CORE candidates Rehak and Ashford upset incumbents to win seats on $10 billion Chicago Teachers Pension Fund board of trustees

In what can only be described as a stunning upset, two Chicago public schools teachers, Lois Ashford (O'Keefe Elementary School) and Jay Rehak (Whitney Young High School) decisively defeated two incumbents to win seats on the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) in an election held in all Chicago public schools and most of the city's charter schools on October 30, 2009.

Chicago teachers Jay Rehak (left) and Lois Ashford (right) spoke about the pension at the October 28, 2009 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, where the above photograph was taken. Supported by CORE (Caucus Of Rank and file Educators), Rehak and Ashford were the only two candidates in the six-way race who had spoken out public at the Board and at other public meeting (including Chicago's annual budget hearings in August 2009) to challenge the Board's claim that cuts had to be made in the Board's payments into the CTPF. Above, Rehak and Ashford took a moment before testifying during the public participation portion of the October 28 Board meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The certified results of the election provided by the staff of the CTPF at approximately 9:00 p.m. on October 30 listed the vote results as follows:

The two winners were:

Jay Rehak, 6,551 votes (23.72 percent)

Lois Ashford, 4,842 votes (17.53 percent)

The losers were:

Nancy Williams, 4,799 votes (17.38 percent)

Reina Otero, 4,115 votes (14.90 percent)

Rose Mary Finnegan, 3,037 votes (7.74 percent)

Aspasia Demeros, 1,711 votes (6.19 percent)

The election was to pick two of six teachers trustees on the board that oversees the $10 billion CTPF. The CTPF board of trustees consists of six active duty teachers, three retired teachers (or administrators), and two members of the Chicago Board of Education. Teacher trustees serve three-year terms, with two being elected every year. The CTPF is the second-largest teacher pension fund in Illinois and is for Chicago public school teachers. The rest of the state's teachers are in the TRS (Teacher Retirement System).

CORE co-chair Jackson Potter celebrates the pension trustee election victory at Rosa's Blues Lounge after the election results were announced. Rehak thanked all of CORE for the "army of supporters" he had behind his candidacy this time around. Potter was the main architect of CORE's organizational work and direct action model since the caucus's founding in May and June 2008. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The voting for teacher trustees took place in all Chicago public schools whose teachers and other teacher certificated staff pay into the pension fund on October 30, 2009. Schools whose teachers are part of the fund includes most of the city's charter schools. Some contract and other novelty schools in Chicago's vast public schools system are not eligible to participate in the CTPF. The CRPF oversees a defined benefit pension plan and has been in existence for more than 100 years.

A separate election is being held by mail ballot to select three trustees to represent retired teachers. The results of that election will be known after November 7, when the ballots have to be received by the CTPF.

Two trustees representing the Chicago Board of Education and selected by the seven members of the Board have already been selected by the Board. Prior to the Board's October 28, 2009, meeting, the Board had selected retired banker Alberto Carrero to continue as one of the Board trustees. At the October 28, 2009, meeting, the Board selected Peggy Davis, a lawyer for Exelon Corporation, to continue as the second Board trustee.

Test of strength within Chicago Teachers Union

The pension election was a test of strength for the various competing caucuses within the 31,000-member Chicago Teachers Union.

CTU President Marilyn Stewart and her embattled United Progressive Caucus (UPC) had endorsed Reina Otero and Nancy Williams, both of whom were incumbents. Stewart got the union's executive board, long viewed as a rubber stamp for Stewart (since it's packed with elected and appointed UPC members) to promote the endorsement of Otero and Williams. Even before the union's House of Delegates met on October 7, Stewart had not only gotten Otero and Williams endorsed by the Executive Board, but she had done a mailing on behalf of the two incumbents. Although the mailing mentioned that it had been done by the United Progressive Caucus, it was clearly signed by Stewart not as the leader of one union faction, but as President of CTU.

At the October 7 House of Delegates meeting, Stewart came in with a recommendation by the Executive Board to endorse Otero and Williams. But in an unprecedented move, the House rejected Stewart's recommendation and voted that all six candidates for the teacher positions were qualified and should have the union's endorsement.

Pension trustees will have to reorganize

With the completion of the 2009 election for teacher trustees, it is become more and more clear the impact of the election of Ashford and Rehak will have implications within the pension board.

Reina Otero was official vice-president of the pension board at the time she lost her position. Nancy Williams was recording secretary.

But there are questions about other incumbent teacher trustees as well. Maria Rodriguez, who is still serving as a teacher trustee, hasn't been a teacher in five years. She works for Marilyn Stewart at the Chicago Teachers Union as a field representative, and many teachers are now questioning the pension board policy that allows for such an apparent conflict of interest. The president of the pension board, John O'Brill, is facing serious problems, yet he has not considered stepping down at this time. The other two teacher trustees are Linda Goff and Lois Nelson.

