At least three caucuses to challenge Stewart in May 2010 CTU election

[Editor's Note: The following article appeared in the September 2009 print edition of Substance and is reproduced here as it first appeared in the print edition. The print edition contains content that has not been published on the Web and was mailed to all paid subscribers on September 10, 2009 from the Main Chicago Post Office at Periodicals Postal Rate. To subscribe to the print editioin of Substance please click the red button on the right on the Home Page of or send $16 for ten issues to: Substance, 5132 W. Berteau, Chicago, IL 60641].

Despite having a budget of more than $20 million and a staff of more than 60 people, Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart did not testify or appear before the hearings on the Proposed Chicago Public Schools budget for 2009 - 2010 that were held in Chicago on August 17, 18, and 19, 2009. When Stewart did discuss financial matters at the August 26 meeting of the Board of Education (above), she ignored the Board's claims that it was facing a $475 million "deficit" and concentrated on two relatively trivial financial problems that had come to her attention through CTU staff member Molly Carroll (above, second from right). Substance caption and photo by George N. Schmidt. An unprecedented situation has developed within the Chicago Teachers Union thanks to the widespread dissatisfaction across Chicago with the leadership of CTU President Marilyn Stewart and her United Progressive Caucus (UPC). As the school year dawns in Chicago, three large caucuses (and perhaps a fourth smaller one) are actively organizing to unseat Stewart — in an election that won’t be held until May 21, 2010.

Even with the union election nine months away, the groups that plan to challenge Stewart have their work cut out for them. A caucus is a political party within the union. Because of the complex (and archaic) rules that govern CTU elections, each caucus has to come up with a “full slate” of candidates, not just one candidate for the office of president. A “full slate” can have as many as 175 names on it, and each caucus has to have its own unique candidates. If all four caucuses are in the running in May 2010 with a full slate, there will be 700 candidates in the election to determine who will have power in the 31,000 member union.

The three groups that are most likely to be challenging Stewart are CSDU (the Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union), headed by CTU Treasurer Linda Porter and former vice president Ted Dallas; CORE co-chair Karen Lewis, a teacher at King College Prep High School, challenged the Board of Education's budget director and staff at the August 19 budget hearing at Black Magnet school in Chicago. Of all the caucuses challenging Marilyn Stewart, CORE presented the most complete refutation of the Board of Education claim that it had a $475 million "deficit". More than ten CORE members testified during the three days of budget hearings in August 2009, and CORE also challenged the Board during the August 26 Board of Education meeting, while CTU President Marilyn Stewart acted as if she agreed with CPS CEO Ron Huberman. Substance photo and caption by George N. Schmidt.CORE (the Caucus of Rank and File Educators), headed by King High School teacher Karen Lewis and Little Village High School teacher Jackson Potter; and PACT (the ProActive Chicago Teachers and school workers), headed by former CTU President and Gage Park High School teacher Deborah Lynch. Another group, calling itself the Independent Caucus, is headed by former candidate Marcia Williams, now an elementary school teacher. After an announcement in June, Williams has not been in contact with Substance.

Stewart’s problems are spelled “Daley” and “Huberman”

The problems facing the union are seen by a growing number of union members as being caused by the cooperation of the union’s leaders with Mayor Richard M. Daley and his administration. During the nearly 15 years since Daley was given complete control over the school system, the UPC has been in control of the union’s leadership for 12 years, while Deborah Lynch’s PACT ran the union from 2001 to 2004. Both the UPC and PACT negotiated contracts with Daley’s people that resulted in widespread dissatisfaction among the union’s rank-and-file and a huge loss of union members. PACT charges that Stewart has cost the union 5,000 members since she was elected in May and June 2004, defeating Lynch in a runoff.

Former Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch (who was ousted by Stewart and the UPC in a hotly contested election in May and June 2004) spoke against the CPS proposed budget at the August 19 hearing at Black Magnet school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The cooperation with Daley began in 1994, after Tom Reece was elected CTU president following the death of Jacqueline Vaughn. (Full disclosure: I was the candidate who ran against Reece for president in the 1994 election and worked in the Lynch administration as a research assistant and then as Director of School Security and Safety between 2001 and 2004). Reece went along with legislation demands that Mayor Daley be given power over Chicago’s public schools, and told the union members that it would be OK.

