeting, “they must honor our raises.”

Source: suntimes


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Teachers deserve to be heard—Mark Brown—19 September 2012—The Chicago Teachers Union strike is over but the fight for the future of public education in America may just be hitting its stride. The seven-day strike by the CTU aroused national passions over the place of public employee unions in our weakened economy and the resulting contract will allow Mayor Rahm Emanuel to move forward with his concept of school reform. Yet in the end, I hope the strike accomplished what CTU President Karen Lewis told the press in her post-game analysis, that “the people who are actually working in the schools need to be heard.”

Teachers need to be heard as Chicago Public Schools and other school districts move forward with plans for school closings, for adding charter schools and for shaping longer school days. They need to be heard because they are the MVPs of our schools, along with the principals who manage them. And when the mayor comes up for air, he needs to find a way to start working with teachers through their elected union leaders, not just with the teachers who he likes.

The voices of classroom teachers should at least match if not trump the think-tankers and the tinkerers backed by wealthy donors—most of them perhaps very well-intentioned—pushing their own agendas for reshaping our schools. An entire school reform movement is chewing up and spitting out our traditional education system, much of it based on the notion that “bad teachers” are the root of the problem holding back poor children—overlooking the lack of investment in every other aspect of the educational process.



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Emanuel adviser Bruce Rauner blasts Chicago Teachers Union leadership—Rick Pearson—19 September 2012—Bruce Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist who is helping lead a drive for more charter schools in the city, predicted the final details of a new contract would not “end well” for critics of the teachers union because “I think we’ve given in on a fair number of critical issues.”

But he called the intense contract negotiations “one battle in a very long-term fight.”

“Wherever we come out on it, the good news long term, the taxpayers are frustrated in this city and they’re beginning to push back and very importantly, the parents are awakening to the issues in the city and I think we’re going to have a multiyear revolution,” he told an audience of business and political leaders at a seminar held jointly by the Dallas-based President George W. Bush Institute and the right-leaning Illinois Policy Institute.

“The critical issue is to separate the union from the teachers. They’re not the same thing,” Rauner said. “The union basically is a bunch of politicians elected to do certain things—get more pay, get more benefits, less work hours, more job security. That’s what they’re paid to do. They’re not about the students. They’re not about results. They’re not about the taxpayers.”

The CTU and its teachers will “always be aligned” over higher pay, he said. But teachers could be split off from the union’s leadership on the issues of evaluations and merit pay, he said.

“The good teachers know they’ll do fine. They’ve got the confidence. I’ve talked to them. I know,” Rauner told more than 200 people at the Art Institute of Chicago. “It’s the weak teachers. It’s the lousy, ineffective, lazy teachers that—unfortunately there are a number of those— they’re the ones that the union is protecting and that’s where there’s a conflict of interest between the good teachers and the union bosses.”

Rauner, a potential Republican candidate for governor, speaks frequently with Emanuel and was placed by the mayor on the board of World Business Chicago, the city’s economic development arm. Rauner has met more than a dozen times with Chicago Public Schools officials during the initial nine-month period that new CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard’s team was organizing policy.

Rauner also is on the board of the Chicago Public Education Fund, a group advocating more teacher accountability, and New Schools for Chicago, an organization seeking private investment in charter schools. He has a charter school named after him, and his wife served on Emanuel’s mayoral transition team for education.




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Chicago Teachers Union on Strike

Statement by CTU President Karen Lewis


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.


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Chris Hedges: Dems Owe Chicago Public Teachers Support for “Most Important Labor Action in Decades”


And it really boils down to the fact that we spend $600-some billion a year, the federal government, on education, and the corporations want it. That’s what’s happening. And that comes through charter schools. It comes through standardized testing. And it comes through breaking teachers’ unions and essentially hiring temp workers, people who have very little skills. This is what Teach for America is about. They teach by rote, and they earn nothing. There’s no career. . . . .

And the Chicago strike illustrates the bankruptcy of both traditional labor and the Democratic Party. . . . And I see what is happening in Chicago as intimately linked to the Occupy movement itself. It’s community-based. It is fighting both political parties, that have sold out to corporate interests.

I mean, the enemy of the Chicago Teachers Union is, you know, one of the most important figures within the Democratic Party and of course a close ally of Barack Obama.

