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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Delegates: Strike is over

Claiming some major wins and gearing up for a renewed battle against school closings, Chicago Teachers Union delegates voted on Tuesday to suspend the strike. Classes will resume Wednesday morning, a relief for parents who had supported teachers but were ready for the strike to end.

Leaving the meeting, delegates looked happy and said they felt victorious. “We are happy to be able to go back with dignity,” said Adam Heenan, the delegate from Curie High School. 

CTU President Karen Lewis, who called the deal “the best they could get,” said the overwhelming majority of delegates wanted to return to the classroom. “We feel very positive about moving forward,” she said. “We are grateful that we are a united union.”

Lewis pledged to continue to lead the fight on outstanding issues that the union couldn’t get the district to agree on, such as a demand for air-conditioning in schools, a promise of maintaining class size limits and more social workers in schools.

But as negotiations dragged on late last week, Lewis had to come to terms with two realities: CPS was limited by current and projected budget deficits and the tide couldn’t be turned in this contract on larger reform initiative. 

“We couldn’t solve all the problems of the world with one contract,” she said.

According to the school district, the package will cost $295 million over three years or about $75 million a year. The Board of Education approved in August a budget that drained its reserves and, according to district officials, had no cushions. 

Battle looming on closings

Lewis said the strike and the issues it raised set the stage for the next big battle, against school closings.

CPS officials are now openly acknowledging that they plan to restructure the district by closing as many as 120 schools, though it has said it will open dozens of new charter schools at the same time. They have told community activists that some of these closing will take place in the coming school year. Lewis called this “the elephant in the room” and said the union is gearing up for a larger, comprehensive stand against closings.

“Now everyone is more mobilized on this issue,” she said.

Community activists and students, many of whom stood with the union during the strike, are poised to join CTU to improve conditions in the schools and keep open neighborhood schools.  

“We need 2,000 people here when the closings are announced,” said Erica Clark of Parents 4 Teachers in the lobby of CPS headquarters downtown. She and more than 100 students and parents crammed into the lobby of district headquarters on Tuesday, demanding they be allowed to deliver nearly 1,000 postcards supporting CTU’s demands to CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

CTU and the community groups also want an elected Board of Education, rather than appointed as it is now.

Jane Averill, a preschool teacher at Ray Elementary, said she thought the vote to suspend the strike was partly due to delegates and teachers facing reality.  If they would have stayed on strike Wednesday, teachers feared losing public support, she said.

"To go out on strike and to not get things like class size limits, and restrictions on school closings and the creation of charter schools, is kind of heartbreaking," Averill said. "(But) those are things that have to be taken up legislatively."

Both sides claiming wins

When it came to the nitty-gritty of the contract, the union was able to claim several victories--chiefly, that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will have a stake in keeping the union happy. CPS originally wanted a five-year contract that would take CTU out of the picture until well after the next mayoral election.

But the union got CPS to agree to a three-year contract, with an option for a fourth year, if both parties agree. This could put the next contract negotiations right in the middle of the next campaign.

The three-year contract also allowed CTU to claim victory on teacher evaluation. CPS had proposed that test scores be factored into teacher evaluations at the minimum allowed by law in years one through three, but to go beyond the state minimum in years four and five. CPS still plans to increase the amount that test scores factor into evaluation in the future, but will have to again wrangle with CTU before they do it.

The union also prevailed against merit pay.And it won a promise of jobs for some teachers displaced by school closings.

CTU also released a fact-sheet claiming additional wins: an agreement by CPS to a monthly meeting on the budget and to outlawing teacher suspensions without pay. CPS also will allow teachers to vote by secret ballot for department heads.

Heenan said a “Christmas present” in the contract was the right for teachers to format their lesson plans in the way they want. 

“When that was announced, cheers erupted,” he said, explaining that it takes a lot of extra time to format lesson plans according to the district’s model, and can be antithetical to the way a teacher naturally puts them together.