Reece even invited Daley’s first CEO, Paul Vallas, and Daley’s first Board of Education President, Gery Chico, to talk to the union’s House of Delegates. In the eyes of the membership, however, every year, things got worse for the union’s members. CEO Arne Duncan (who had been appointed by Mayor Daley in July 2001 in part because former CEO Paul Vallas had misplayed the CTU election) pushed an all-out assault on the public schools and the unions behind a plan called “Renaissance 2010.” Between 2002 and 2008, Duncan had closed more than 60 public schools and eliminated the jobs of more than 2,000 teachers, most of them African American women. Duncan replaced most of the schools with non-union charter schools under the banner of replacing what he called “failure” with what he relentlessly described as “innovation.” Duncan’s claims were made despite the fact that neither the “failure” of the public schools or the “success” of the charters had been proven. Both claims were more propaganda terms than realities that could be verified.

Stewart's silent partnership with Daley, Duncan, Huberman

Beaubien Elementary School teacher Jack Moran (above) testified against the proposed CPS budget at the August 18 hearing at Marshall High School. Moran is a candidate for vice president of the CTU on the slate of the "Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union" (CSDU), whose candidate for union president is the current treasurer, Linda Porter. CSDU is headed by Porter and by former CTU vice president Ted Dallas, who was expelled from the union after an expensive and bitter faction fight by Marilyn Stewart. Dallas and Porter have charged that Stewart's negotiations of the 2007 contract, which excluded most of the union's officers, helped the Daley administration. Many union activists now believe that Stewart and her dwindling number of supporters are consulting with Ron Huberman about how to head off the challenges Stewart is facing so that Daley doesn't have to face another militant CTU leadership as it did after the 2001 election of Deborah Lynch. As evidence, Stewart's critics cite the fact that the union and Stewart have failed to take a public stand critical of Huberman's false claims that the school system is facing a $475 million "deficit" (upgraded to "a half billion dollars' by Huberman spokesman Monique Bond in a Chicago Tribune article on September 8). Other critics note that Stewart's alliances with Daley are also cemented by her support from Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, who helped Stewart take power in 2004 and who has worked closely with Stewart since. Substance photo and caption by George N. Schmidt.Marilyn Stewart was either a silent partner to all the projects of Daley and Duncan, or an enthusiastic ally. At the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers in Chicago in July 2008, Marilyn Stewart praised Duncan’s programs and sat on the podium as Daley addressed the convention’s 3,000 delegates. But Arne Duncan, who had been scheduled to speak to the convention, backed out because he was afraid that there would be a demonstration against him inside the convention. As the union declined in both strength and numbers, the casualty lists — “body counts” of public schools wrecked, massive student and family displacement, and union jobs destroyed — grew. By the time Stewart brought in the first contract she negotiated for the union’s members in August 2007, Stewart was forced to lie about everything regarding the deal she had cut with the mayor’s lawyers. In the weeks leading up to the contract proposal, Stewart had also surrendered the union’s clout by ignoring the other unions representing workers in Chicago’s schools. The other unions — following an alliance of more than a quarter century — cut a deal with Daley three weeks before Stewart got her deal. Stewart brought the deal to the union’s House of Delegates at a Friday meeting at the beginning of Labor Day weekend. She refused to schedule enough time for the union delegates to discuss every page of the lengthy document, and as it became clear what was in the deal, opposition grew. She finally got approval by simply refusing to count the “No” votes at the crucial meeting of the union’s House of Delegates on August 31, 2007. A large protest followed. [You Tube videos of Stewart’s performance at the time of the crucial vote are still available. One link is via the Website of Deborah Lynch’s ProActive Chicago Teachers caucus, PACT].

The rebellion that flamed against Stewart in August 2007 continued to grow over the next two years. In the summer of 2009 protests against the Chicago Board of Education and its policies continued week after week and month after month. By early 2009, Stewart had been forced to mobilize meekly in opposition to Daley’s “Renaissance 2010” plan, only showing her weakness in the process. Looking forward to May 2010, the next union election, more and more teachers were saying “No!” to the mayor and “No!” to everyone who had helped him, starting with Marilyn Stewart.

Greeting America’s new chief educator Many have charged that without Marilyn Stewart, Arne Duncan would not have been eligible to be named U.S. Secretary of Education by President Barack Obama. Stewart’s support for Duncan’s merit pay program and her ineffectiveness in stopping charter school expansion and school closings enabled Duncan’s supporters to claim that he got on well with the unions.

