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Citing 'Negotiations', Marilyn Stewart dodges PUSH debate scheduled for June 5 (this Saturday)

Citing what she called "negotiations," Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart told the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. that she would not be attending a scheduled pre-election debate against her opponent in the June 11 runoff, King HIgh School teacher Karen Lewis. As of early on June 4, there was no response from Rev. Jackson or from CORE.

Marilyn Stewart's letter to Rev. Jackson, dated June 2, appeared on the union website on June 3. It reads as follows:

June 2, 2010

Dear Rev. Jackson:

Thank you for your thoughtful invitation to participate ion a debate on Saturday, June 5, 2010. Under normal circumstances, I would be delighted to participate in a second debate but as you know and amply recognize these are not normal circumstance in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS)

as we deal with threats of budget cuts, increased class sizes, and a continuous and imminent assault on our existing contract.

Time is of the essence as we fight for our membership and the hard earned rights we have obtained. Unfortunately, the CPS leadership sees the rights of organized labor and the education of the children we serve as a secondary concern. Although elections and further debates are important, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is in the midst of negotiations to stop the CPS leadership from increasing class sizes and threatening the jobs and employment rights of our membes. I hope you understand my priority at the moment.

Following these pressing negotiations, I would be honored to join you and other distinguished leaders as I have many times in the past to discuss public policy and educational concerns.

I thank you again for your kind invitation, your understanding, and for your continued support of my administration and our mutual efforts on behalf of teachers, paraprofessionals, and the children and parents we serve.

Respectfully,

Marilyn Stewart, President, Chicago Teachers Union

Despite some claims by members of Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus in the Board of Education's e-mail system (First Class), the proposal for the debate came from PUSH chief Jesse Jackson Jr. and had been communicated to Stewart several days before she sent Rev. Jackson her refusal to be present.

By late Friday, June 4, CORE presidential candidate Karen Lewis announced that she intended to be at PUSH to discuss the issues in the forthcoming CTU election, with or without Marilyn Stewart being there.

Substance reporters were also trying to get copies of the "negotiating" schedule showing that Marilyn Stewart had been negotiating with anyone. Reliable sources have told Substance that the negotiations, insofar as they have taken place, have been between attorneys for the CTU (including the new addition to the CTU legal team, south suburban Democratic Party lawyer Burton Odelson) and the Board's legal team, headed by James Franczek, an outside attorney who has represented the Board in union contract negotiations for more than a decade. Stewart, according to sources, has not been in attendance at any of those sessions. 



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