But CPS also claimed some victories in the battle. At a brief press conference, Emanuel said that for the first time students “were at the table” in the negotiating room.

He touted that the contract includes provisions for the school day and year to be lengthened (though state law gives the district the power to do so on its own). “This gives a kindergartener today two extra years of learning by the time she graduates high school,” he said.

Also, he said the deal was good for taxpayers. As part of the agreement the union will drop its litigation against the Board of Education for rescinding a promised 4 percent raise in 2011. 

The final teacher salary increase was only 1 percent more than the original offer and will cost the district less than in previous agreements. 

The union had wanted CPS to agree to forcing principals to hire a displaced teacher when three qualified ones applied for a job. Doing this would amount to taking away a principal’s autonomy, Emanuel argued.

Instead—and this might have been the concession that broke the logjam—CPS agreed that it would try to make sure that half of its new hires would be displaced teachers. If not, then the most senior of the displaced teachers would be kept on for a year as long-term substitutes. 

Emanuel called the deal an “honest compromise.” But he refused to take questions about how he planned to pay for the raises and other concessions. 



Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Why the extra days on strike?

The public was given the understanding that the reason last Friday the CTU House of delegates did not at that time stop the strike was because they had not been provided with the final language of the contract. According to the report in Substance this morning they were not at this meeting given full copies of the proposed written contract nor is it posted on the CTU website this morning. They were provided only a summary which is posted on the CTU website and what is described as a detailed oral presentation of the contents of the contract. One officer showed a bound copy of the actual contract to the delegates so it appears to have been completed.

There was no vote recommending the contract be approved according to the Substance report. In fact the discussion on the actual contract was ended almost immediately by a motion from the floor calling for a vote to suspend the strike which under Roberts rules of order stopped the discussion. After that vote another motion was made to end the meeting which again passed.

Given this one has to wonder why the strike went on for another two days. It seems pointless. Clearly there is a more complex story here that Ms. Karp and Harris either are totally unaware of or not reporting because there is not an adequate basis for discussing it.

Rod Estvan

Anonymous wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago


At my school we gathered in groups to discuss the 25 page "framework" document and generate questions which were emailed by individual members to Karen Lewis. Everyone was clearly aware about dropping the law suit for the 4% to get the pay raises stipulated in the framework. There were many questions about various items in this contract that were discussed. On Tuesday morning, when I checked, additional info provided on the CTU website addressing additional questions/issues that were not in the framework. Also for download were spreadsheets with proposed salary schedules and more info on health care and welness.
At my school, the younger teachers (in the majority) wanted to come back (fearing loss of parent support and other issues.)
Our delegates voted accordingly. One of our delegates told me that the majority of the HOD were made up of younger teachers who wanted to suspend the strike for those reasons.
Reading the "framework" on Monday and having issues addressed as much as possible on Tuesday was a way to have members consider what they were voting on. At least everyone at my school was able to be heard- pro or con.
This was actually a good thing for the members. Too bad it took all week to get to that point so we needed the 2 extra days to look over the "framework" and talk about it.
On twitter, WBEZ reporter kept an informal count of school delegates who spoke to her and came up with the number 23 schools for and 4 schools against (probably high schools?)

Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

re: Anonymous

Did the 25 page framework document (I counted only 16 pages by the way) discuss whether or not in addition to dropping the 4% litigation the CTU agreed to drop all outstanding layoff litigation in which CTU is a party including all grievances? As long as you all understood that it is reasonable.

Did the framework document provide the actual language CPS agreed to in relation to this statement "CPS can no longer cancel raises based on budget appropriation. They must honor our raises." This is important because as the framework indicates the re-opener that allowed the union to void the contract and strike if raises were recinded at 47-2.2 was removed. It is also important because the language of section 48-2. Management Rights remains the same.