Even before Duncan left Chicago for Washington, D.C. in January 2009, that story was being refuted. Despite pleas from Stewart, Duncan’s successor, Ron Huberman, closed 16 schools in February 2009, adding others to the ‘Hit List’ in the months ahead. Those who ruled Chicago knew that Stewart was powerless, and in many ways too compromised to organize a fight against Daley’s agenda, which was most dramatic in Renaissance 2010. A dramatic protest against Duncan came during the return to Chicago of Arne Duncan, who had served as “Chief Executive Officer” of Chicago’s public schools from July 1, 2001, until the end of December 2008. On June 19, 2009, Duncan spoke before a group of corporate school reformers called “Advance Illinois.” While more than 50 teachers picketed outside the Hyatt Hotel, Stewart ate breakfast with Duncan and his supporters and cheered Duncan’s speech. The Duncan speech outlined what was later to become President Obama’s “Race to the Top.” Stewart made no effort to join the protest against Duncan, even when hotel officials threatened to arrest the protesters who tried to enter the hotel and talk with Duncan.

From June 19, 2009 (a large protest against Arne Duncan’s appearance before ‘Advance Illinois’ at the Hyatt) to August 26 (the meeting of the Chicago Board of Education that approved one of the most draconian budgets in history), Chicago teachers, parents and students were organizing and publicly protesting. Marilyn Stewart was either absent or irrelevant.

Duncan’s speech to Advance Illinois laid out much of the program he would develop for the U.S. Department of Education over the next three months. The protesters outside described every aspect of Duncan’s work in Chicago and how it had undermined public schools, teachers, and thousands of families. Inside, Duncan was spinning a fantasy story that would become education policy for the Obama administration, based on the carefully crafted narrative that he had worked in Chicago, often in cooperation with the leader of the Chicago Teachers Union, Marilyn Stewart. [A complete report of this event appeared at in the June 2009 on line edition. See especially ‘Teachers threatened with arrest for asking to speak with Arne Duncan during Advance Illinois breakfast’ by Garth Liebhaber and George N. Schmidt, at the June 2009 Home Page of SubstanceNews, specifically at http://www.substance /articles.php? page=746& section= Article].

The protests against Arne Duncan began a national battle between those promoting Arne Duncan’s claims about success in Chicago and the truth. As the details of “Race to the Top” became more and more clear, there was a growing demand from Chicago teachers, parents, and others that the falsity of the Duncan claims be spotlighted for the nation. This had to take place before the nation was forced to endure what Chicago had endured during the years of corporate “school reform” under Arne Duncan and his predecessor.

Unprecedented power struggle within the Chicago Teachers Union

Throughout 2008 and 2009, beneath Chicago’s corporate media and public radar, a large fight was taking place within the largest (and once most powerful) union local in Illinois, the CTU. Two well-organized caucuses within the still large CTU — CORE (the Caucus of Rank and file Educators) and CSDU (Caucus for a Strong Democratic Union) began organizing. The oldest opposition group within the union, the Pro Active Chicago Teachers and School Workers (PACT) also continued its work, despite having been defeated twice in elections in 2001 and 2004.

Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE)

The “Caucus of Rank and File Educators” (CORE) was a little over a year old when its members and supported confronted Arne Duncan at the Hyatt during the Advance Illinois event. A week later, CORE was at the Board of Education meeting, charging the Board with sabotaging the schools. During the six months prior to the June 24, 2009, Board meeting, CORE members spoke at every Board meeting and participated in every hearing on what had come to be known as Arne Duncan’s “Hit List” of schools to be closed (phased out, etc.). On August 21 and August 22, CORE held a “convention” to draft its election platform and nominate candidates for the offices to be contested in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) May 2010 election. By early September, CORE was still in the process of taking nominations for each position to be elected, and taking its time about it.

“What’s the hurry?” CORE co-chair Karen Lewis, a chemistry teacher at King College Prep High School said to Substance. “Democracy takes time, and patience.

Lewis and other CORE leaders point out that the first test of strength comes in October, when rank and file teachers get to vote for two trustees for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF), and retired teachers get to vote for one. CORE has slated classroom teachers Jay Rehak (Whitney Young High School) and Lois Ashford (O’Keefe Elementary) for the two teacher slots, and Howard Heath as their candidate for the retiree slot.

