STRIKEWATCH, CHICAGO MEDIA: Sun-Times editorial continues bashing the CTU on behalf of its new owners... 'News' coverage in print ignores the facts to preach wishful thinking

As the hours tick down for the beginning of the first strike by the Chicago Teachers Union in a quarter century, Substance will try and launch a regular feature, on top of all of our strike coverage, so that Chicago teachers, students and parents can follow (sort of) the corporate media's version of what's happening. We will also illustrate our analysis of the biases of those who think they own the way Chicago learned and thinks with lowlights. This morning we begin with Kate Grossman's attack on veteran teachers in the form of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial on the issues still outstanding at the bargaining table. We then move to the actual "news" stories served up following the collapse of negotiations on September 7, 2012.

Chicago Sun-Times propagandists Kate Grossman (red hair) and Rosalind Rossi (black hair) sit on the floor of the reception area of the Chicago Teachers Union offices waiting for Karen Lewis and the union's bargaining team to come out for the September 7, 2012 press conference at CTU. For more than a year, Grossman has been penning the teacher bashing and union busting editorials supporting Rahm Emanuel's versions of reality as one of the editorial writers at the Sun-Times. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.SUN TIMES EDITORIAL SEPTEMBER 7, 2012: KATE GROSSMAN IN A SUN TIMES EDITORIAL. TEACHER EXPERIENCE NOT WORTH IT (STEP RAISES ARE FOR 'HANGING AROUND ANOTHER YEAR') AND EVERYONE KNOWS THE BOARD IS, AS ALWAYS, 'BROKE.'

Editorial: If Chicago teachers strike now, it’s the union’s bad call. Editorials September 6, 2012 7:40PM, Updated: September 7, 2012 9:20AM

No issue still to be negotiated justifies Chicago Public Schools teachers striking on Monday.

Despite the flame-throwing by the Chicago Teachers Union, a fair settlement is within reach — and it’s largely up to the union to make it happen.

The union has made these talks a referendum on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his schools reform agenda. Emanuel may have tried to do too much at once — a recipe for poor outcomes in a district that often fails to pull off the best of ideas under the best of circumstances. But that doesn’t justify saying no to it all, as the union has done.

The mayor’s schools team was right to push for reform; a longer day, more meaningful teacher evaluations, a compensation system that does more than simply pay teachers for another year of service.

The answer to the mayor’s over-reaching isn’t a strike. The answer is hammering out compromises at the bargaining table:

“Step” increases: Teachers are balking at giving up annual raises for each extra year they work. They are wrong on this issue. It’s no longer acceptable for a teacher to get a pay hike just for sticking around year after year. If teachers want more than a cost-of-living raise from here on out, it should be tied to additional responsibilities and student performance. A CPS official tells us CPS has proposed swapping steps for an alternative that provides additional compensation.

Raises: The CTU rejects a proposed 8 percent raise over four years when they know CPS is out of cash and the financial future bleaker still. This isn’t a statement about teachers’ worth and the CTU knows it. That said, 2 percent — on the heels of a rescinded 4 percent raise last year and a more demanding teaching job this year with a new curriculum and a longer day and year — is too low. CPS could swing a total raise of 3 percent and buy some goodwill.

Teacher recall: With dozens of school closings likely on the horizon, the union wants a recall policy for displaced teachers. We adamantly oppose telling principals who to hire. But quality teachers — many who chose to work at tough schools — shouldn’t be penalized for taking those jobs and need first crack at openings. CTU and CPS reached a compromise on this in July, giving displaced teachers first shot at jobs needed for the longer day without guaranteeing them work. Principals can also fire them if they don’t work out. That should be the template for a larger agreement.

Evaluations: This school year brings new teacher evaluations, a vast improvement over the meaningless checklist in place for years. A new state law requires basing at least 30 percent of the evaluation on student test score growth. CPS opted for 40 percent. Another 10 percent is based on student surveys, and classroom observations make up the rest. We have endorsed the evaluation system but would argue that 40 percent is too high given all the factors that influence student performance. CPS should dial that back to 30 or 35 percent.

CTU President Karen Lewis needs to walk her fired-up teachers back from the ledge. And she can do it with a good conscience. At her prodding, CPS dropped merit pay and health premium increases, agreed to a longer day for students but not a significantly longer one for teachers, and adopted a first-of-its-kind rehiring policy.

Emanuel also can walk away with this head high. He has brought important change to CPS: a longer day and year; new teacher evaluations; a more rigorous curriculum.

