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PACT hosts successful fundraiser as school year ends

“Congratulations on another year of commitment, dedication, and hard—usually rewarding—work, despite the lack of resources, support and recognition you deserve,” said Deborah Lynch (Gage Park High School), Chair of the ProActive Chicago Teachers & School Employees (PACT) Caucus of the CTU to the 200 CTU teachers and paraprofessionals gathered at 115 Bourbon Street in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood on June 11, the day before the end of the school year.

PACT hosted its “Hot Topics” event because there are many hot issues facing school employees and they are in the hot seat, Lynch told Substance.

“Unfortunately,” continued Lynch, “despite your dedication and commitment, the public thinks that you are the problem with our public schools. And the Mayor has declared an all out war against the Chicago Teachers Union because he too thinks that you are the problem.”

According to PACT, In just the last five years, CTU has lost over 5,000 union jobs.

PACT caucus steering committee member Josephine Perry (left) joins former Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch in leafleting the June 3, 2009, CTU House of Delegates meeting with information challenging Marilyn Stewart's version of CTU budget facts. At the meeting that followed, Stewart for the first time published a version of the contracts of the union's officers and senior staff, despite claiming a month earlier that it was illegal to do so. Perry (delegate from Chicago's Tanner Elementary School) and Lynch (delegate from Chicago's Gage Park High School) spoke on June 12 at the PACT end-of-the-year event at Bourbon Street on the city's Southwest side. The event drew more than 200 people, with 300 purchasing tickets. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."Most of those jobs left with the 69,000 former CPS students who have turned to charter schools," PACT reported. " Nearly 70 CPS schools have been closed and another 30 will be closed next year in the Renaissance 2010 plan. By next year, CPS will have lost 80,000 students of the 430,000 it had five years ago. That’s almost a quarter of our students. Families are flocking to charter schools because, despite research that says charter schools do no better, the public thinks they do."

While the people at Bourbon Street partied, the tone was also serious. "With 80,000 fewer students, a hundred fewer schools and thousands fewer union members teachers and staff lose their power — the only real source of power they have — union power," Lynch said. "Yet in the last five years, despite all this, the current union leadership has been deafeningly silent. There has been no real outcry, no fight, no counterattack in this war to circumvent and marginalize the union. The current union leadership has been imploding — the Vice President was fired and the Treasurer is now running against [incumbent president Marilyn] Stewart. And they have spent the union into virtual bankruptcy. The $5 million reserve fund PACT inherited in 2001 and left in 2004, has disappeared and the union is millions of dollars in debt."

Deborah Lynch served as President of the Chicago Teachers Union from July 1, 2001, until August 2004, when she left the CTU offices after losing a runoff election to Marilyn Stewart and the United Progressive Caucus (UPC). PACT has remained an organization during the subsequent years. Along with a number of her fellow former officers and staff, Lynch returned to the classroom. She currently teaches at Gage Park High School, a general high school on Chicago's South Side.

Lynch pointed out that the battle over the new CTU budget had forced the disclosure of more information about the pay and benefits of CTU officers and staff than at any time during the five years since Marilyn Stewart took office.

"CTU members may want to check with their delegates about the contracts these officers have negotiated for themselves, however, which they were finally forced to reveal this month when a majority of delegates demanded them," Lynch said. "They will find proof in those contracts that millions of dues dollars have gone into unconscionable benefits they gave themselves..."

For example, many of the perks that were rescinded when Lynch took office in 2001 were restored quietly by Marilyn Stewart. "They [the current officers and staff] even get severance pay—three weeks salary for every year worked at CTU—even if they get unelected!" Lynch said.

"The bottom line is that the union has no money, no resources, no will and no leadership to wage the war that has been declared against it. No one at CTU is speaking for members and their needs or against more charters, job losses, pension attacks, school violence, understaffing and the myriad of other critical issues that are the real problems," she continued. While not confirming that she intends to mount a fifth campaign for union president, Lynch did not sound like she is planning to retire. "CTU members need union leadership that will relentlessly stand up, speak out, and fight for what they and their students need," she said. "This fall, PACT will celebrate 14 years, thanks to the support, encouragement and involvement of so many CTU members. PACT has never stopped standing up and speaking out and will be deeply involved in next May’s union elections."

PACT Steering Committee member Kevin Condon (Stevenson School) urged the young teachers in the crowd to get active on these union issues.

And PACT Steering Committee member Josephine Perry (Tanner School) said “We invite you to get informed, get engaged and get involved in our effort to take back our union and win the war we are in.” 



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