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Contract challenge now has mandate... Stewart wins after bitter CTU election fight

Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart was president of the CTU in a landslide victory Friday, May 18, with 76 percent of the vote, the CTU announced May 19. The election was held in all Chicago public schools and other workplaces on May 17, 2007.

Stewart’s received 15,734 votes compared with 5,036 for her opponent, former union president Deborah Lynch.

Stewart, 54, is a member of the United Progressive Caucus UPC), which controlled the CTU for about 30 years before Lynch’s upset victory in 2001. She taught deaf and hard-of-hearing students at Kinzie Elementary School for 28 years and served as CTU delegate for Kinzie for 25 years.

Lynch has been teaching special education at Gage Park High School since September 2004.

“I will never forget your support and belief that we were for the right things for the members. Thank you all and see you sometime soon,” Lynch told her supporters in an e-mail message the day the results became known.

The turnout was lower than it has been in previous elections, with less than 21,000 votes cast. Three years ago, more than 22,000 educators voted, or about two-thirds of the union members.

After her defeat in 2004, Lynch returned to a teaching position at Gage Park High School after serving as union president from 2001 to 2004. During the 1980s, Lynch had worked for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Washington, D.C. In the early 1990s she headed the CTU QUEST Center under CTU president Jacqueline Vaughn.

According to an analysis in the Chicago Tribune, “The rematch between these two special education teachers was decidedly more low-key than their 2004 race, when Stewart beat Lynch by 566 votes. The razor-thin victory sparked an ugly standoff amid allegations of voter fraud. The results were briefly overturned until the national union stepped in and dismissed the allegations.”

The UPC campaign focused on what Stewart said were the weaknesses in the contract negotiated by Lynch. Lynch blamed Stewart for the expansion of Renaissance 2010, a corporate "school reform" program aimed at remaking so-called "failing" schools and turning them over to private groups. Lynch said the program hurts students in vulnerable neighborhoods and has cost the union thousands of teaching jobs.

A number of teachers, included some who had supported Lynch in the past but voted for Stewart, said that Stewart deserved the chance to win her own contract for the union’s members.

After thanking her supporters, Stewart immediately announced that she was going to focus on the contract negotiations. 



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