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NEWS ANALYSIS: 'No Deal!'... Chicago Teachers Union gets more stalling and insults from CPS negotiators before fourth day of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 ends at midnight on September 13, 2012

In the second midnight moment of the week of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, negotiators for the Chicago Teachers Union left the massive Chicago Hilton Hotel at midnight on September 13, 2012, told the massive media phalanx that there was no deal, and went to their homes across the city. The negotiators for the union, a half dozen people (including the four officers of the union) at the main table and more than 40 teachers and other school workers from the bigger "bargaining team." The men and women from the Chicago Teachers Union represented more experience in actual Chicago teaching — most of it in one of the most massive ghettos in the USA in the most segregated city in the Northern Hemisphere — than all of the members of the city's Board of Education and all of the highest paid school administrators in the city combined. And the CTU group was a small fraction of the experienced veteran teachers and other school workers who had sustained the strike since it began on September 10.

Above, a small part of the massive rally of 10,000 teachers and supporters held outside Marshall High School on Chicago's West Side on September 12, 2012. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.Despite those facts, the average media portrayal of the events — including in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal — had reduced the entire thing to some kind of reality TV show competition between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTU President Karen Lewis. And while many in the corporate media have begun to portray the strikers as fierce but mindless partisans, the opposite is the case. Chicago teachers know more about the city, its schools, and its children than Chicago's school leaders. The imbalance in power and the disconnect between the programs of the powerful and the realities of the 21st Century have brought this about.

One example staring the union's leaders and its most active members is the ridiculous composition not only of the Chicago Board of Education (which the union has derided for more than a year as the "billionaires and millionaires Board...) but also the top administration of CPS itself. The CPS leadership at this point is composed of people earning six-figure salaries who have no teaching or administrative experience in Chicago and who owe their jobs to the corrupt patronage of corporate America. The teachers are not only talking about "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard (who was imported to Chicago by Rahm Emanuel from Rochester New York in May 2011 after being virtually driven out of Rochester) and his quarter million dollar annual salary, but everyone on Brizard's administrative team (most of whom owe their jobs more to the billionaire Eli Broad and his Broad Foundation than to their knowledge of or service in Chicago's schools). By 2012, more administrative jobs in Chicago's schools were (including chief of security) were going to MBAs with no reality experience in the school and classrooms than to veterans of the city's real public schools.

It is far from a one-on-one featuring the former White House Chief of Staff, overrated for years as a tough guy, and the daughter of two Chicago public school teachers who less than three years ago was teaching chemistry an a South Side high school and her fellow officers, all of whom were equally in their classrooms.

Earlier in the day, the union leaders had issued a press release stating their guarded optimism about the talks. Members of the 700-member House of Delegates will be meeting on Friday, September 14, at the Operating Engineers union hall on S. Grove St. at 2:00 p.m.

CRU PRESS RELEASE AS OF LATE AFTERNOON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012:

No School Friday, as strike heads toward a fifth day... Union calls Special House of Delegates Session to Update Union Leaders at 2 p.m. Friday

CHICAGO – Chicago Public School classes will not resume on Friday, September 14. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has called a special House of Delegates meeting for 2:00 p.m. at Operating Engineers Hall, 2260 S. Grove Street. During the meeting, the Bargaining Team will update the leadership on new developments in the ongoing contract talks.

While veteran Chicago teacher Tara Stamps (with microphone) speaks. students and teachers bring forward the message of the September 12, 2012 rally outside Marshall High School on Chicago's West Side. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.Karen Lewis said, “We are optimistic but we are still hammering things out. Schools will not open Friday. Talks are ongoing. We’ve made progress in some areas, but still we have a way to go. Teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians remain hopeful but energized.”

The CTU is setting the stage for a “Wisconsin-style” labor rally at noon on Saturday, September 15 in Union Park. Hundreds of supporters are expected to travel to Chicago to participate.

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The union is not on strike over matters governed exclusively by IELRA Section 4.5 and 12(b).

