Chicago Teachers Union declares four-point program for school improvement

Halloween was just another day for Chicago's public schools "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard, pushing with rather maniacal single-mindedness the one policy he had: the so-called 'Longer School Day." But as more and more information (as opposed to publicity stunts and talking points, often orchestrated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and supported by a group of hired protesters from the city's poorer communities) about classroom and children's realities came out, Brizard was more and more reluctant to try and explain what he had devoted months to promoting. Parent groups across Chicago were challenging the notion that the best way to improve the public schools for their children was for the city's elementary schools to go from the current school day to one that would last seven and a half hours. Even the Chicago Tribune, which had been almost mindless in its enthusiasms for Brizard and his boss, had to admit that the "best" (as measured by test scores) elementary schools in the Chicago area were not keeping their elementary children in school for the "90 more minutes and two more weeks" that Emanuel's protesters had been carrying signs on behalf of.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and State Senator Esther Golar during the LEAD Dinner on October 28, 2011. The union presented Senator Golar (and State Rep. Monique Davis) with the "David Peterson Award" for outstanding legislative work. Substance photo by Howard Heath.Then, to add to the discussion, the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union released part of their full program for a "better school day," and it quickly began gathering support across the city, while the lingering repertoire of publicity stunts from City Hall and 125 S. Clark St. became almost a parody of the first six months of Chicago in the Reign of Rahm.

The CTU program was simple enough for any parent to understand. It was unveiled quietly at the enormously popular LEAD dinner on October 28, 2011.

In the program for the LEAD dinner, the union unveiled its "CTU Education Policy and Legislative Program Highlights for 2011 - 2012." Here is what they say:


Smaller class size leads to educational achievement, especially in elementary grades.

Yet a new CTU study of state records documents this fact: when it comes to crowding students into classrooms, the Chicago public school system ranks among the top offenders in Illinois.

Our own school survey found over 200 classrooms where the Chicago Board of Education violates its own policy on the maximum number of students allowed. In one school, for example, we found 43 students packed into a third grade classroom. This is unacceptable.

We will continue to advocate for these children even thought Illinois law unfairly prevents us from officially negotiating for smaller class sizes. You can help us change this law.


Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis (left), and Legislative Director Stacy Davis-Gates (center) waited to present the Defender of Public Education award to Alderman Deborah Graham and Alderman Robert Fioretti at the October 28 LEAD dinner. Alderman Scott Waguespack, who received the award in 2010, is at the podium. Substance photo by Howard Heath.]Instability, mostly at neighborhood schools, begins on the very first day of school because each year the Chicago school board waits until the 20th day of the school year to announce final teacher class assignments. The result is four weeks of school understaffing and disruption of the teaching and learning that was already underway. Instead of adequate planning, the school board uses the entire first month of the school year as a "wait and see" period. Education is in limbo while the school board decides where to put teachers. The Illinois School Code mandates that there cannot be a reduction in teachers due to decrease in the number of students at a school after the 20th day of the school year. You can help us change this law.


By law, Chicago Public School District 299 is the only one in Illinois with an appointed school board. The majority of Chicagoans support our call for democracy, a simple an fundamental principal, in how our school board members are chosen. Electing school board members will provide parents and citizens with more input into school decision-making. It will also help us hold the school board accountable to the public and not to politicians. We want a school board that is representative, accountable, inclusive and transparent. You can help us change this law.


The average Chicago Teachers Pension Fund CTPF) retiree earns $42,000 per year. Of the 87,000 retired teachers in Illinois, almost one in five (17,269) receive a pension that's less than $20,000. Our retired members have spent up to 35 years educating students and count on the pension promised by the state.

Substance staff members Grady Jordan, Sharon Schmidt (editor) and George N. Schmidt were among the nearly 1,000 teachers at the October 28 LEAD dinner. Substance photo by Howard Heath.We are not allowed to receive Social Security. We contribute 9% of our salary to our pension fund each payday. The Chicago Board of Education is still on a "pension holiday" and has not paid into the fund for over a decade — now our pension plan is in crisis and teachers have been blamed for the financial woes of the schools and state. Chicago corporate CEOs, many of whom will collect millions of dollar when they retire, are pushing "solutions" to take control of and reduce our pensions rather than require adequate funding for them. You can help us stop these bills.


November 5, 2011 at 4:44 PM

By: Rho Leo

Class size

In my school there are 42 fourth graders in one class, 36 fifth graders (and taking some overflow from 4th), 41 seventh graders in a class and 45 KINDERGARTNERS!!! CPS policy is to wait until they have 54 KINDERGARTNERS and then they split the class into two groups. It is not about the children, its about the politics. AND thanks to Karen and CTU for stopping the intimidation for the 90 minutes!!!

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