Each of the CORE candidates will be running against incumbents who are supported by Marilyn Stewart’s UPC. In the turmoil of the union over the past decade, Stewart has tried to manipulate it so that the union didn’t make an official endorsement, rather than risk having to put and endorsement for someone other than a UPC member in the union monthly newspaper, the Chicago Union Teacher.

The pension elections in the schools will take place on October 30, and it will be the first head-to-head confrontation between CORE and the UPC. All teachers (including charter school teachers, who are in the pension fund) will be voting in their schools. It is not clear at press time whether any of the other caucuses will be challenging Stewart’s candidates for the pension board.

CORE began leafleting in the schools when the 142 “Track E” schools began in August and continued throughout the month until regular teachers returned to their schools on September 2. CORE also held public meetings throughout the summer at the famous Manny’s Deli on Jefferson St., drawing larger numbers with each successive meeting, an unusual thing during the summer months. The election for retiree trustee pits Howard Heath, who was vice president of the CTU from 2001 to 2004 when Deborah Lynch was president, against an incumbent (James Ward) and at least one other candidate (Louis Pyster, who has long been active in PACT). Despite the odds, Health is optimistic about his chances and glad to be back in union politics. Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU)

The “Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union” (CSDU) continued organizing through the summer of 2009. In May 2009, the CSDU announced it was nominating five people to run against Marilyn Stewart in the May 2010 elections.

The CSDU candidate for President is Linda Porter, who is currently treasurer of the union. Porter’s open split with Marilyn Stewart and Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus (UPC) is unprecedented in CTU history. At the last union meetings of the 2008 - 2009 school year, Porter stood against Marilyn Stewart on a number of visible votes, most notably the vote on the union’s 2009 - 2010 budget. For Vice President CSDU is running John (“Jack”) Moran, a veteran teacher who works at Beaubien Elementary School on the city’s northwest side. Moran has been actively campaigning all summer, and took the CSDU’s case to the Board’s budget hearings on August 18 at Marshall High School.

The CSDU candidate for Recording Secretary is Lisa Dimberg, who teaches at Carpenter Elementary School. The CSDU candidate for Financial Secretary is Lawer Dixon, a high school teacher.

The CSDU candidate for Treasurer is José (“Jay”) Jiminez, who is a teacher aide Wells High School.

Despite a few expensive setbacks and the temporary loss of their Web site, CSDU spent most of August organizing school-by-school. Their candidates worked the Track E schools talking to teachers day after day. CSDU, although outclassed by far by CORE at both Board of Education meetings and the annual budget hearings, also put itself on the record at the Board’s budget hearings. On August 18, the second day of the hearings, Jack Moran presented a well-organized CSDU set of questions to the Board’s budget director, who promised to get back to him with answers. The answers were still waiting as August turned into September.

As of the first week of September, CSDU had not announced candidates for the pension trustees, and it was unclear whether it would.

Ted Dallas, who is ineligible to run for union office because he was expelled from the union on orders from Marilyn Stewart through her hand-picked executive board, is ineligible to run for office at this time. He is actively working with Linda Porter’s group. He previously organized Stewart’s two election campaigns (2004 and 2007) before Stewart turned against him in a turn that shocked CTU members and many in the broader union movement. “We are getting our candidates and materials into all the schools,” Dallas told Substance over Labor Day weekend. He said that beginning August 2, CSDU was holding union meetings at the schools to introduce its candidates to the union members and learn in more detail the issues the members were most concerned about. On September 4, according to Dallas, CSDU held a successful meeting with the teachers at Lane Technical High School, the city’s biggest school with the largest number of union members.

Linda Porter did not return a number of phone calls from Substance.

Dallas said that CSDU would probably not be running candidates for pension trustees in the October election.