Subsection 48-2 does not allow the CTU to bargain with the Board in anyway in relation to the provisions of CPS' budget. The interaction between section 48-2 and provision blocking CPS from canceling raises based on budget appropriation is complex because CPS is not legally required under the School Code to spend all the dollars it appropriates it is only required not to spend more than it appropriates. There are also other complex issues see 105 ILCS 5/34-43, 105 ILCS 5/34-44, and most importantly 105 ILCS 5/34-49 and 105 ILCS 5/34-51.

Specifically 105 ILCS 5/34-49 states: "No contract shall be made or expense or liability incurred by the board, or any member or committee thereof, or by any person for or in its behalf, notwithstanding the expenditure may have been ordered by the board, unless an appropriation therefor has been previously made. Neither the board, nor any member or committee, officer, head of any department or bureau, or employee thereof shall during a fiscal year expend or contract to be expended any money, or incur any liability, or enter into any contract which by its terms involves the expenditure of money for any of the purposes for which provision is made in the budget, in excess of the amounts appropriated in the budget. Any contract, verbal or written, made in violation of this Section is void as to the board, and no moneys belonging thereto shall be paid thereon."

105 ILCS 5/34-51 states: "Appropriation not to be construed as approval of board of liabilities.
The appropriation resolution or budget, including the amounts for the payment of contract liabilities or to defray the expense of any project or purpose, shall not be construed as an approval by the board of any such liabilities or of any project or purpose mentioned, but shall be regarded only as the provisions for a fund or funds for the payment thereof when such liabilities have been found to be valid and legal obligations against the board, and when properly vouchered, audited and approved by the board, or when any project or purpose is approved and authorized by the board, as the case may be."

Because of these complex provisons of state law the actual language of the contract in relation to voiding the re-opener is important and it needs to be read very carefully by all members. In no way am I suggesting that the CTU leadership did not get the best contract it could get, nor am I suggesting members should vote against it. But it does seem absurd that calling off the strike was delayed to get the contract languge and the delegates were again only provided with a framework document all be it more detailed.

Rod Estvan

Language & Negotations wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

The primary reason the strike

The primary reason the strike continued after those two HOD meetings - one on Friday the 14th, one on Sunday the 16th - was because negotiations were ongoing. As of Sunday evening there were still 6 incomplete articles plus a handful of additional issues still open and on the table. It would have been irresponsible to remove the leverage of the strike prior to completion of bargaining.

Once negotiations were actually over and the contract was finished the strike was promptly suspended. The contents of the contract were not at issue in these recent meetings. Evaluation of the merits of the tentative agreement will come in the next two weeks as delegates decide on a recommendation to the membership and then membership votes on whether or not to ratify the contract.

Had delegates even an ounce of trust and faith in CPS the strike could have been suspended earlier. Given the years long and ongoing antagonistic behavior of both the Board and the mayor, a framework was insufficient grounds for suspension of the job action until the process was finished.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

is it just me

Or has this sb7 layoff p policy turned a dedicated veteran teacher into a number crunching employee at will. Just read the value added section of reach. Its like reading a report on nanotechnology. Its gonna be a huge mess when layoffs come. If they close schools are they laying off by building or by school wide. As a satisfactory teacher my future is in peril. Lets face it reach is like a prescription drug that can be used
as a cure or damage if not used according to the instructions.

Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Re: post discussing continuation of strike

That was a very interesting comment. Because at the press conference following the HOD meeting President Lewis clearly stated that the next step in the approval process was for a yes or no vote by the full membership on the actual contract that was not provided to the HOD. This post seems to indicate that there will be another HOD meeting where a recommendation will be made to the membership as to whether they should vote up or down the contract. Or are you saying that delegates will individually recommend on a school by school basis to vote up or down the contract?

Let's be clear here I am in no way attempting to derail this deal but given the complexity of the interrelationship between state law and contracts under that law members need to know what they are agreeing to. I assume the leadership knows and believes even with all the potential escape provisions embedded in state law as they may relate to CPS honoring aspects of the proposed contract in the likely event of a fiscal shortfall over the next three years without any reserve fund that this is all that could be done.

I think the members should know this too.

Rod Estvan

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