I mean, that whole convention, which you covered, you know, not one major Democratic figure, as far as I know, has come out in support of the teachers in Chicago.—democracynow / Lining up against Chicago teachers

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Chicago Teachers Wise Up to Obama School Privatizations—15 June 2010—Reformists won control of the teachers union in the town where Barack Obama became a fan of corporate schooling: Chicago. The new union leadership seems prepared to confront privatization and high stakes testing head on. The tests measure the accumulated results of deprivation, not academics, said Karen Lewis: “Class sizes rose, schools were closed. Then standardized tests…measured that slow death by starvation.” . . . . Last week, reformers finally won control of the Chicago Teachers Union, in what will hopefully set an example for teachers, nationwide. Karen Lewis, co-chair of the victorious Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, or CORE, told the truth that so many teachers’ union hacks have been avoiding: “This so-called school reform is not an education plan,” she said. “It’s a business plan.” Lewis continued:

“Fifteen years ago, this city purposely began starving our lowest-income neighborhood schools of greatly needed resources and personnel. Class sizes rose, schools were closed. Then standardized tests, which in this town alone is a $60 million business, measured that slow death by starvation. These tests labeled our students, families and educators failures, because standardized tests reveal more about a student’s zip code than it does about academic growth,” said the union reformer.

And that is the heart of the matter. Public and private policies have devastated inner city America, with totally predictable results in terms of inner city student performance. And yet, what do both the Obama’s and the Bush’s propose? They demand more privatization, more so-called “public-private” initiatives that outsource Black and brown schools to corporations, for profit. Barack Obama and Arne Duncan learned the privatization game in Chicago. Hopefully, Chicago teachers can awaken five million union members and millions more inner city residents to the clear and present danger posed by Obama’s corporate school agenda.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford.—blackagendareport

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What do the teachers get now?— September 10, 2012—Under the currently binding contract (pdf), 2010-11 annual teacher salaries ranged from $47,268 for teachers with bachelor’s degree with a year’s experience or less, to $88,680 for those with doctorates who have at least 16 years of experience. Those in schools with longer school years (42.6 weeks or 52 compared to 38.6) make commensurately more. All told, teachers in Chicago make an average of $74,839 a year. However, the school board rescinded the scheduled 4 percent pay increase set to take effect this past school year. Teachers’ benefit package includes a choice of three health plans, with maximum out-of-pocket amounts, including deductible, ranging from $4,000 to $4,800 (or 5.3 to 6.4 percent of the average teacher’s salary). Teachers do not pay Social Security taxes or receive benefits, and instead receive a public employee pension averaging $41,584 a year for a teacher with 28 years of service.—washingtonpost

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Chicago Teachers Strike Could Portend Referendum on Obama Admin’s Approach to Education Reform—10 September 2012—Paulin Lipman:

Chicago was the birthplace of this neoliberal corporate reform agenda of high-stakes testing, paying teachers based on test scores, closing failing neighborhood—disinvesting in neighborhood schools and then closing them and turning them over to charter schools. . . .

And it was really a model which was picked up by cities around the country and then made a national agenda when Arne Duncan, who had been the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, became Obama’s secretary of education. . . .

Chicago is now an epicenter of the pushback against it, as I also said before. And very much at the center of that is a new Chicago Teachers Union, with a new leadership that is really challenging this whole agenda with a different vision of education, a vision of education that involves a rich curriculum for all students, that puts equity at the center. They’ve named what these policies have resulted in in Chicago “education apartheid,” especially for African-American and also Latino students.

So, this is a battle that is being watched by people around the country. And a really strong victory for the Chicago Teachers Union, backed up by parents and community members, will send a signal that we can actually turn around this agenda. So I think it has tremendous significance. And I get the news feeds from the Chicago Teachers Union, the reports of this strike, and it’s being covered not only nationally, but internationally. . . .

In the corporate media in Chicago, we keep reading about union bosses. Well, the leadership of the teachers’ union are teachers, they’re not union bosses, first of all. Karen Lewis is a National Board certified teacher. She teaches and has been—had been teaching chemistry at Martin Luther King High School on the South Side of Chicago. She is well known in the—by students, former students, other teachers, beloved as a teacher.

