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Chicago schools strike incites teachers unions

by Ben Wolfgang
Washington Times
September 23, 2012

With Chicago’s ugly strike behind them, teachers unions are regrouping with a public relations blitz, meant to both repair a tarnished image and rally members who are under more fire than ever.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the parent organization of the Chicago Teachers Union, will hold town halls, workshops and other events in the coming weeks in New York, Philadelphia and nearly a dozen other major cities, the labor group announced Friday.

The move, analysts say, shows that unions aren’t backing down after the Chicago strike, which lasted more than a week and grew out of a bitter battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over teacher evaluations, salaries and other issues.

Rather than unions’ Waterloo, the Chicago walkout likely was a precursor of things to come.

“Unless the balance of power changes, there will be another strike,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform and critic of teachers unions. “Just because to spark a revolution against this.”

The strike was first time in more than 25 years that Windy City teachers walked off the job. The standoff with Mr. Emanuel, a former chief of staff for President Obama, was resolved with concessions from both sides.

Teachers will get an average 17.6 percent pay raise, significantly less than the 30 percent hike initially sought, over the next four years. The union successfully fought off Mr. Emanuel’s efforts to have student test scores count for as much as 45 percent of teacher evaluations, negotiating the number down to no higher than 30 percent, according to terms of the deal.

Teachers also succeeded in resisting merit pay and

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To Russia (or Chicago), With Love?

Dear Friend,

Are we in Russia??

I thought the strike was bad enough. Thousands of children out of school who are already 2-3 years behind on average, if not 5 or 6! Parents with no power, staff at failing schools who continue to get paid in spite of it all.

But the contract outline prepared by the Chicago Teachers Union really takes the cake:

“Our brothers and sisters throughout the country have been told that corporate ‘school reform’ was unstoppable, that merit pay had to be accepted and that the public would never support us if we decided to fight. Cities everywhere have been forced to adopt performance pay. Not here in Chicago! Months ago, CTU members won a strike authorization vote that our enemies thought would be impossible-now we have stopped the Board from imposing merit pay! We preserved our lanes and steps when the politicians and press predicted they were history. We held the line on healthcare costs. We have tremendous victories in this contract; however, it is by no means perfect. While we did not win on every front and will need to continue our struggle into the future.”

Their struggle? For what? To ensure that they always come first over kids? That they control the education system and not the results?

They might as well have said “Dear Comrades!”

Pity the highly successful teacher who was on the picket line due to no fault of her own. Becoming a teacher in most public school systems today comes with mandatory membership in the union. Oh sure, technically you can choose not to join the union, but making that choice will mean getting harassed by the leadership and still paying agency fees for the bargaining they do on your behalf.

That bargaining resulted in the strike that ended last night. Not only did the union

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When the Unions “Embrace” Weak Reforms and Try to Look Like Real Reformers

(CER President Jeanne Allen shared her thoughts with reporters in an email earlier this week. We thought everyone has a right to know what’s happening.)

The teacher evaluation piece in the Chicago contract negotiation is so weak to start that it’s almost unfathomable that the union would waste political capital on this piece. Have you looked at what the evaluation language of the new law and the Mayor’s demands actually say? It is not, as some have reported, about finite test scores. The 25% now and 40% later of evaluations that are said to be determined based on test scores are not based on one formula, yet. It’s fuzzy, as it has been in most laws recently passed and most contracts. Evaluations can include test scores, but how and who decides is still up in the air. This is not unusual in any case today, but it is underreported.

Take DC, for example. Teachers are evaluated against an average composite of predicted scores for certain kids. The extent to which their kids, over time, meet or exceed the predicted scores for similar kids is PART of their overall evaluation. “Performance” in IMPACT also includes peer, principal and some district observations, as well as factors relating to the school as a whole. And that’s only part of it. The comparisons are done by the research organization, Mathematica – externally evaluated – not a principal reviewing individual test scores.

These factors – who evaluates, how, based on what, over what time, and what the 25% of evaluation actually means (!!) has yet to be determined.

The union is not striking against evaluations, but they are using it to incite their members without informing them it has yet to be determined. They are striking against the notion that ANY evaluation is on the

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No Ruling Yet In CTU Strike

“Judge Delays Chicago Strike Ruling”
by Stephanie Banchero
Wall Street Journal
September 18, 2012

A judge declined on Monday to immediately order Chicago public-school teachers back into their classrooms, rebuffing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to end the six-day strike on the grounds that it is illegal.