Although CSDU didn’t have a functional web site as the school year began, Dallas told Substance that through careful work CSDU had a mailing list so that it was able to send e-mail to more than 10,000 CTU members. Pro Active Chicago Teachers and School Workers — Debbie Lynch’s PACT

On September 3, 2009, a large number of Chicago teachers received a post card from former CTU President Deborah Lynch. The headline of the post card read: “You’re invited: Meet the PACT candidates!” Lynch told people that her group intended to hold a party and announce its candidates following the September 9 Chicago Teachers Union meeting, which is being held at the operating engineers (Local 399) hall on the southwest side, instead of at Plumber’s Hall, which had been traditional. The PACT party is being held at the famous Connie’s Pizza on Archer Ave., scheduled to follow the end of the CTU House of Delegates meeting. On the post card, PACT listed its ‘2010 Platform.’ It read: “Automatic class size stipend for more than 25… Minimum 5% raise… freeze all health costs… Reduce dues… Pensionability of all overtime/5+5…Daily prep periods for all teachers… Stop school closings… restore after school hourly rate… end PAT abuse… Aggressive payroll enforcement… restore union transparency and lost millions…”

The PACT candidate for President is probably Deborah Lynch, who by 2010 will have run five times, won once, and been unseated after one term in May 2004. On both its website ( and in other forums PACT has declared. The most significant activity from PACT in the previous three months was a fundraiser in June 2009 that Lynch hosted at a south side club. More than 200 people showed up, and a lot of money was raised. Lynch also spoke on the proposed CTPS budget at that August 19 budget hearings at Black Magnet school, while Lou Pyster, one of Lynch’s most loyal supporters, spoke at the August 26 Board meeting. Lynch told Substance that her group was not certain whether it would support candidates for the teacher trustees in the pension fund election. According to Lynch the group is meeting at Connie’s pizza following the September 9 meeting of the CTU House of Delegates. At the time, Lynch has promised to release more information about her proposed slate of candidates for the union’s top offices in the May 2010 election. Lynch told Substance that she did not want to announce the names of all the candidates on her slate until the meeting at Connie’s Pizza. October Pension Trustee Elections to be first test of caucuses’ strength

The schedule for the 2010 union elections doesn’t really become serious until January 2010, when the CTU will approve the election rules at its House of Delegates meeting, which is scheduled for January 13, 2010. The way CTU elections have operated for 40 years has been according to the same schedule, outlined in the CTU Constitution and By-Laws. The election rules are approved in January of the election year. On February 1, nominating petitions are available. The completed petitions are due at the union’s offices by March. After reviewing the eligibility of candidates, the union’s Rules-Elections Committee reports on candidate and slate eligibility to the April CTU House of Delegates meeting. At the May meeting, the candidates for President get to speak to the House of Delegates. The election is held on the third Friday, which in 2010 is May 21.

At least three of the caucuses will have a test of strength early, in October. During October 2009, at least two of the caucuses will be going head-to-head against Marilyn Stewart in the elections for trustees of the $10 billion Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

CORE has been the most active in vying for the three openings on the pension board of trustees. CORE has announced it’s supporting two candidates against incumbents for the teacher trustees, and a candidate for the retiree trustee position.

In 2008, CSDU ran two candidates for the active teacher posts and lost to the UPC candidates. The problems that resulted from the way in which the pension election was held in October 2008 resulted in a split in CSDU.

Web sites Of all the web sites that deal with issues pertaining to Chicago’s public schools, the one that provides the most information is that of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (, and that is incomplete. With the CTPF under attack from Ron Huberman and the mayor’s allies in Springfield, the Fund election looms large for both the 22,000 teachers currently collecting pension and the 25,000 working. Many long time observers of Chicago’s teacher pension say that the attack on the pensions by Ron Huberman and Mayor Daley is the most serious threat in more than 100 years. Despite claims by Chicago Board of Education officials that the Fund is a threat to the education budget, the facts and history show that Huberman and his allies are lying. During the 1990s and into the 21st Century, the Chicago Board of Education profited from the large returns on Fund investments by not having to pay its regular share into the fund. With the troubles in the markets, the Fund dropped below a “90 percent” threshold, triggering payments to the Fund. As soon as the Fund became entitled to the payments CPS should have been paying all along, Chicago and CPS officials began talking as if the Fund — and not the CPS political deals of the past — had caused the problem. While the fund is not in crisis, despite the economic recession, conditions have worsened over the past two years, and a serious challenge to incumbent trustees will result in a confrontation in October.

The last comprehensive financial report from the Fund showed that between April 2007 and April 2008, the fund had gone from $13 billion in total assets to $12.2 billion (with “Net Assets Available for Benefits” dropping from $12.6 billion to $11.9 billion). Candidates for trustees estimate the current Fund total at between $8 billion and $9 billion because of the recovery of the markets. The report from April 2009 has still not been posted because of troubles the Fund is having in receiving accurate data from the Chicago Board of Education. Until that report is complete, reflecting the losses since the stock market troubles of late 2008 will be difficult.