She’s part of the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, which is a new caucus that really came on the scene just about four or five years ago. But because the previous leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union was really not challenging this whole agenda, CORE acted like the leadership of the union. They fought the school closings that were happening every single year in Chicago. They fought for teachers who were laid off. And rank-and-file teachers, who simply had enough of these policies after just absorbing the punishment for 15 years, overwhelmingly elected Karen and the other leadership team from the CORE caucus.

And I do have to say also that Karen has just been incredibly courageous. She’s been vilified often in the media, and she has stood very firm and in a principled way fighting for the schools that Chicago students deserve. . . .

Arne Duncan was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. And under his watch in 2004, Chicago launched a policy called Renaissance 2010, which was actually designed by the Commercial Club of Chicago in 2003. The Commercial Club is an organization of the biggest CEOs and bankers in the city, essentially. And Arne Duncan pushed through this agenda of closing neighborhood schools, turning them over to private operators or expanding charter schools and having charter schools come in, and increasingly putting more pressure on teachers to respond to the high-stakes tests that Phil was talking about earlier.

And so, that agenda, which has been really devastating in Chicago and had already been very clearly very devastating in 2008, after four years, was the agenda that Duncan took to Washington when he became secretary of education, and it’s embedded in Race to the Top. So, Race to the Top has a set of provisions that really basically means states are competing for $4.3 billion in federal funds. And in order to get those funds, they must do certain things.

And those things are the kinds of things that have been done and have failed and have been devastating in Chicago. They must close failing schools or turn them around, expand charter schools, pass legislation that allows charter schools to be expanded. They must have some kind of evaluation system of teachers that’s tied to testing students. And these policies now are the national agenda. . . .

But as far as I know, the Chicago Teachers Union has not heard from him [Obama], either. You know, Rahm Emanuel was his chief of staff, and he’s now the mayor of Chicago. And as maybe our listeners do or don’t know, the mayor appoints the school board in Chicago. And the school board is made up of, again, corporate CEOs, financiers, a hotel magnate, real-estate developers. And part of the agenda of forcing the teachers’ backs up against the wall, I think, is an attempt to actually weaken the Chicago Teachers Union, because the Chicago Teachers Union is not—the new leadership has not only reinvigorated the union in this city, it’s reinvigorating the trade—teachers’ union movement nationally.

It’s really energized—electrified, really—teachers nationally, because this is not a traditional union, and it’s not a traditional labor struggle. It’s a union that has a different vision of education and is fighting for that. It’s a union that’s a social movement union, or trying to be a social movement union, in which it’s very democratic. Their bargaining team is made up—includes 40 rank-and-file members of the CTU. And it has energized the rank and file.

So I was at the strike headquarters yesterday, and there were just hundreds of teachers showing up to pick up picket signs, talking about the issues.  It’s not just Karen Lewis and her leadership that are leading this union; it’s the rank and file that are leading that union.—Pauline Lipman is  professor of education and policy studies at University of Illinois, Chicago, also director of the collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education and on the coordinating committee for Teachers for Social Justicedemocracynow

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Striking Teachers, Parents Join Forces to Oppose “Corporate” Education Model in Chicago—10 September 2012— Phil Cantor: Rahm Emanuel has pushed through laws in Illinois, basically designed for his political gain, in my opinion. We’re not allowed legally to strike over anything but compensation. But teachers are not most interested in compensation; we’re most interested in being able to do our jobs for the students we serve. So, you know, I think we’re trying to tie other issues that we feel are very important to compensation, so they’re part of the bargaining table agreement. . . .

At my school, I looked at the calendar for the year, and there are about 15 days where students are being tested on standardized tests. These tests are not designed to help the students. Many of these tests are designed because of No Child Left Behind to measure the school. And now, because of Race to the Top and these new reforms, now these tests are being used to measure teacher performance. So, what does that mean? It means that rather than planning rich-inquiry, interesting lessons for our students, we have to focus on very specific tested standards in a very narrow way that students have to then demonstrate those skills.

To give an absurd example, this week I’m supposed to give a district-mandated test to my ninth grade biology students, who I’ve known for one week, on DNA-to-RNA transcription and translation in protein synthesis. The reason they’re getting this test, on material they’ve never seen before, is so that I can be measured from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. It is putting our students in a terrible position to do something that was never—it’s an insane way to try to measure teachers.

