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Chicago Teachers Strike Highlights ‘Societal Problem’

by Fawn Johnson
National Journal
September 19, 2012

There is a bright spot to the Chicago Teachers Union strike that ended Tuesday after keeping the city’s kids at home and its public-school teachers picketing the streets: People are actually talking about education.

They are saying things like this: “When you have two-thirds of our children not college- and/or career-ready and we spend more per student than any country in the world, that is a societal problem. What’s going on in Chicago is sort of a leading indicator of things to come.” That’s Florida’s former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush on MSNBC. Bush is an advocate of student assessments who occasionally clashes with teachers unions.

Or this: “The more difficult task is to make sure the right people are getting into the classroom. I think it is the wrong mental model to let anybody in and then make it easier to fire our hiring mistakes.” That’s National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel on C-Span. NEA is not involved in the specifics of the strike, but it is supporting the Chicago union in principle.

Voters care greatly about education. In a Pew Research poll earlier this year, 72 percent of respondents rated education as “very important” to their vote. Yet both presidential candidates have largely ignored the concept in their campaigns. For whatever reason, education isn’t the kind of winner that moves the dial for a candidate in the electorate.

“People typically put education in their top three, or at worst, top six issues. But I believe they don’t know how to vote on education. They are so convinced that schools are local,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a group that is critical of teachers unions.

Allen says the Obama administration isn’t weighing in on the Chicago dispute because it is afraid

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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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Chicago teachers’ strike hurts our kids

by Terry Moe, special to CNN
CNN
September 11, 2012

Editor’s note: Terry M. Moe is the William Bennett Munro professor of political science at Stanford University, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a member of the Koret Task Force for K-12 Education. He is the author of “Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools” (Brookings, 2011).

It is easy to see the Chicago teachers strike as an unfortunate incident that will soon pass. This is, after all, their first strike in 25 years. The norm is that the district and the Chicago Teachers Union have regularly negotiated their way to contracts every several years. So it might appear that, almost always, collective bargaining “works.”

But does it? The purpose of the Chicago school system — and of the American school system more generally — is to educate children. The way to assess collective bargaining is not to ask whether it works to bring labor peace. It is to ask whether it promotes the interests of children in a quality education. And the answer to that question is no, it does not. Not even remotely.

Collective bargaining is not fundamentally about children. It is about the power and special interests of adults. In Chicago and elsewhere, the teachers unions are in the business of winning better salaries and benefits, protecting job security, pressuring for restrictive work rules and in other ways advancing the occupational interests of their members. These interests are simply not the same as the interests of children.
And they inevitably lead, through the exercise of union power, to contracts whose countless formal rules are literally not designed to create an effective organization for schools. In fact, they guarantee that the schools will be organized in perverse ways that no one in their right mind would favor if they

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Job security at heart of 2 stumbling blocks

by Bill Ruthhart and Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune reporters
Chicago Tribune
September 11, 2012

Two issues being cited as primary stumbling blocks to a Chicago teachers contract are a recall policy for teachers and a teacher evaluation system. Both affect job security for teachers and are part of larger efforts to overhaul schools in the city and nationally.

TEACHER RECALL POLICY

The Chicago Teachers Union is pushing hard for a procedure to recall teachers who have been laid off because of school closings, consolidations and turnarounds. The issue is of critical importance, the union has said, because of rumors that the district plans to close as many as 100 schools in coming years.

Earlier this year, CPS and the union struck a deal over the longer school day that temporarily allowed for such a recall. In exchange for the union agreeing to an extra 30 minutes in high schools and 75 minutes in elementary schools, CPS agreed to rehire nearly 500 teachers in noncore subjects from a pool of teachers who had been laid off.

The district, however, has resisted making such a recall policy the permanent method for filling vacancies in Chicago schools.

“Teachers in this city agreed to a longer day … and what our union got in return for that was a promise there would be a recall procedure for those teachers who are going to be hired,” said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of CTU. “Now we see that offer is being taken away from the table, and there is no sign of respect there. That’s important for our members.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has framed the issue as one of accountability, saying he doesn’t want to place the district’s hiring control in the hands of the union through such a recall process.

“I don’t believe I should pick ’em. I don’t believe CPS should

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What is the BLOB?

The term “Blob” cropped up years ago when reformers began trying to work with the education establishment and ran smack into the more than 200 groups, associations, federations, alliances, departments, offices, administrations, councils, boards, commissions, panels, organizations, herds, flocks and coveys, which collectively make up the education industrial complex.

Taken individually they were frustrating enough, with their own agendas, bureaucracies, and power over education. But taken as a whole they were (and are) maddening in their resistance to change. Not really a wall — they always talk about change — but rather more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink out of sight leaving everything just as it had been.