The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com .

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NEWS REPORTS FOLLOW HERE:

1. HUFFINGTON POST (WEE HOURS OF SEPTEMBER 14, 2012):

Chicago Teachers Strike: Union, City Fail To Reach Contract Deal. 09/14/2012 1:58 am Updated: 09/14/2012 4:16 am

After a marathon session in Chicago's Hilton hotel, rank and file members of the Chicago Teachers Union spilled into the street at midnight central time with no contract agreement -- only the promise of a continued strike.

"No deal," a source close to the negotiations told The Huffington Post seven minutes before midnight.

"We came in very optimistic and we left very disappointed," the source later said.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus confirmed that no deal was reached. She added that both sides planned to meet again on Friday morning.

CPS board president David Vitale concurred. "We've got number crunching to do overnight," Vitale said, according to radio station WBEZ.

CTU is striking for the first time in 25 years, taking to the streets to protest Mayor Rahm Emanuel's education agenda. The latest news comes after parties on both sides said they were inching closer to a resolution. In fact, a source said, the two parties had mostly cleared up the thorny issue of teacher evaluations, agreeing to a scheme that decreased emphasis on the rankings based on students' standardized test scores.

Twenty-five percent of the rankings will be composed of standardized test scores, and another 10 percent will come from teachers' evaluation of student performance, thus satisfying a state law's requirement of relying on performance measures for 30 percent or more after the first year. The agreement also provided more recourse to teachers ranked in the lowest categories. If a teacher's practice or overall score improved, he or she would not be dropped into the lowest category.

The negotiations have proceeded in fits and starts, with breakthrough moments quickly leading to hopeless, locked down bargaining. The source in the room said the biggest sticking points were about salary, contract length and rights for laid-off teachers.

On the salary front, CTU is calling for a 5.8 percent raise, which is higher than CPS's latest offer of an immediate 2 percent increase. Last year, Emanuel yanked a 4 percent raise that was written into the teachers' contract, citing the district's gaping deficit.

"It wasn't so much the 2 percent as much as members still being upset about losing the 4 percent from last year," the source said.

CTU also wants additional rights for dismissed teachers. Currently, if Chicago teachers are laid off, they make $35,000 a year and get benefits working as a substitute teacher as they try to find a regular job. CPS wanted to change that to a day-to-day substitute position that pays $140 a day with no benefits. CTU president Jesse Sharkey told the bigger negotiating team that he estimates CPS is trying to save $100 million overall.

The board and CTU also reportedly sparred about contract length, the source said. CTU wants a two-year contract, largely the union distrusts the mayor after he pulled last year's raise. A shorter contract would also allow another strike before Emanuel's reelection. CPS, the source said, wants a four-year contract, and was not willing to accept a compromise of three years.

CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters outside the Hyatt that she and CPS President Vitale are considering some "creative" methods of resolving the recall issue.

Robert Bloch, CTU's lead attorney, told Catalyst Chicago magazine earlier in the evening that "negotiations go up and down. There are many areas, facets to be worked out."

One of the negotiators told WBEZ about CPS, "They're not playing fair." Catalyst Chicago also reported a negotiator saying that CPS's board "stopped bargaining and dug in their heels."

On Friday, teachers are planning to canvass their neighborhoods then picket at their schools. At 2 p.m., CTU intends to hold a gathering of delegates. And on Saturday, the union will host a "Wisconsin-style" rally.

An Illinois state law passed one year ago made it harder for the Chicago union to strike by requiring 75 percent of its membership to vote in favor. The union had no trouble clearing that bar; 90 percent of Chicago teachers voted to strike this summer after months of sparring with the city.

And teachers aren't the only ones in favor of the strike. A poll conducted by We Ask America found that 56 percent of 1,344 Chicago voters surveyed said they approved of the decision to strike; 40 percent said they disapproved. The strike is especially popular among the city's minorities: 63 percent of African Americans and 65 percent of Latinos approved. Support was also strong among whites.