It’s clearly sort of the business model, the corporate model of people who don’t understand the classroom, saying, “Oh, we’ll test them at the beginning of the year and the end of the year and see growth.” But it’s an absurd sort of test that is not going to work even for that purpose, and it’s certainly not going to help our students. . . .

Charter schools are being used to privatize the school system. There’s research that shows that charter schools actually tend to be used as a tool of gentrification in the city. The threat is that if we don’t do well on standardized tests, then our school will be turned around, meaning it will be turned over to a private charter school operation. So there’s this constant threat over teachers that if you don’t get test scores up, your school will be privatized into a charter, you’ll lose your job, your community will lose a community-based school, and students will have to sort of lottery to get into your school.

What I see at the school at the neighborhood school level—where I work is a neighborhood school—I see the best students of my neighborhood sort of getting pulled out toward the charters, because their parents have the impression that they’re better. And then, when the charter struggles with a student with behavioral difficulties or learning disabilities or language disabilities, that kid ends up getting pushed out of that charter, and then I see them at my school. . . . Most of the charters are not unionized at all.—Phil Cantor, teacher at North-Grand High School, he’s a strike captain at his school and part of the group Teachers for Social Justice—democracynow

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Chicago Teachers Union Presiden Karen Lewis

on Rahm Brizard Arne Duncan and the Longer School Day

2 November 2011


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CTU President Karen Lewis

Race-Class at Center of Education Debate

(3 November 2012)

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YouTube Videos

Chicago Teachers Union

Chicago Teachers Union Files Strike Notice. / Karen Lewis Press Statement and Questions

 Karen Lewis Speaks to 18,000 supporters on Labor Day / President Karen lewis Uncensored

CTU Strikes: 1969 – 1987

photo right: Mayor Rahm Emmanuel

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Karen Lewis: Fiery Chicago Teachers Union chief takes on wrath of Rahm


An Ivy League union organizer with deep ties to Chicago’s community activists, Karen Lewis is emerging as the new face of resistance to a national education reform movement. She’s a match for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s storied temper, backers say.


Stacy Teicher Khadaroo


 Karen Lewis speaks to roaring crowds with a preacher’s cadence and the righteous wave of a pointed finger.For parents and teachers fed up with the pressures of high-stakes standardized tests—and the literal heat of unairconditioned classrooms—the Chicago Teachers Union president is a superhero.

With the strike in the nation’s third-largest school district entering its fifth day Friday, the outspoken Chicago native and veteran high school chemistry teacher has emerged as the face of the fight for what she calls the “soul of public education.” News reports suggest that the two sides might be nearing a breakthrough after negotiations ended at 1 a.m. Friday. The union called a meeting of delegates for Friday afternoon, and though the purpose was not made clear, these delegates would be required to approve any settlement. Ms. Lewis told reporters she hoped students would be back in school Monday.

The biggest hurdles remaining appear to be resistance to a teacher-evaluation system and a demand that laid-off teachers be the first ones rehired. Beyond the specific issues on the negotiating table in Chicago, though, the strike has drawn national attention because of a growing backlash over education reforms, ranging from teacher evaluations and layoff policies to the role of nonunionized, public charter schools. Much like the Wisconsin demonstrations last year, it taps into a broader political fight over unions during tight-budget times. But unlike Wisconsin, the issues in this fight also divide Democrats.

“The fight is not about Karen Lewis,” she told cheering supports at a Labor Day rally in the runup to the strike. “Let’s be clear: This fight is about the very soul of public education—not only in Chicago but everywhere.” “We know there’s a finite amount of resources, but we also know we didn’t create that problem,” she added. “Our children are not numbers on a spreadsheet: When you come after our children you come after us,” she added. “We did not start this fight, but enough is enough.”

Lewis lives and breathes union, supporters say. The daughter of educators raised on the South Side of Chicago, she has deep ties to grass-roots community groups, union colleagues, and public school parents. But she is best known for her capacity to fire up a crowd. When CTU members in 2010 set out to find a leader with enough fight to take on the national education reform “juggernaut,” they chose Lewis.

Teachers have long been feeling “belittled, disrespected, not valued as professionals . . . [and] Karen took our conversations from the teachers’ lounge and brought them to the forefront,” says Brandon Johnson, head of the CTU’s black caucus. Beyond Chicago, he says, “she has helped capture the imagination of people who have been alienated from what we call bad reform.”

