CTU House of Delegates meeting faces news good and other

There was good news and bad news the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting held on Wednesday April 13, 2011, at the Operating Engineers Hall. And as the two main factions in the 30,000-member union lined up to dispute various questions, the majority of the delegates seemed to be sorting out what was going on after a tumultuous year, and on the eve of the long-awaited Spring Vacation.

"We maintained our right to strike," CTU president Karen Lewis told the delegates from Springfield via Skype. "(Chicago elect Mayor Rahm) Emanuel was determined to take away our right to strike," she continued. Lewis was referring to the political struggle that began in December when the well-funded school reform group "Stand for Children" introduced legislation (called "The Performance Counts Act of 2010") to push in Illinois on teachers and public schools what became more widely notorious in Wisconsin against all public worker unions. Lewis had spent a big part of the last three months working with the leaders of the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and the Illinois Education Association (IEA) against major legislation that was aimed at crippling teachers unions in Illinois the same way the unions are under attack in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, although less dramatically here.

One union observer noted that had Springfield passed a no strike resolution, the Democrats would have gone one step further than the Republicans in Wisconsin. There, the governor stripped the public sector unions from collective bargaining, but not striking. The anti-union measures prompted a massive resistance of up to 100,000 workers turning out to protest the drastic union-busting actions in Wisconsin.

However, next came the bad news. Legislators agreed to extend the length of the school day and school year after five months of negotiations between the teachers unions, business groups and school administrators. A copy of the current version of the legislation is now available through the Chicago Teachers Union web site (, but readers need to realize that the legislation, although agreed to by all groups involved in the discussions, still is not Illinois law.

"They want to add up to two hours to the school day and two weeks to the school year," Lewis said. "(But) we do know the board is broke."

While the teachers unions preserved the right to strike — the last CTU strike was in 1987 — no strike can occur until after four months of negotiations and a special arbitration panel hears the dispute. Then the CTU would have to give a 10-day notice of a strike and 75 percent of its members agree to it, Lewis said. Currently, the CTU can strike after a simple majority vote. As union members have pointed out, the legislation has given the Illinois General Assembly power to dictate what is essentially an internal union matter: how to conduct a vote of the membership on whether to strike. There was no discussion on April 13 of that fact, or on how it came about.

On the issue of evaluating teachers and the path to tenure (the original pretext for "Performance Counts") Lewis said beginning teachers would have to earn proficient or excellent ratings in two of their last four years in order to earn tenure. According to the Sun Times report, the legislation would allow schools outside Chicago to use job performance rather than seniority in layoff situations.

Chicago was omitted from these layoff provisions because of a lawsuit the CTU filed and won against the Board of Education for not following the proper procudure after firing more than 1500 teachers last summer, the Sun Times reported.

Other good news for teachers was Senate Bill 620 passed out of the education committee which would make it much harder for the Chicago Public Schools to do consolidations, turnaround and other closures until after a panel of representatives comprised of parents, teachers and administrators decide how to proceed with any school facilities changes.

"The facilities bill came from the task force," Lewis said. "The bill forces CPS to have a facilities plan, an education plan and a capital plan. Money is not being spent equitably, so this bill will force CPS to do the right thing."

In other news, nominations were made for functional vice president vacancies for five elementary, two high school and one school clerk to serve on the CTU executive board. The nomination process resembled political manuevering between the Caucus of Rank and File Teachers or CORE (of which this reporter is a member), and the United Progressive Party (or UPC), which ruled the CTU for over 40 years before losing to Core in last summer's election.

CORE nominated Schurz High School clerk Lucille Thompson, elementary school teachers Kim Bowsky from Seward, Kevin Condon from Stevenson, Lisa Dimberg from Carpenter, Maria Moreno from Nightengale and Monica Sims from Pershing West, and high school teachers Katie Hogan from Little Village School of Social Justice and Terrell Burgess from Westinghouse.

UPC nominted school clerks Diane Myron from Curie and Cecelia Scott from Simeon, elementary teachers Sharon Davis from Lee, Linda Goff from Chappell, Mark Ochoa from O'Toole, Edna Otero from Jackson and Tanya Saunders-Wolffe from Owens, and high school teachers Queen Ester Jackson from Gage Park and Victor Ochoa from Kelvyn Park.

