Thousands march on coldest November night in years to show Chicago that the Chicago Teachers Union is ready for a strike -- and that parents, students and many community leaders are supporting the CTU against the false financial claims of Claypool and Emanuel...

Part of the Chicago Teachers Union crowd at Grant Park on the night of November 23, 2015. The organized group, on the coldest November night in decades, made it clear that the union was ready to strike again, if necessary. Substance photo by Larry Duncan. Thousands of Chicago Teachers Union members marched and rallied during the coldest November night in recent history in order to begin the final push towards a strike. The thousands of people in the march and rally included parents, students and community leaders (including politicians) who are in support of the union. The union's leaders utilized the major event to make clear that the time has come to begin the final countdown to a strike, which may take place as early as February.

Earlier in the day, Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Forrest Claypool met with the Chicago Sun-Times's editorial board to try and market the Board's latest talking points, which are wrong both on the facts and the politics.

Claypool's experience in government has only come at the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Park District. A brief attempt to win public office by a vote of the people was defeated, proving, many have said since, that Claypool's main talent was in currying favor from the city's elites, while remaining tone deaf about the actual realities of Chicago "on the ground."

Claypool's desperation in the face of the November 23 rally was clear when he tried to recycle his earlier Power Point talking points -- the strange claim that every school district in Illinois should receive funding from the state in proportion to its percentage of the state's total students. The simplistic math involved in Claypool's claims showed observers that he is desperately trying for a simplistic claim against "Springfield" while ignoring the fact that the bulk of taxes for schools in most Illinois districts comes from local property taxes. Even the conservative Civic Federation has noted for several years that Chicago has either the lowest property taxes or is "near the bottom."

Claypool has nevertheless run out of options in his claim that everyone should "get on the bus." As he might have observed had he known anything about the city's schools, the majority of teachers and children (along with their parents) know much more than the school system's chief about the actual realities of CPS.

The news stories below show the breath and depth of much of the coverage -- and the shallow points where the facts are ignored and the Claypool version of reality gets front page ink...

Hundreds of schools individualized their lesson plans for the city... Above, students and parents from Greeley Elementary, on the North Side, bring their message to the November 23, 2015 rally in Grant Park. Substance photo by David Vance.SUN TIMES COVERAGE FROM NOVEMBER 24, 2015

CTU chief tells rallying teachers: 'When we must, we will withhold our labor'


Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said Monday night at a Grant Park rally that teachers dont want to strike, as they did in 2012, but they will, if they must to protect our professions and our classrooms.

In front of a screaming crowd of thousands who braved a frigid night to show their strength, and joined by legislators, pastors and other labor leaders, Lewis said, It is time for us to act!

We must show the city, the mayors handpicked Board of Education and even our students and parents that Chicagos public school educators will stand up for what is just and fair, and together we will fight to protect our professions and our classrooms, Lewis said.

No teacher wants to go on strike, she continued, as the crowd bundled up in the unions signature red shouted, No.

We prefer to be in front of our students, but we know that when we must, we will withhold our labor. Because this is the root of our power as organized labor, and if we must strike, we do so to protect the interests of our students.

The CTU still has no contract to replace the one that expired June 30. Negotiations continue on a weekly basis at what Chicago Public Schools characterizes at a normal pace, but lately with help from a mediator. And CPS still needs $480 million to fill its current budget hole, money its been seeking in vain from Springfield. The district says itll have to borrow more money and make deep cuts if help doesnt come through.

State law requires the CTU to muster at least 75 percent of its members before striking. In 2012 when members struck for the first time in 25 years, about 90 percent of them voted in favor of it. In what the CTU called a practice poll taken earlier this month, 97 percent of voting members said theyd vote to strike for the second time in four years.

CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey told the thousands who faced the cold that Very soon, you will have the chance to answer the question of how much resolve you have. When you do the answer will be yes.

Afterwards, Sharkey would not say exactly when the union might call for such a vote but only that the city should expect it.

The parties still must seek help from a fact finder, another step required by that same law that takes about 100 days to conclude, before teachers can walk.

The CTU formally asked on Monday to begin that process, meaning the soonest the union could walk out is early March, about a month after CPS could lay off an unknown number of teachers and other CTU members.

CPS wants the fact finder to start on Feb. 8, which is the start of second semester and the first day those massive cuts would take effect. That would push the strike until late spring at the earliest, closer to the end of the school year.

In an interview with the Sun-Times Editorial Board earlier Monday, CEO Forrest Claypool said negotiations were progressing at a normal pace, with the mediator so far listening to both parties.

But Claypool vehemently denied any practice vote was taken, calling the four questions posed to teachers a push poll.