Yet her un-nuanced, firebrand style has also given fuel to those who see unions as making unreasonable demands and standing in the way of much-needed reforms in education. . . .

When she first took over the helm of CTU in 2010, Lewis came across as naive when the union compromised on a state education reform law damaging to union rights and more often put her foot in her mouth, says Sarah Karp, deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago, an independent news magazine that reports on education. But “even though her sound bites came off as curt . . . she can describe why she’s doing what she’s doing very articulately,” she adds.

Teachers already felt resistant to top-down reforms when Mr. Duncan headed up Chicago schools, and Mayor Emanuel has continued to push such reforms with less relationship-building among teachers, Ms. Karp says. Lewis’s relationship with Emanuel, who has called the strike unnecessary, is like “gasoline and fire,” The Chicago Tribune reports. Emanuel, a former member of Congress and chief of staff to President Obama, was elected mayor in 2011, notably without support from the Chicago Teachers Union. Lewis’s supporters say she has more than enough moxie to stand up to the major’s storied temper.

Lewis attended Chicago schools, Mount Holyoke College, and then Dartmouth College, where she was the sole African-American woman in her graduating class in 1974. A member of the union since 1988, she rose to power as part of the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators [CORE], a group that did not hesitate to take on union leadership as well as Chicago school district plans to turn over failing schools to charter operators—a move CORE saw as a dangerous privatization of public education.

In the years leading up to her election as president, Lewis and CORE listened to parents and community groups to build a platform, and “we as parents began to understand they wanted what we wanted . . . so when they won the leadership, we felt it was a victory for all of us,” says Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Chicago Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) in Chicago. “We saw her as the champion, the superhero.”

Lewis is “funny, passionate, and very intelligent,” Ms. Woestehoff says, and “she comes from a place of understanding what it really takes to educate children, especially in Chicago.” To understand her zeal, it’s important to see her along the historic continuum of civil rights leaders, Mr. Johnson of CTU says. The rule about how to recall teachers once they’ve been laid off is a key issue on the table, for instance, and a rollback of the traditional rules disproportionately hurts veteran African-American teachers, he says. The union wants the school district to give priority to laid-off teachers, when schools are hiring. An important element of the national education reform movement, championed by Emanuel, is to give school principals the leeway to hire whatever teachers they think will be most effective in the classroom, regardless of seniority.

Moreover, Lewis has faced the same kind of racist and sexist denigration that has historically reared up against African-American women leaders, Johnson adds. “This is heavy for her. You don’t just wake up one day and [suddenly] say, ‘I’m going to leave my classroom and take on the biggest civil rights battle of our time’…. For Karen to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ there’s a line of ancestors that said the same thing,” he says. But to the degree that her social-justice rhetoric resonates within the community, there’s also a danger that people will end up being disappointed, Karp says. “The chances of them actually lowering class sizes, or getting more art teachers or social workers . . . are very small,” she says. “I don’t think the school district has the money to deliver on those things.”

Even before the results of the strike are known, Lewis’s stand has filled a vacuum in giving a face to the opposition to education reforms that have received bipartisan support in may states and school districts, Mr. Petrilli says. “Karen is the first labor leader to present organized opposition to the destructive pseudo-reforms of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which are based on punitive actions and standardized testing,” says Diane Ravitch, a onetime NCLB advocate who is now one of its most vocal opponents, in an e-mail to the Monitor. Union organizers say they expect 50,000 people at a Saturday rally in Chicago.

The district did not respond to a request for comment. Classes have been canceled this week for approximately 350,000 students. Some schools have remained open on a limited basis to provide meals and supervision. On Wednesday, the district’s CEO, Jean-Claude Brizard, sent a letter to Lewis requesting that the union stop picketing at those sites. . . .



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Mayor’s reputation tarnished in teachers union dust-up—Kristen Mack, John Chase and John Byrne—15 September 2012—Emanuel’s argument for a longer school day and year started out as an accusation, not a conversation. In building his case, the mayor said Chicago Public Schools teachers had regularly received pay raises, the city had labor peace and students got the shaft. Emanuel’s contention, made last September shortly after his hand-picked school board took away half the teachers’ previously negotiated raise, implied that educators were lazy, resistant to change and didn’t have students’ best interests in mind.