On November 6, the results of the election for retiree trustees (three in number) will be announced. There are five candidates at this time. By the middle of November, the composition of the pension fund board of trustees will have changed dramatically, with the prospect of additional changes in the near future.



October 31, 2009 at 5:56 AM

By: Was Stewart endorsement the kiss of death?

UPC death rattles begin

There is more than just what you are reporting here. Remind your readers that Marilyn Stewart violated union traditions by mailing out that postcard to all teachers stating the her candidates — Reina Otero and Nancy Williams — had been endorsed by the "executive board" of the union after the House of Delegates voted to endorse all six teacher candidates. Although Otero and Williams had never spoken out at Board meetings on the Board's budget (and the claims that CPS couldn't afford to pay its just debts to the pension fund), Stewart contrived to get their names twice on the post card mailed to all union members, implying that the "Executive Board" endorsement was more important than the vote of the House of Delegates.

Now that even the most hard core Stewart UPC myrmidons realize what Stewart's manipulations and illegal politicking using union funds are worth, the real question after this week's pension trustee vote is whether the UPC will risk continuing to follow Marilyn Stewart's leadership to its doom in the May 2010 election.

What does Substance think about the possibility that Stewart will be history before the 2010 election even heats up?

October 31, 2009 at 8:33 AM

By: Bob


Well Done

I am happy this morning for two reasons.

First the people I wanted to win did. Second I have figured out how to

Develop a winning model for May.

October 31, 2009 at 9:40 AM

By: Retired Principal

Pension Election Results

Jay and Lois, congratulations to you! I'll be working with you to protect our pensions!

October 31, 2009 at 10:33 AM

By: Jay Rehak

Incredible group effort

Thanks for all the kind words re: our CORE victory last night. Lois and I had incredible support not only in the field, but also financially, intellectually and personally.

Specifically, we had people in many schools and outside of schools flyering and generally getting the word out.

We had financial support in that folks contributed money (in this deep recession) to CORE on the CHANCE and HOPE that we would win. That took a leap of faith.

We also got help with getting the facts right. CORE's budget committee helped me in every way possible. Those men and women know the CPS budget and study it Our communications people filled in gaps I had and fixed statements I might have otherwise made. Together, they made sure that what Lois and I said was truth.

Personally, everyone encouraged Lois and I.

We are grateful winners today.

October 31, 2009 at 10:34 AM

By: Joe Linehan

Jay and Lois

Well done! I am overjoyed to have you two representing my interests on the pension board.

October 31, 2009 at 10:38 AM

By: Bernie

Jay and Lois

Best Union news in a long time; there is a positive light at the end of the tunnel.

(Is there a school by school tally available?)

October 31, 2009 at 11:01 AM

By: Bob


Yes could someone post a school by school


October 31, 2009 at 11:34 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

No school-by-school tally from CTPF

One of the things we'll be reporting further in this article is that the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) does not provide a school-by-school tally. At the present time, such tallies are required to be published in the Chicago Union Teacher for teacher union elections and referenda. But the pension board runs its own elections.

By the way, Marilyn Stewart is trying to get away from reporting the school-by-school tally on elections and referenda. She has gotten her Executive Board of schedule a referendum (without taking it to the House of Delegates) for November 2009 to try and turn back that democratic option, too.

The House of Delegates would have voted against all of the referenda that Marilyn Stewart will be trying to force through the membership in the next couple of months. So she has been ignoring the House of Delegates (since her firing of Ted Dallas without consulting the House more than a year ago) and ruling by executive decree based on the alleged "powers" she has bestowed on the Executive Board (about half of whom have been appointed by her).

October 31, 2009 at 7:27 PM

By: Jim Vail

Great News!

Garth and myself are wonderfully ecstatic that our hard work marching into schools where we live and work to vote for Jay and Lois worked! We kept saying our pension is under attack — time to fight back! JayLo will reprent our interests well!

Also, this is a huge slap in the face of Marilyn Stewart. This woman has helped lead Daley's team to privatize the schools by even endorsing a Renaissance school where the teachers don't even get a defined pension but rather a 401K that wasn't designed to be a pesion plan in the first place.

Now it's time to throw them out in May!

November 1, 2009 at 3:33 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired Teacher

Congrats, Jay and Lois

and everyone else for their hard work on this election. I think even Marilyn is going to have to do some hard thinking if she doesn't want to be history, very-very soon and live on in infimity. I think it is too late for her to do anything but acknowledge that she has been wrong for trying to destroy the Union (which she'll never do) and bow out gracefully (which she'll never do). Hopefully, the new people will be able to turn things around before it's too late.

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