Thats not a strike vote. Saying you agree with the union to fight for this and fight for that isnt a strike vote. There was no strike vote, despite what you reported there was no strike vote.

I would look at the questions, he continued. You cant draw a line from any of those questions to a strike.

I think its normal if you ask teachers, Do you want a contract and are you concerned about a contract? thats not the same thing as saying we all want to strike.


Teachers union stages rally while schools chief focuses on Springfield....CTU rally Tribune story

By Juan Perez Jr.

Chicago Teachers Union leaders exhorted thousands of members gathered for a rally in Grant Park on Monday to confront the city with the threat of a strike in the face of contract talks that have dragged on for more than a year.

"Now it's time for us to act. We've been here before," CTU PresidentKaren Lewis, who led a seven-day strike in 2012, told the crowd at Petrillo Music Shell. "No teacher wants to go on strike. We prefer to be in front of our students. But we know that when we must, we will withhold our labor."

While the union has yet to announce a strike authorization vote, a required step before a walkout can occur, organizers urged members to give them additional leverage.

"We want to remind people in this crowd about sometimes what it takes," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said in his speech to the red-clad crowd. "You will have a chance very soon to answer the question of how much resolve you have. And when you do, the answer will be 'Yes.'"

As promised, the union on Monday formally demanded a start to the final phase of a lengthy process that has to play out under state law before a strike can occur. The union wants to move talks, which have been in mediation since August, to a three-member fact-finding panel made up of representatives from the union, the district and one impartial member. Even under the union timetable, a strike could not occur for many weeks.

A CPS spokeswoman said district attorneys were reviewing CTU's request but added that "additional issues still need to be presented to the mediator, and we will move to fact-finding when good-faith attempts at mediation have been exhausted, as the law requires."

Chicago Teachers Union to flex muscle with downtown rally

In an interview with the Tribune Editorial Board earlier Monday, CPS chief Forrest Claypool sought to keep the focus on Springfield and the need for an overhaul of how the district is funded a move he said could pressure CTU to come to agreement.

"I think, obviously, if the state is willing to treat our children equally, then that, I think, is a stronger message to CTU to say, 'Look, the state has stepped up to the plate,'" Claypool said.

Claypool declined to comment on contract negotiations or how the city is preparing for a possible teachers strike. He rebuked union leaders for not joining the city efforts to get lawmakers to ease pressure on the district's finances.

"It's a sad day when the Chicago Teachers Union is not fighting with us in Springfield for equal funding for the most vulnerable and impoverished children in the state of Illinois," Claypool said.

Claypool repeated his call for the state to increase funding to CPS so that it matches what he says is the city's portion of total state public school enrollment, 20 percent. If the state does that, he said the district will get an additional $458 million, allowing it to avoid layoffs and borrowing, and also to balance its budget in the coming year.

f we get equality, we will get the rest of the way," Claypool said.

Claypool said more funding from Springfield would also smooth the way toward a new teachers contract. Negotiations have been stuck on issues including teacher contributions to their pensions.

"It starts with the state," Claypool said. "Their fundamental obligation at a minimum is to give the most impoverished children in the state equality. Not more, just equality.

"And if we get that foundation, then we can say 'OK, we'll do our part,'" Claypool said. "The city will do its part and ask the teachers union to do their part. So it really does begin with the state."

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, is pushing a measure that includes a two-year freeze on local property taxes and about $200 million in pension relief for CPS. It would also launch a process to change the state's complex education funding formula and have CPS levy a tax to pay for teacher pensions.

Claypool has said Cullerton's plan represents "our best, most rational and fair way" for the district to dig out of its financial hole. But Cullerton's legislation is opposed by both Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the CTU.

The district wants to begin the fact-finding process in early February. Under the union's proposal, a strike could begin in late winter. Under the district's fact-finding proposal, a strike couldn't happen until near the end of the school year.

The union needs 75 percent of its total membership to give officials the go-ahead for a walkout if talks fail to reach a resolution. At Monday's rally, Linsey Rose, a middle school math teacher, pointed to the results of a recent union poll that CTU leaders used to assert it had broad support for a walkout.

"It shows that the union will do what it has to do for our kids," Rose said. "We spend every day in, day out with them. So we'll do what we have to do to take care of them.


November 24, 2015 at 5:36 PM

By: Ed Hershey

What rhymes with Claypool

Every teacher knew very well what this vote was. People understood what their vote was for. (If anything, people complained that we weren't able to vote directly for a strike).

Some schools DID in fact vote for a strike, and the numbers I've seen tracked almost exactly with the numbers on the union's questions.

Claypool can say what he wants, but he's a fool if he thinks teachers aren't ready to strike. (We can only assume he saw the question that was directed against him).

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