It’s a classic Washington tactic: Define your opposition before they can themselves. It’s the kind of approach Emanuel perfected during his political upbringing in the nation’s capital as a congressman and veteran of two White Houses. It also underscored the learning curve Emanuel has yet to master—an executive must have the ability to maneuver between dominance and persuasion. 

“Well before the strike, there were a number of shots fired that were unwarranted, and it set the tone,” said Ald. John Arena, 45th. “The mayor has tended to be very one-dimensional in his tactics. This isn’t Congress anymore, or the backroom.” Emanuel treated the teachers negotiations as just another political campaign: Win the message of the week, then the month and ultimately the war. It’s much the way Emanuel won other faceoffs with labor, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he passed for President Bill Clinton.

This battle was different. It was a collective bargaining agreement, not legislation. At some point, the two sides had to sign a deal. As the threat of a strike grew, it became clear to labor leaders that Emanuel’s closest advisers lacked significant experience in hashing out such a collective bargaining contract. Emanuel’s political team contacted leaders of other unions across the city looking for insights on how best to talk to the teachers and to game-plan ideas, said a labor source who was approached and spoke on condition of anonymity. “They wanted to know that if X happens, what would the teachers think and then how would labor in general react,” the source said.



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Are We Asking Too Much From Our Teachers?—Alex Kotlowitz—14 September 2012—Last year, at an Aspen Institute conference, the education historian Diane Ravitch was asked her wish list to improve schools. At the top of her list: universal prenatal care—which, of course, has nothing to do with the classroom. Or so it would seem.

Of course, Ms. Ravitch wanted to make a point. As we slash services in deeply impoverished communities and reduce school budgets, how can we expect that good teachers alone can improve the lives of poor children? Poverty, of course, can’t be an excuse for lousy teaching. But neither can excellent teaching alone be a solution to poverty. It’s been too easy to see this dispute as one between two hotheaded personalities—Mr. Emanuel and Ms. Lewis, or as a play for respect.

Rather, as I spoke with teachers on the picket lines last week, it became clear that it was about something much more fundamental, and something worth our attention: top-notch teaching can’t by itself become our nation’s answer to a poverty rate that, as we learned the other day, remains stubbornly high: one of every five children in America lives below the poverty level.

In Chicago, 87 percent of public school students come from low-income families—and as if to underscore the precarious nature of their lives, on the first day of the strike, the city announced locations where students could continue to receive free breakfast and lunch. We need to demand the highest performances from our teachers while we also grapple with the forces that bear down on the lives of their students, from families that have collapsed under the stress of unemployment to neighborhoods that have deteriorated because of violence and disinvestment. And we can do that both inside and outside the schools—but teachers can’t do it alone.—


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United Church of Christ—The Church Speaks to Public Education Justice—In the national conversation about public education, our role in the church is special. We are concerned about our schools as an ethical and public policy matter. How do they embody attitudes about race and poverty, power and privilege, and cultural dominance and marginalization, and how do disparities in public investment reflect these attitudes?

The United Church of Christ has spoken prophetically to name poverty and racism as among the primary causes of injustice in our nation’s schools.  General Synod 15 warned: “While children from many areas have comfortable schools with all the educational trimmings, poor and ethnic minority children often face overcrowded and deteriorated facilities, and a lack of enrichment programs or modern technology.” General Synod 18 cautioned:

“Because the poor and their children are disproportionately people of color, the educational inequities in our public schools reinforce the racial/ethnic injustices of our society.” General Synod 23 proclaimed public school support—and advocacy for the same—as one of the “foremost civil rights issues in the twenty-first century.” General Synod 25 called all settings of the UCC to do justice and promote the common good by strengthening support for public institutions and providing “opportunity for every child in well-funded, high quality public schools.”—


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Union head: Teachers ‘tired of billionaires telling us what … to do’—Lauren Fitzpatrick and Tina Sfondeles—15 September 2012—“I want to know why when we ask for textbooks and materials on the first day on the first day when children walk into a building that somehow we are being unreasonable. I want someone to tell me why that is.” She digged at Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school board that includes hotel heiress Penny Pritzker. “I am tired of billionaires telling us what we need to do for our children as if they love our children more than we do,” Lewis continued, as the crowd the union estimated at 25,000 waved signs and cheered. “I want them to turn off the air conditioning at 125 S. Clark, and work like we work. I want them to turn off the air conditioning on the fifth floor of City Hall and let them work like we work.”