Lawsuit against the Board of Education’s incompetence

At the Fund’s July 2009 meeting, it was reported that the Fund’s audit for the latest year was not complete because of problems with the ability of the Chicago Board of Education in reporting the final service credit of teachers and principals who have been retiring since 2007. In July 2009, CTPF filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education charging that the Board had failed to provide information legally required for the Fund to provide recent retirees with accurate pensions. By July 2009, more than 2,000 recent retirees — from teachers and principals to the Area Instructional Officers (AIOs) recently purged by Ron Huberman at CPS — were being paid estimated pensions because of the CPS payroll mess. Sources at the Pension Fund told Substance that in the more than 100 years of the Fund the payroll mess had never been this bad.

“Back when a data base was on ledger sheets and file cards, we had accurate information,” the CTPF source told Substance, on condition of anonymity because the source was not permitted to speak on litigation. “Nothing like this has ever happened before.”

The only votes against the lawsuit came from the two Chicago Board of Education members, Alberto Carrero and Peggy Davis. Pressure had been building for the lawsuit since the problem first arose because of the Board’s computer system outsourcing in June 2007. The motion to sue was made by Trustee Maria Rodriguez and approved by all of the teacher reps and the retiree rep, James Ward.

Stewart and UPC have votes on CTPF board

The six incumbent teacher trustees on the pension board are all members of Marilyn Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus. Three retiree trustees also sit on the Fund, with one, James Ward, facing election this year.

In August, CORE announced on its Web site that it was supporting two challengers — Jay Rehak and Lois Ashford — for the contested teacher spots, and one candidate — Howard Heath — for the retiree spot. Neither PACT nor CSDU has announced candidates for the teacher slots, but PACT leader Louis Pyster has announced that he intends to run for the retiree slot.

CORE began organizing on behalf of its candidates for Pension Board in August 2009 at the so-called “Track E” schools. The organizing took place at 142 schools (“Track E Year-Round”) during the month of August, when most Chicago teachers were still on vacation (and activist teachers had the time to reach out to their fellows). CORE members leafleted on behalf of their three candidates at more than half the “Track E” schools before the teachers had to return to work on September 2, when school reopened for teachers for preparation and pre-service work.

CSDU was also at work leafleting the Track E schools, but not for the upcoming October election. CSDU was leafleting on behalf of their city-wide candidates — for the May 2010 election.

PACT did not do any work on behalf of its pension candidate in August 2009.

The big election: May 21, 2009. Chicago Teachers Union

The Chicago Teachers Union elections for all officers and executive board seats take place every three years. The next election is in 2010, and will be held on May 21, 2010.

Everyone with experience in a Chicago Teachers Union election knows it takes an enormous amount of time and organization to develop a slate of candidates and run an election campaign. The reason is that a CTU election is not as simple as one candidate running against another candidate for the office of president. That’s the way the race is reported, but there has never been a race in the CTU where it wasn’t one slate of candidates running against another slate of candidates, each organized in the form of a caucus, which is basically a political party inside the union.

To have a full slate in the 2010 election, a candidate will need at least 38 candidates for the executive board and an additional 100 or more candidates for “convention delegates.”

A full slate in a Chicago Teachers Union election consists of around 150 individuals, give or take one or two. And the slate is also allowed to elect another 25 or so alternate delegates to the convention delegations, so that the total number of candidates running on each slate can be between 175 and 200.

There will be approximately 27,000 eligible voters in the 2010 CTU election. Of those, if four or five caucus are running their full slates, as many as 800 could be candidates for various offices or convention delegate seats. Put another way, when the 27,000 active members of the Chicago Teachers Union vote to elect new officers on May 21, 2010, as many as three percent of the eligible voters may also be candidates.