The strike has been ongoing since Monday, with the union, which represents nearly 30,000 teachers, demanding major changes to the Emanuel administration's education agenda. The union has said it wants a guarantee that principals will be forced to rehire laid-off teachers before looking for new ones, an issue that has come to be known as recall rights.

The union has also demanded significant changes to the way the Emanuel administration wants to evaluate teachers, asking for less of an emphasis on standardized test scores and an overhaul of the consequences associated with the rankings. (An Illinois state law passed recently requires standardized tests eventually to count for 30 to 50 percent of teachers' overall ratings.)

Lewis has said the strike has broader pedagogical goals as well. As she and many other Chicago teachers have explained, class sizes in some schools are exploding and the system doesn't have enough social workers or, in many cases, desks or textbooks. Many teachers have reported teaching in 90-degree weather, since not all school buildings have working air conditioning.

Stay tuned for further updates.

This story was updated at 3:15 a.m. with more details about the negotiations.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES REPORT BELOW HERE:

CPS officials say agreement possible Friday, union less optimistic. BY ROSALIND ROSSI, STEFANO ESPOSITO, KIM JANSSEN, AND LAUREN FITZPATRICK Staff Reporters September 13, 2012 9:50AM

Updated: September 14, 2012 2:33AM

The two sides trying to end the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years emerged from marathon contract talks early Friday, with school officials holding out the possibility that a package might be ready for a union sign off in the afternoon.

“Anything is realistic. We’re really closing a lot of gaps,’’ said School Board President David Vitale as he emerged from negotiations around 12:45 a.m.

However, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was less optimistic.

“I hope he knows something that I don’t know,’’ Lewis told reporters.

While Vitale thought classes could resume for kids on Monday, Lewis said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I certainly hope so.’’

A positive sign, both sides indicated, was that some new approaches were floated at Thursday’s talks that required both parties to do some number-crunching before negotiations were scheduled to resumed at 9 a.m. Friday. On Thursday, talks lasted about 15 hours.

Vitale said they included the thorny issue of the recall of laid off teachers, requiring district staff to analyze the financial implications of the approach. Said Vitale: “we have a general idea of what we’d like to do if the numbers work.’’

Lewis walked into Thursday’s talks around 9:30 a.m, saying she was “praying, praying, praying’’ that an agreement will be signed and delivered in time for schools to open Monday for kids.

“I’m on my knees for that,’’ Lewis said.

The union’s House of Delegates, which must approve any deal, was scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. Friday.

At that time, said CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin, the group will be updated and offer input on talks that have dragged on for nine months. Delegates also could “develop a new course of action,’’ she said without elaborating.

The timing of the meeting means that if a deal is ready, delegates could vote on it at that time. However, if delegates believe any agreement still needs more work, they could send negotiators back to the table and meet again before Monday for another update and possible vote.

The House of Delegates also could consider letting kids return to class while negotiators talk — something Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen have been pushing.

However, Lewis said Thursday her strong preference was to not return to work until a deal was sealed.

The union is organizing a huge rally at noon Saturday in Union Park. Depending on the state of talks, the rally could be a victory celebration or a show of force in the union’s push for what it calls a “fair contract.’’

Thousands of CTU members and other activists congregated Thursday in front of the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker, demanding the recall of Chicago School Board member Penny Pritzker, a Hyatt Hotels board member whose father co-founded the hotel chain.

Protesters contended Pritzker had a conflict sitting on the school board, because her hotel chain had benefitted from tax increment financing funds that diverted money from schools.

“That money is for our children. It’s for blighted communities. Does downtown look blighted?” teacher Tara Stamps of Jenner Academy asked the crowd. “We need the money that Penny took.’’

The Rev. Jesse Jackson made another appearance Thursday afternoon at talks, located in the Conrad Chicago on South Michigan.

After meeting with both sides he said he detected an “earnestness” that he had not observed before.

“I’m optimistic something will happen by Monday,” Jackson said.