Each side can claim victory. All that’s left is for them to do it.


No deal yet to avert strike by Chicago Public Schools teachers, BY ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter/ September 7, 2012 9:20AM

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union looks dejected at a 6 p.m. news conference at CTU headquarters Friday, September 7, 2012 saying she was disappointed in the days negotiations, but would start up again on Saturday at Noon.

Chicago Teachers Union contract talks ended Friday without a deal and with the CTU’s president urging district officials to “shut down’’ 144 schools targeted as strike contingency sites because plans for them amounted to “a train wreck.’’

As the two sides left a negotiating session at the union’s Merchandise Mart headquarters early Friday evening, they gave reporters two different versions of what happened at the table — one upbeat and one pessimistic.

Meanwhile, away from the negotiating table, Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard sent CTU President Karen Lewis a letter Friday, asking the union to voluntarily forgo picketing the 144 “Children First’’ school sites that will offer students a half-day of food, shelter and activities in the event of a strike.

Brizard wrote that he had “deep concerns’’ about forcing “impressionable” kids to “walk through a picket line with their parents.’’

However, CTU officials called the Children First contingency plan “a train wreck.’’

Of the 144 school sites offering half-day sessions, Lewis said, “They are going to be a mess. I wouldn’t send my children [there],’’ So if Brizard wanted to avoid picketers, she said, “I think he should shut them down.’’

Some kids will be supervised by CPS employees with no experience in dealing with children or teens, CTU officials said. Those pressed into service will be non-teachers, including lawyers, accountants and clerical workers.

Lewis urged parents to come up with their own plans for their children because “Some lawyers from central office are being sent out [to the 144 sites]. How can that be good?”

CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said the district’s Children First plan “calls for parents to drop off their children at holding centers for a half day of babysitting staffed by strangers, suits from Central Office and preachers. It’s the equivalent of opening a fire station without firefighters.’’

Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the plan had been in the works for three months and the 144 sites were intended only for those children whose parents cannot find alternate arrangements.

“We have provided our volunteers with guidance on how to positively engage children of all ages to help make them feel safe, secure and comfortable,’’ Carroll said.

CTU leaders emerged from talks Thursday heartened by the presence of School Board President David Vitale, who prompted both sides to “put their cards on the table’’ and speak frankly, CTU officials said.

But on Friday, the CTU’s Lewis left talks looking tired and grim.

“We did not make much progress,’’ Lewis told reporters. “We are very disappointed. We thought it would be infinitely better than it was ...We were told we were going to get a proposal that would answer some of our biggest issues, and it did not,’’ Lewis said.

Vitale’s take on the situation was far different.

“I would say we made some progress today. We’re here,’’ said Vitale as he walked into an elevator with CPS negotiators and Beth Swanson, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s education liaison.

“Today we had another good meeting and will meet again tomorrow with the sole goal of keeping kids in the classroom by completing these negotiations,’’ Vitale said later in an emailed written statement.

Although Vitale’s presence seemed to be helpful Thursday, Gadlin said Lewis has insisted it would “not be helpful” if the mayor showed up at the talks to try to close the deal. In the past, Lewis said Emanuel threw the f-bomb at her during one of their early meetings.

To avert a strike, the union’s House of Delegates must vote to delay Monday’s 12:01 a.m. strike deadline or to approve a contract. The CTU’s Gadlin said the union is “standing firm’’ on the 12:01 a.m. Monday deadline and will not ask delegates to push back the strike date.

However, Gadlin said, CTU negotiators are willing to work around the clock, and a quorum of delegates could be gathered in one to two hours, if needed, to vote on any proposal that would avert a Monday strike.

District spokeswoman Carroll said the proposal given the union Friday was “a fair and reasonable plan ... we believe would get us on a path to securing a deal.’’

The CTU said the same issues are still under contention, including pay, job security and teacher evaluations.

The union was so hopeful Thursday, it called in its larger bargaining team Friday for a special meeting, so it would be available to consult if an agreeable proposal emerged. Instead, one member of the team said, CTU officials told them there was “‘no progress [Friday]. None at all.’ I guess this is going to go down to the wire.’’


Teachers, CPS gird for 'intense' weekend talks. Union president 'disappointed' as deadline looms; board president warns parents to prepare for strike Monday. By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune reporter. 11:00 p.m. CDT, September 7, 2012

There was only bad news Friday as contract talks between Chicago Public Schools and the teachers union headed into the weekend with Monday's strike deadline looming ever closer.