Organizing over the years

By the beginning of 2009, scattered groups across the city had been organizing against the lies and oppression outside of the formal groups. In January and February 2008, thousands of teachers, parents, students, and community leaders had gone to the Board of Education’s hearings on that year’s Hit List of schools to be closed, phased out, reconstituted, or otherwise destroyed. On February 27, 2008, a massive protest jammed the streets outside Chicago Board of Education headquarters, protesting the proposed destruction by Arne Duncan and the Chicago Board of Education of ___ schools. For the previous month, people had been organizing and being ignored. It was business as usual with the powerful downtown. Nor did the President of the United States care about the wishes of the people whose hard work, hopes and votes had elected him in a historic moment that brought tears to millions of eyes both in the USA and across the planet. One he had gotten what he wanted out of the people, Barack Obama, like so many wealthy Harvard guys before him, dropped those people like a rich guy forgets the name of a whore when the cops raid the Red Light District. By the time 2009 had ended, the White House was firmly in the hands of Harvard and Wall Street, and the betrayals had just begun.

December 2008 Board of Education meeting

CORE had been organizing for six months by the time several teachers appeared at the December 17 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education at 125 S. Clark St. CORE had been organized in April and May of 2008, emphasizing the abuse of standardized tests and the need for an alliance between teacher union activists and parent and community leaders. The unique thing about the December 2008 Board of Education meeting was that it was supposed to be the day of triumph for CEO Arne Duncan. Duncan had been “Chief Executive Officer” of Chicago’s public schools since July 2001, when Mayor Daley appointed him following Daley’s decision to dump the ambitious and outspoken Paul Vallas. Duncan had been running the nation’s third largest school system for more than seven years. The stunning victory of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race had immediately launched speculation that Arne Duncan, a man with no experience in the classroom or school, would become U.S. Secretary of Education. The week the Board met in December was the week the President-elect announced that Duncan was his pick. Duncan and Obama appeared on Page One of the New York Times and in most other major media, including the TV stations. But when Duncan showed up for the monthly meeting of his own school board, he was greeted by a group of teachers who called him out on every point in his work, noting that he had spent his time privatizing schools, firing veteran teachers and sabotaging most of the city’s remaining high schools.

Instead of adulation and kudos, Duncan was greeted with a barrage of complaints organized by teachers, parents, and students brought to the Board by CORE. Teachers who spoke included Jackson Potter, who brought students from the School of Social Justice at Little Village High School, Xian Barrett (who brought students from Julian High School), Kristine Mayle (whose school, De la Cruz Middle School, was about to be closed because of “underutilization”), and others. Retired City Colleges teacher Earl Silbar had a confrontation with Board member Norm Bobins. Some of the people CORE at the core

CORE was formed, mostly among younger teachers, in the Spring of 2008. CORE grew out of some teachers who had been working in Substance, teachers associated with Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ), and a number of independents working with one another in a loose network. CORE’s original members included Jackson Potter, who had been union delegate at Englewood High School when Arne Duncan attacked the school and closed it in 2005. Jesse Sharkey, Wendy Boatman, and Brian Roa had been organizing to save Senn High School and against the militarization of Chicago’s high schools beginning in 2004. A number of people who would work with CORE over the coming years had been involved in the scattered struggles against school closings, militarizations, and privatizations. Some of them had left teaching after their schools had been destroyed, but had continued working in school-related activities. In June 2008, CORE held a series of events featuring Jinny Sims, a teacher from Vancouver, British Columbia. Sims had led the massive teachers’ strike in British Columbia in October 2005. [See Substance, November 2005, for the exclusive report that appeared at the time of the strike. That report is available on the Web in the November 2005 issue of Substance, on our old site at www.substance — not .net, which is our current site. URL: http://www.substance news. com/content /view/296/81/] .

Following the Jinny Sims events, CORE produced a video featuring Jinny Sims and went to work organizing itself and reaching out to other teachers within the Chicago Teachers Union. By September 2008, CORE activists were taking the floor at the House of Delegates meetings of the Chicago Teachers Union and beginning other events.

December 2008 was a key moment, however. Facing down Arne Duncan and exposing, often with the help of students, the lies of the Duncan administration, CORE rained on Duncan’s parade on the day he thought he would be hailed as a conquering hero.

Malcolm X Forum in January 2009: Chicago’s resistance sees and hears itself for the first time

The January 10, 2009, Forum at Malcolm X College was one of the largest events ever organized to discuss Chicago’s ongoing “Renaissance 2010” school changes. The turnout from schools was nothing short of amazing, according to most people there.