Meanwhile, across the nation, educators and education advocates were watching the Chicago showdown over what Mayor Rahm Emanuel has identified as the two big stumbling blocks to an agreement — job security and teacher evaluations.

Those issues, said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, are “huge” and in contention nationwide.

Across the education reform community, said Walsh, “Chicago is all we’re talking about. That’s all anyone is talking about.’’

The last CPS pay offer on the table is 2 percent in each of four years, plus extra raises for teacher experience and credentials. In addition, CPS has agreed to withdraw a contract clause that lets the board rescind any raise it can’t afford, meaning any raises would be guaranteed. The board used that opt-out clause last year to cancel a 4 percent raise, infuriating teachers.

But teachers say money isn’t the issue as much as working conditions, teacher evaluations and recall rights for laid-off teachers. The latter two are critical given the district’s push to close schools and open charters — two moves that threaten CTU job security.

On the issue of job protection, CTU officials want the board to continue the interim deal — reached at the 11th hour to ensure Emanuel’s longer day would start on time — that requires principals to choose from a pool of qualified laid-off teachers if at least three of them apply for an opening.

However, since that agreement, Emanuel and a group of principals have insisted that principals can’t be held accountable for the results at their schools if they can’t pick the teachers they want.

Leading that charge is School Board member Mahalia Hines, a former CPS principal.

Also incredibly sticky is the issue of a new teacher evaluation system, which eventually puts more weight on student growth than the 30 percent required by a new state law.

“The system they are using to evaluate people is based on an extremely complicated, esoteric formula to measure student growth — so complicated I think everybody on the CPS team will admit they don’t understand it,” CTU attorney Robert Bloch said. “Experts developed it but not educators.”

Of special concern is that 70 percent of CPS teachers do not teach a tested subject, yet up to 20 percent of their evaluation would be based on schoolwide test results, Bloch said.

Another at least 10 percent would be based on student growth on district-written “performance’’ tasks being used for the first time this school year.

In addition, the complicated algorithms used to determine student growth — called “value-added” — are being debated nationwide.

“The problem is, how do you hold teachers accountable for improvement when so many things that are used to evaluate them are outside their control or very complicated?’’ Bloch said.

“The science behind the student growth aspects of testing is untested and uncertain, and you’re going to risk a teacher’s career based on some guy in a back room writing algorithms or students who are not tested in the subject you’re teaching?

“There’s a lot of unknowns. People’s careers should not be decided by factors people don’t really understand.”

Tim Daly of The New Teacher Project, a teacher advocacy and policy group, said the previous CPS rating system wasn’t working because it placed 93 percent of teachers in the top two categories and only three out of 1000 in “unsatisfactory,’’ or the bottom category, which gives teachers 90 days to improve or face dismissal.

The results were so skewed, Daly said, they did a poor job of identifying poor as well as outstanding teachers. Growth on student test scores combined with other measuring sticks should work better, he said.

The CPS plan would let teachers appeal “erroneous’’ ratings, and a joint committee would fine-tune the system after the first year, CPS officials say.

“It’s perfectly normal to be apprehensive, but it hasn’t been implanted yet,’’ Daly said. “They should at least give this a chance to work before saying it needs to be something else.’’



Comments:

September 14, 2012 at 7:10 AM

By: Susan Ohanian

No deal

I can't tell you how much I appreciate Substance coverage. Yesterday I was watching Chicago media, NY Times, et al announce that the strike was over. I'll believe it when I see it in Substance.

The NPR coverage was such a disgrace that I'm still fuming. Want to get to the heart of the matter? Invite the head of the Gates-funded National Council on Teacher Quality the heart of what's happening in Chicago. And the Gates-funded NPR person was reporting from Boston. That sure is how to get to the heart of things in Chicago.

http://www.susanohanian.org/outrage_fetch.php?id=1436

September 14, 2012 at 8:35 PM

By: Kati Gilson, NBCT

Marshall

Super proud of my colleagues at Sumner and our hosts at Hefferan this week. Both are in this picture I took. You guys rock!

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