Lewis thanked her rank and file for standing together all week and trusting her with their support. “Karen Lewis for mayor,” a man shouted. She laughed, saying, “Karen Lewis for retirement.” “Thank you, but no thank you,” she continued as voices persisted. Leslie Diaz-Perez, 35, who teaches high school history for special education students at Simeon Career Academy, was waiting to see specifics in the contract.“We are hopeful but nonetheless this is a sign of unity,” Diaz-Perez said. “We want it all in writing and we will not be taken a fool.” At the rally—not a celebration, teachers insisted—red-shirted Chicago educators were joined by union leaders from the Fraternal Order of Police, the Chicago Labor Federation and from a handful of aldermen who side against the mayor with the union.—


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Negotiators race against clock to finalize deal to end teachers’ strike—Rosalind Rossi and Lauren Fitzpatrick—15 September 2012—Teachers union leaders and Chicago Public School officials Saturday raced against the clock—and the Rosh Hashana holiday—to nail down details of a tentative deal in time to reopen schools Monday. The stretch of holy days marking the Jewish new year runs from sundown Sunday and through sundown Tuesday. Most Chicago Teachers Union officers negotiating the contract are Jewish, including CTU President Karen Lewis, who is “very active in her faith,’’ CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said.

Negotiators from CPS and CTU gathered Saturday at the law offices of CTU attorney Robert Bloch, who also is Jewish, to put in writing the framework of an agreement on the most contentious issues in a five-day teachers strike. The union’s House of Delegates then needs to sign off on it at its meeting at 3 p.m. Sunday. . . . Far more contentious was what to do with laid-off teachers amid the system’s push to close failing and underused schools and expand the number of charter schools.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has insisted that principals need the freedom to choose the teachers they want if they are being held accountable for their school’s results. The union fears laid-off teachers will be replaced with less experienced, cheaper teachers—a faction studies indicate have a high turnover rate—leaving veterans out on the street. The other controversial issue is the district’s new teacher-evaluation system, which the union contends is too heavily tied to growth in student test scores and a multitude of factors outside a teacher’s control. CPS says the evaluation process is built to help teachers improve, and that CPS is providing an appeals process as a backstop.

After five days, the strike was wearing thin on some parents as they scrambled to find alternate arrangements for their children. Bloch said the union hopes students will wind up better off in the long run because of it.“The most important reason for the strike is that school board and city leaders had little interest in hearing from teachers as to how reform would be instituted,’’ Bloch said. That apparently would include Emanuel’s decision to go to the Legislature to get the power to unilaterally impose a longer day, rather than working with teachers on instituting one. “This of course angered teachers,’’ Bloch said. “The principal benefit of the strike is that teachers were given a seat at the table in determining how reform would be implemented. Teachers know better than anyone how all these decisions affect [schools and children]. They are the educators.’’




Union releases details of deal that could end teachers’ strike—Rosalind Rossi, Lauren Fitzpatrick, and Hunter Clauss—16 September 2012—Early Sunday morning, Lewis was non-committal when she left talks with district officials. When asked if she would recommend CPS’s latest offer to her members, Lewis said, “I’m not even going to discuss that. We got a whole bunch of stuff we got to do.” Lewis said she did not know when the bargaining teams would resume meetings on Sunday, but she said union officials do plan on discussing the language of the proposal. “I’m very tired,” Lewis said before she stepped into a cab.

In the written release about the contract, Lewis was more supportive of the deal. “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,” Lewis was quoted as saying. “We believe this is a good contract, however, no contract will solve all of the inequities in our district.” A Chicago Teachers Union news release late Saturday said the agreement includes:

*Raises of 3 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent over the next three years, with the option to extend the deal to four years “by mutual agreement” with another 3 percent raise.

* Preservation of extra “step’’ increases based on experience, with new increases in the three highest steps.

* The hiring of 600 additional teachers in art, music, physical education, world languages and other so-called “special’’ classes.

* The requirement that teachers be allowed to “follow their students” to other schools if the teachers school is subject to “school action,” such as closure.

* 10 months of “true recall” to the same school if a position opens.

* One-half of all CPS hires must be laid-off CTU members.