They could have been called any number of things: a puddle, a maze, a swamp, a big fat fluffy feather pillow, but BLOB is what stuck. It’s really nothing personal, just descriptive shorthand, like calling accountants “bean counters” and Pentagon officials “brass hats,” and our friends in the blob (yes, we have blob friends) all seem to accept it with good humor. Still, to avoid hard feelings, when we describe the groups that make up the education establishment, we call them the Big Learning Organization Bureaucracies, or… BLOB.

State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons on Chicago strike: ‘Michigan teachers are better than that’

by Dave Murray
The Grand Rapids Press
September 10, 2012

Adding teeth to Michigan’s law preventing teachers from striking won’t be a topic in state House Education Committee meetings despite the walkout by 30,000 Chicago educators, the committee’s chairwoman said.

State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Ada, said there is a bill before her committee that would allow the state to suspend certification for teachers who strike.

But Lyons said there are more issues before the committee that she wants to address first, including making sure veterans have more educational opportunities.

“It’s so heartbreaking to see children being hurt because adults cannot find solutions,” she said of the Chicago strike.

She said the Education Committee last year conducted hearings on the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton. She has now immediate plans to call for a vote.

Lyons said she doesn’t think Michigan teachers will follow the lead of the Chicago teachers, who walked off the job on Monday in part because of objections to a plan to use student test scores in evaluations.

“Michigan teachers are better than that,” she said.

A group of 14 Michigan school districts are piloting four programs that would look at ways to link student achievement to teacher evaluations.

Michigan teachers strikes have been illegal since 1994, though there have been three strikes — two in Detroit and one in Wayne-Westland.

Michigan’s Public Act 112 stipulates striking teachers be fined one day’s pay for each day they refuse to work. But a district must report a strike to the Michigan Employee Relations Commission, which has up to 60 days to verify such an action was taken. The commission must then conduct individual hearings for each employee before approving fines or employee dismissals.

HB 4466, which has been on the House floor for more than a year, would allow districts to consolidate the hearings and

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Costly Chicago Strike

Windy City teachers are striking, leaving approximately 350,000 students out of class today. It is unclear how long these students will be out of school. The Chicago Teachers Union got nearly 90% of its members to authorize this strike, surpassing the 75% threshold required by law to authorize a strike. The teachers union says pay is not at the heart of the stalemate, but rather benefits and teacher evaluations.

Tensions with teachers unions have been brewing since Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing for longer days and tougher teacher evaluations. The CTU has made it clear they’re unhappy with Chicago reform proposals, even going as far as protesting at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house at one point. Unfortunately, this commotion is over evaluations that aren’t that strong to begin with — student performance only counts 25% in teacher evaluations, and that’s only by year five.

There’s a common misconception out there that teachers generally do not make very much money, but the average teacher salary in Chicago is $71,000 without benefits. CPS offered teachers a 16% pay raise, but the Chicago Teachers Union would not accept that offer. That raise was offered while the longer day issue was actually worked out so that current teachers would not have to work over the allotted hours they already work; CPS agreed to hire more teachers to fill in the extra hours students would be in school. The 90 minutes added to the school day would put CPS at the national average for student instructional time. Before that, CPS had the shortest school day in the nation.

Taxpayers are left to bear the brunt of the strike, as parents and students are left without the education their taxes support. Not only that, but taxpayers are the ones who have to

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Parents vs. The Blob

by Jeanne Allen
Highland Community News
September 10, 2012

A parent revolution is underway, and most Americans don’t have a clue it’s happening. That’s because most of us – concerned as we are about the environment, jobs and our own family’s sustainability – think education is someone else’s responsibility. And the self-perceived “owners” of the traditional education system – The Blob – stand in the way of virtually all meaningful education reform and work hard to give you the sense that everything is under control.

But reality has a way of intruding. Parents are waking up to the disturbing reality that they have no influence over where and how their children are educated. With eyes increasingly opened, they seek out others who have similar epiphanies and band together to change things. And then, like something out of a bad movie (cue creepy music) The Blob kicks into gear. The moment these parents gain any traction for real change, they find information that confirms they are not alone and they are off. And then, they are immediately maligned by phony Blob front groups portraying themselves as parent-friendly.

Case in point: As I was sitting at home on a recent Friday night, bracing myself for the week ahead when I’d be dropping my two youngest at college, I decided to tweet my pleasure over Teachers Rock, a solid hour on prime time TV whose star studded cast paid tribute to rank and file teachers. Such teachers move mountains for children and defy the status quo, often at great personal cost. This is illustrated by the upcoming feature film Won’t Back Down, which chronicles the efforts of a parent and teacher to transform their failing school. As it was advertised during the show, parent groups began praising what they saw, only to be attacked, as

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