More than 400 people registered, and a large additional number either didn’t get registered or were afraid and asked to be excused from registration. According to Wendy Boatman of CORE, attendance at the January 10 event included the following schools: Aldridge, Beidler, Bethune, Bogan HS, Brennenmann, Brighton Park, Budlong, Cameron, Carnegie, Carpenter, Casa Central, Clemente HS, Chicago Vocational Career Academy HS, Coleman, Curie HS, Davis, Delano (big group), Disney Magnet, Drummond, Dulles, Earle, Ellington, Farragut HS, Fulton, Gage Park HS, Hammond, Hancock HS, Hanson Park, Harlan HS, Harvard, Holmes, Johnson, John Hope HS, Juarez HS, Julian HS, Kelly HS, King College Prep HS, Lake View HS, Langston Hughes, Las Casas HS, Lavizzo, Lincoln Park HS, Lozano, Marshall HS, Manley HS, Mather HS, Mayer, McPherson, Morton, Nia Foundation, North Grand HS, Nash, Orr HS, Peabody, Perspectives Charter, Phillips HS, Pulaski Elementary; Reilly Elementary; Robeson HS; Robinson Elementary; Ryerson Elementary; Saucedo Elementary; Schurz HS; Senn HS; Sheilds Elementary; Sherman Elementary; Songhai Elementary; Spencer Elementary; Social Justice HS; Steinmetz HS; Stowe Elementary; South Shore Leadership HS; Tonti Elementary; Uplift Middle School; Von Steuben HS; Washington HS; Walter Payton HS; Whitney Young HS; Whittier Elementary; Wadsworth Elementary. Seven colleges and universities and a number of community organization were also present. The people who took part in the Malcolm X meeting went on to provide the backbone for the protests against the 2009 Hit List and the subsequent protests and organizing meetings throughout the spring and summer of 2009.

In the eight months following the forum, the organized opposition to the Board of Education’s policies grew with each passing month. One of the unique things about CORE’s program was that it encouraged joint work with a growing coalition of community and parent organizations. These organizations finally came together as GEM (Grassroots Education Movement). GEM sponsored an action at the August 26 Board of Education meeting, held a press conference in front of the Board, and promised to work with teachers.

Stewart won’t talk with Substance

For five year, Marilyn Stewart has refused to talk with Substance. At first, she claimed this was because the editor (this reporter) has sued the union for wrongful termination in 2004 (the suit was won in 2008). After the litigation was out of the way, Stewart simply refused to talk. From other sources, Substance has been able to determine that there has been a problem within Stewart’s UPC, although it is still the largest caucus within the union and controls all of the union’s patronage jobs. Sources within the UPC have told Substance that Stewart plans to try and revive the tradition that the UPC is the leadership of the union, tracing the caucus’s roots all the way back to Robert M. Haley (who served as CTU President until his resignatin to become head of the Chicago Federation of Labor in 1984) ; Jacqueline Vaughn, the legendary leader who led the union through the two longest strikes in union history (13 days in 1983, along with Healey; 19 days in 1987); and Tom Reece.

At the present time, the UPC looks like it will slate Marilyn Stewart again for CTU President, and continue with the remaining officers. However, with Ted Dallas having been expelled, Linda Porter running against Stewart, and Mary McGuire retiring, all that is left of the formidable team that Stewart deployed against Deborah Lynch in 2004 and 2007 are Stewart herself and Financial Secretary Mark Ochoa. The two have long been considered the weakest of the union’s leaders.

As a result, many individuals within the UPC have been muttering about finding a way to escape possible defeat in May 2010. For a time in 2008 and early 2009, field rep Ted Hajiharis, who works for Stewart, was talking to people about forming something new and different. That talk ended when Stewart pulled Hajiharis back into her camp. But recent rumors do not include Hajiharis at the top of a new UPC ticket.

Many other members of the UPC have also been talking about how to save the union before it is too late, but those who work for the union are afraid to break with Stewart after witnessing what she did to Ted Dallas, the man who organized her two successful bids for the union presidency. “Dallas was her Karl Rove,” one UPC member who asked to remain anonymous told Substance. “The lesson of that story was that Marilyn Stewart will do anything to remain in power, and that she has no loyalties.”

Now, facing unprecedented opposition and a union she has allowed to be weakened to a dangerous degree, Marilyn Stewart begins her sixth year out of the classroom facing the biggest challenges any CTU leaders has ever faced from within the union’s own ranks. 

Final edited version of this article posted at September 11, 2009, 1:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


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