* In new teacher evaluations, limits to 30 percent the weight given to student growth, down from what had been a maximum of 40 percent, and provides the right to appeal a “neutral” rating.

* Reimbursement of school supplies up to $250.

* An agreement to hire more nurses, social workers, and school counselors if the system gets new revenue, including from tax increment financing funds.

A CPS spokeswoman would not immediately confirm the union’s version of the new pact early Sunday. Union leaders were hearing rumblings Saturday that delegates wanted more time to bounce the deal off of their membership. “There’s a move underfoot to ensure delegates don’t call off the strike until they go back to their schools and get feedback,” said one source close to the negotiations. “This is high drama.”

If the House of Delegates does not vote on Sunday to suspend the strike, the prospect of a Sunday sundown Rosh Hashanah holiday could further complicate the situation. Observant Jews would not normally work until the second holiest period in the Jewish calendar ends, at sundown Tuesday. The CTU’s Karen Lewis, union vice president Jesse Sharkey and CTU attorney Robert Bloch are Jewish, as is Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who drew union ire by the way he imposed his signature longer school day.



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Chicago teachers strike continues Emanuel says he will sue to force end—Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah and Joel Hood—16 September 2012—What was thought to be a done deal unravelled Sunday as Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was unable to sell union delegates on ending the teachers strike, likely leaving more than 350,000 Chicago Public Schools students locked out of the classroom at least two more days.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel late Sunday called the walkout “illegal” and pledged to seek an injunction in court to force an end to the city’s first teachers strike in a quarter century. Delegates had met with Lewis for nearly three hours to review the tentative contract that had been brokered after months of negotiation, but ultimately extended the strike instead.

“They’re not happy with the agreement. They’d like it to be a lot better for us than it is,” Lewis said. “This is the deal we got. This is not a good deal by any stretch of the imagination, not (compared) to what our members are (used) to having.” Delegates expressed frustration that they hadn’t been given more time to consider the lengthy contract revisions and said they would meet with their members Tuesday, after the Jewish holidays.

Lewis acknowledged returning to classes Wednesday may be optimistic, considering how difficult it has been for the union and CPS to find agreement on many key issues. Emanuel called upon CPS officials “to explore every action possible” to return students to school. He has maintained for over a week that the two major sticking points in negotiations—evaluations and the ability to recall teachers who have been laid off—are not legal grounds for a work stoppage.

“I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union,” Emanuel said in a released statement. It would appear the earliest that the district could get an injunction to get students back in school would be for Tuesday classes.

“That’s one day they don’t have right now,” said Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton. “Our signal is that we’re serious about getting kids back in school.” Delegates could have ended the strike with a vote Sunday, but only the union’s full membership of roughly 26,000 teachers and paraprofessionals can approve the contract. Lewis said delegates wanted more time to digest the details.—


Issues at the center of contract negotiations

Issues at the Center of Contract Negotiations

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel will ask judge to end strike—Rosalind Rossi, Sandra Guy and Mitch Dudek—17 September 2012—With Chicago Teachers Union delegates voting to stay on strike at least through Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel Sunday accused the union of using children as “pawns’’ and vowed to seek a court order to halt the walkout. The announcement from Emanuel came about an hour after CTU President Karen Lewis said “a clear majority’’ of delegates refused to suspend the strike until they had seen the exact contract language of the entire deal—something not expected until Tuesday.

Delegates just didn’t trust Chicago Public Schools not to try to slip one over on them if they called off the first CTU strike in 25 years without more study and discussion of the offer, Lewis said. “Please write ‘trust’ in big giant letters because that’s what the problem is,’’ Lewis said. Emanuel responded by news release, saying: “I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union. This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children.’’ . . .

Other new ground included provisions to curtail “bullying” by principals and other “abusive” administrative practices,’’ efforts to guarantee students and teachers have textbooks on Day One, and an agreement to move to one school calendar, so that all schools start on the same day. On its website, the CTU trumpeted in a news release that it had fought off an attempt to institute merit pay, something the union called “the star of national misguided school reform policies.’’ It has been an approach pushed publicly by Emanuel. However, both sides, in summaries of the contract, seized different issues to emphasize. Asked why the two summaries of the deal seemed so different, Lewis said, “they have a political spin machine.’’—


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House of Delegates Votes to Continue Strike—16 September 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.”—


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Ancient African Nations

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posted 13 September 2012 




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