After nearly eight hours of talks at the union's Merchandise Mart headquarters, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis looked grim.

"We are very disappointed," Lewis said at a news conference. "We thought it would be infinitely better than it was."

Lewis said that after school board President David Vitale entered talks Thursday, union leaders were told they would get a proposal "addressing some of our biggest issues and we did not."

Vitale, who a day earlier expressed optimism, warned parents to prepare for a strike as he left negotiations.

"Parents need to plan for Monday morning, and we will start to execute our (strike contingency) plan because logistically it takes us time to do that," he said. "It's not a statement that we're not going to get there, it's just that we're being cautious and precautionary about Monday."

Lewis said weekend talks, which begin at noon Saturday, would be "intense."

The sticking points to a new contract remain raises, a recall policy for laid-off teachers and a new teacher evaluation system.

It wasn't clear exactly how far the two sides were apart on salary increases. The last known CPS offer was for 2 percent increases in each year of a four-year contract. The union had been asking for significantly more, although Lewis declined to say Friday how much it had come down from its call for a 19 percent raise in the contract's first year.

The district has backed off its call for merit pay in the face of staunch union opposition but is still insisting that annual raises not be given for experience.

The union also is concerned about the district's plan to close schools — Lewis has said that 100 schools could be shut down in coming years — and is pushing hard on a recall policy for laid-off teachers.

"At the end of the day, both sides need to craft a contract that they can claim is a win," said Robin Steans, executive director of the education policy group Advance Illinois. "What the rest of us need to pay attention to is whether it's a contract that's good for kids. Hiring great people is the single most important thing principals do for their students."

If a deal is reached, the union said it needs to gather its delegates to call off a strike. A union official said she expects a "reasonable cutoff of negotiations on Sunday" and if a deal is reached, a delegate vote can be held within an hour.

Vitale said Thursday he thinks a deal can be made without Mayor Rahm Emanuel coming to the table. The mayor's point person on education, Beth Swanson, has been at the negotiating table for the past week, CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said.

Some observers saw Vitale's appearance at the negotiating table Thursday as a reason for optimism. Former interim schools chief Terry Mazany went so far as to call it "a game changer."

"David Vitale is deeply knowledgeable of the Chicago Public Schools and he has professional experience leading organizations and unions through massive change," said Mazany, who heads the Chicago Community Trust.

Union officials Thursday agreed that Vitale's entry into the talks was "encouraging."

With negotiations going down to the wire, advocacy groups for both sides are pushing to win public support.

Democrats for Education Reform, an organization started by Wall Street hedge fund managers that opened offices in Chicago earlier this year, staged a protest near union headquarters Friday by a group of 50 parents, students and pastors who have supported many CPS initiatives like school closings.

"Call off the strike," said Rebeca Huffman, executive director of the group, which also goes by the name Education Reform Now. "It's been 25 years since the city has experienced a strike, and quite frankly, people get amnesia or somehow just don't know what that means for struggling families in our communities."

At several expressway overpasses, Parents 4 Teachers, a pro-CTU group, held signs and banners saying "Quality schools for all kids" and "Parents stand with teachers" to drivers honking their horns.

"I think most parents really are in support of the teachers and we just need to convey that to CPS and the mayor," parent Amy Green, 34, said as she held a stack of fliers. "I feel like maybe when the parents do get involved, the mayor will listen."

For now, parents have been busy signing up children for the district's contingency plan, which will open 144 schools for half a day and 60 churches from 8:30 a.m. till 2 p.m. in the event of a strike. On Friday, schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard sent a letter to Lewis asking her to agree not to picket in front of schools that are open as part of the plan.

"Since students will stand to lose the most from a strike, I have deep concerns about the impact of forcing kids to walk through a picket line with their parents," Brizard said.

Asked about the letter, Lewis said the sites should be shut down and described the plans to use central office employees and administrators to staff the locations as a "mess."

At Ogden International School of Chicago on Friday, students leaving for the day said their teachers had given them mixed messages on what to expect next week. Some told students they'd see them Monday while others offered the opinion that the strike could last three to four days.

"Most teachers said you should act like you're coming to school, so do your homework," said Henry Allen, 12.

That offered little comfort to parents, many of whom said they are not sure what to expect.

Tribune reporters Cynthia Dizikes and Jennifer Delgado contributed.


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