The Chicago school district filed suit Monday morning asking Cook County Circuit Court Judge Peter Flynn to prohibit the union from striking, arguing that Illinois law bars the teachers from striking over noneconomic issues, such as layoffs, teacher evaluations and the length of the school day. It also said the strike, which it called a “weapon,” is a “clear and present danger to public health and safety” by keeping students out of school.

After a brief meeting with a school-district lawyer later Monday morning, Judge Flynn, a Democrat first appointed in 1999 and up for a retention vote in November, said he needed more time to look over materials before issuing a ruling. He scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.

The lawsuit came a day after the Chicago Teachers Union’s governing board declined to call an end to the strike, the first teacher walkout in the city in 25 years. The union delegates said they wanted more time to look over a tentative deal that was finalized just hours before a meeting Sunday afternoon. They also voiced unhappiness with the agreement.

The battle has catapulted Chicago into the national debate over teacher evaluations, job security and the power of labor unions and pitted Mr. Emanuel, a Democrat and former chief of staff for President Barack Obama, against organized labor.

Union leaders said the delegates would meet again Tuesday—there were no meetings Monday because of Rosh Hashana—to discuss the district’s latest contract offer, meaning classes couldn’t resume until Wednesday at the earliest. The city was hoping to force teachers back into the classroom

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Strike Means 350,000 Out Of School

“Chicago Teachers Go on Strike”
by Stephanie Banchero
Wall Street Journal
September 10, 2012

Chicago public-school teachers went on strike Monday, canceling classes in the nation’s third-largest school system, after marathon contract talks with city officials ended Sunday night without a deal.

The teachers’ strike is the first in Chicago in a quarter-century and the first in a big U.S. urban district since one in Detroit in 2006. It follows months of acrimony between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The city has canceled classes for some 350,000 students, though about 144 of its 681 schools were scheduled to open Monday, staffed by district workers, to provide breakfast, lunch and basic activities.

Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union, said it was a “difficult decision and one we’d hoped to avoid.”

She said the two sides weren’t far apart on wages but said they couldn’t agree on other issues, including health benefits and the new teacher-evaluation system.

David Vitale, president of the Chicago Board of Education, who was at the negotiating table, said the city offered teachers a 3% raise the first year and 2% annually for the next three years—which would cost about $400 million.

“We believe we have been as responsive as we know how and within our financial capability,” he said during a late-night news conference. “This is not a small commitment at a time when our financial situation is challenged.”

The conflict comes amid broader tension during the economic downturn between public-sector unions and state and local governments trying to plug budget gaps.

The Chicago battle has pitted Ms. Lewis, one of the country’s抯 most vocal labor leaders, against Mr. Emanuel, one of its most prominent mayors and the former White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama. The Democratic mayor has made efforts to overhaul the city’s public education a centerpiece

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Teachers Unions Demonstrate Real Agenda

Chicago Strike One More Indication That Rhetoric Rings Hollow

CER News Alert
Washington, D.C.
September 10, 2012

The teacher’s union leaders have, for the last few years, worked hard to correct the impression that their focus is on job protection, and that they, too, like the rest of the nation, are frustrated with the slow pace of school improvement. The alleged willingness of the unions to engage in conversations about teacher quality and to call for an end to failing schools has all been interpreted as a sign that they have turned the corner. Some of us have remained unconvinced, recognizing that many often confuse action with rhetoric. The Chicago teacher’s strike of 2012 settles the issue once and for all. Parents and students are left without the education their taxes support. Taxpayers in general are beholden to union demands that are focused on rights and protections, not on kids. Chicago remains among the worst performing school districts in the nation, yet instead of embracing the mayor’s rational, modest proposals to begin instituting limited performance evaluations, union leaders begin acting more like the Chicago thugs of old than the leaders they want to be considered today.

At a time when everyone in this nation is tightening belts, and with education the key to economic solvency, educators should be encouraged to stand up for accountability not ordered to strike over it.

This move by the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated Chicago Teachers Union proves the point that has been written about often: the fancy public relations ploys and rhetoric about quality is no substitute for action. The unions are thwarting even the most modest efforts to measure teacher quality. We said last year that New York’s much praised performance agreement with unions was unlikely to result in any substantive change and we were right. Just

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