A motion to approve an executive board decision to change the name of the human relations to the human rights committee to incorporate the rights of workers and teachers more broadly was passed.

In the vice president's report, it was noted the number of grievances filed by the union increased from 52 in January and 52 in February to 84 in March that resulted from payroll problems because the Board of Ed is using a new program for late swipe ins to work. In terms of the lawsuit won in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, while the fired teachers did not get their jobs back, CTU will make the case for a strong recall policy to give the laid-off members with tenure and proper qualifications to get the first chance to fill any open positions. With the upcoming new contract, the union will survey what members want in the next contract and will set up an organizing committee in every school to keep members informed and involved.

Other concerns reported at Wednesday's HOD meeting included discussing recess at a further date and discussing the universal breakfast program April 26 at 4:30pm at the union offices in the Merchandise Mart.

Sharon Schmidt, chairman of the Testing Committee, reported to the meeting that the CTU will be conducting a survey of all delegates to determine the extent of all the tests being required of teachers and students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The delegates were given the information about how to complete the survey on line through the CTU website.

Organizer Crystal Williams reported on the CTU's struggles against the closing and consolidations of schools this school year, reminding the delegates that CTU had helped the communities and schools gain victories (so far) against the consolidation of Marconi and Tilton and Beidler and Cather, both pairs of schools on the west side. The Board of Education was trying to jam the two schools together in order to give one of the buildings of each to charter schools (the Tilton/Marconi would have gone to "Talent Development High School"), Beidler-Cather to the west side "campus" of Urban Prep. Williams and others also reminded the delegates to turn out for the hearings on the possible "changes" of Bouchet elementary school on the far south side.


April 15, 2011 at 12:52 PM

By: Sarah


The CTU House of delegates meeting was held during Track E break . How could nominations take place, let alone other business, when 1/3 of the delegates were on spring break on Apr.13th. Maybe they'll have the June meeting after school gets out.

Was there a quorum?

April 15, 2011 at 6:31 PM

By: Nick

Rahm Interview

Rahm basically told Fox News that we've already been paid for a longer school day and year by our raises the past few years.

April 19, 2011 at 11:07 AM

By: Danny

April meeting

Attendance looked lighter than usual, but not by one-third. It's hard to gauge these things from the floor, but I'd be surprised if there were not enough members present to make a quorum.

Not to slight Jim Vail's story, but I always look forward to reading Mary Beth Foley's report of the HOD meetings. Like Theresa Daniels before her, MBF gives a play-by-play of the speakers with analysis.

An opposition party is essential to keep the ruling party in-line, but the UPC is really grasping at straws (straw men of their own making, in fact) when there are enough substantive issues with CORE they might seize upon instead. Sigh.

BTW, isn't Victor Ochoa still at Schurz (rather than KP)?

April 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM

By: Nate Goldbaum

CTU Executive Board Nominations

Two points:

1. Although CORE formed the unity slate, it includes Lisa Dimberg - with CSDU - and Kevin Condon - with PACT. Lucille Thompson is not currently caucus affiliated. CORE deliberately sought a slate that included members of non-UPC caucuses.

2. I've heard rumors that some have called Kevin Condon's nomination of Brian Grauer (not acknowledged in the article) a breach of our slate's unity. As far as CORE is concerned, Kevin is absolutely still a part of our slate and his nomination of a personal friend is not a problem for us.

Please vote for the CORE slate and keep CTU moving forward.

April 27, 2011 at 4:17 PM

By: Jim Cavallero

Functional VP Nominations/Games

What I thought was interesting and pathetic at the same time, and that JV left out of this article, is that UPC tried to close nominations once they got there five elementary vp candidates nominated. First of all it violates Robert's Rules of Order as it is to be open until all nominations have been made. Vice-President Sharkey allowed it though and it was voted down overwhelmingly by the members. Second, it shows that UPC is still not interested in democracy. Why not allow as many people to be nominated as want to be? Perhaps they realize their time is over.

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