Archives for category: Chicago

A statement from the Chicago Teachers Union:

STATEMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
June 9, 2014 312/329-6250

CTU on SB1922 signing: “Emanuel’s Law is another slap in the face to the citizens who put the governor and mayor in office.”

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is greatly disappointed at the signing today by Gov. Pat Quinn of Senate Bill 1922, a proposal by the mayor of Chicago that will cut the retirement savings of thousands of city workers and school employees, and a slap in the face to the citizens who put the governor in office. The Union maintains that this short-sighted proposal does not, in any way, solve Chicago’s pension problem, and is just another attack on communities and citizens who continue to be victims of draconian policies out of Springfield and the fifth floor of City Hall.

The worker retiring today under this “Emanuel’s Law,” earning an average of $23,000 a year will lose nearly $10,000 in earning power within twenty years. In 2034, this retiree’s pension 20 years from now will only be worth $15,982 per year in today’s dollars – a pension in 2034 that is worth $7,018 less than the retiree’s pension today. She will lose more than 18 percent of her total pension over 20 years.

This is nothing more than continued disinvestment in our city, neglect of public employees and the straddling of taxpayers who must bear the brunt of this so-called pension crisis instead of those who crippled our economic system in the first place. CTU members do not receive social security benefits and therefore must absorb the expense of all future health care costs.

“We have to call this what it is—which is theft—because these people are stealing from dedicated city workers like the paraprofessionals in our schools,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “Instead of any accountability for those who actually caused this problem, Emanuel’s Law brutally attacks the people who are most vulnerable, our seniors and municipal employees who remain on the frontlines in our city.”

The CTU has called for various revenue proposals to not only eliminate the pension debt but also provide critical resources for neighborhood schools, including a LaSalle Street Tax of $1 per financial transactions such as stocks, bonds, currency, futures and credit default swaps. In addition, the Union supports a 1 percent commuter tax which could draw $350 million every year; and, changes to the city’s controversial TIF program.

Under “Emanuel’s Law, school clerks, teachers’ aides and support services staff will join nurses, cafeteria workers and librarians in losing a third of their retirement life savings. “It is time public employees stop shouldering the burden of a shortfall created by politicians, corporations and the elites in Illinois who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes,” Lewis said. “This was an opportunity for Pat Quinn to stand up for everyday citizens instead of standing in the gap for the mayor and his well-funded pension reform allies.”

The CTU represents 4,000 active members and thousands of retired members in the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago (MEABF), and was not part of any negotiation with the City of Chicago in the creation of SB1922. The Union will continue to vigorously fight this attempt at pension heist as part of the We Are One Chicago coalition and will support litigation to challenge the new law.

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at http://www.ctunet.com

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the federal SEC has “charged the clout-heavy United Neighborhood Organization and its charter-school network Monday with defrauding investors in a $37.5 million bond deal by “making materially misleading statements” about contracts that funneled millions of state taxpayer dollars to organization insiders.”

Federal officials say their investigation is continuing and that “UNO leaders have agreed to settle the case against it by promising to never again enter into crony contracts and accepting the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the group’s operations for a year.”

Blogger Fred Klonsky says no one in Chicago was surprised. the leader of the UNO charter chain was co-chair of Rahm Emanuel ‘s 2011 mayoral campaign

This mother writes in response to an article by a Chicago principal, Troy LaRavierre.

I understand this mother’s anxieties. She wants the same things for her child that Mayor Rahm has at the University of Chicago Lab School. Instead, her son got scripted lessons that were developmentally inappropriate, that were dully academic instead of joyful. If only there were a way to keep the politicians–Bush, Obama, Emanuel, Duncan–out of our classrooms or at least get them to pledge to fight for all children to have the same opportunities and resources that they want for their own children.

She writes:

“Thank you for this and to Mr. LaRavierre’s effort and courage. This is my first post after lurking for months, trying to understand why I had a rising anxiety and confusion as my son began kindergarten at a Chicago Public School Regional Gifted (aka merely accelerated) Program that had just been moved from its overcrowded original location to a Title I, On Probation, AUSL Turnaround. Our RGC classroom was the first time middle-class children and parents were joining the school, which until three years ago had served the children who lived in subsidized housing so notorious they were torn down.

“We withdrew him from the program in March after months of agonizing, multiple meetings with the teacher and principal. Well, I agonized, being a neophyte to urban public education post-NCLB. (I am a graduate of small-town Catholic schools.) My husband, a Romanian who came of age during the worst deprivations and oppressions of Ceausescu’s dictatorship, and also trained as a teacher and coming from a long line of teachers in his hometown, was aghast at what we were encountering in the school and kindergarten especially, if only in terms of how didactic and developmentally inappropriate it was. Its AUSL connection made the system opaque, leadership inaccessible. Title I status meant that parents could not advocate or mobilize as they can in more affluent schools (e.g., no regular PTA, modified Local School Council). I served as Secretary of the Parent Advisory Council, a well-meaning but impotent group that was not taken seriously by anyone in administration.

“Our son immediately began showing signs of stress and anxiety. He is a young five, with a mid-July birthday for a September 1st cutoff. The parents of boys discussed often the punishment system in place in the classroom, which involved a color thermometer, “Think Sheets” (for children who had no formal training in writing or reading), withdrawal of the 20 minutes of “Afternoon Centers” at the end of the day while they sit alone with their backpacks on and perhaps are allowed to read a book. The parents of girls had no idea this was happening.

“Anyway, there are numerous stories I would like to share with the readers here, if you are interested. Between the sociodemographics, the AUSL factor, the pedagogy and philosophy, the “data-driven” mission, we seemed to experience everything discussed here, but from the perspective of parents who had no idea what we had fallen into. The facilities are gorgeous, the location perfect, so we couldn’t understand at first our malcontent. We couldn’t understand why our son was so miserable, although the hour of homework a night gave us a clue. Bar graphs for kindergartners! Use your phonics to tell if “skunk” is spelled with a “c” or a “k” or…both? (Not kidding…he hadn’t even been taught phonics, much less word recognition….) I found myself frustrated; why do I have to do the teaching? The teachers are trained to do this. I don’t know how to teach a five-year old to read or understand mathematical concepts. I need to make dinner. Get the little sister ready for bed.

“Essentially, kindergarten was skipped and our son, a just-turned-five year old, was thrown into 1st grade. The wonderful play-based private Jewish preschool he attended for two years must have let him down. At this kindergarten, the kids are expected to read at 2nd grade level by the end of this year. I’m pretty sure our son has not achieved that, but you should see how much he enjoys reading now that he’s not in that environment.

“Everyone here seems far more erudite on these issues than I. I am interested in your perspectives and insight and heartened that there are people fighting for children’s right to a fully human education, rather than skills training. I feel badly giving up on a public school because I agree they are the foundation of a healthy democracy, but we could not sacrifice our son. My husband and I have doctorates in Literature and Anthropology respectively. There is nothing we value more than knowledge and education. The experience was, to me as an anthropologist, enlightening. There is nothing like participant observation, especially with your child’s mind at stake, to give a little perspective. Our neighborhood school, two blocks from us and two from President Obama’s personal residence and another few from the University of Chicago Lab Schools, might be fine for the early grades, but it is also on probation and busing kids in from very rough neighborhoods. Are we racist/classist/elitist to want to avoid that? I feel as if I am rambling here…there is so much I am processing about this experience.

“I am glad there are people in CPS fighting the system. It is an overwhelming task. This blog has helped me immeasurably trying to discern the problem before we pulled our son and has continued to validate the decision. You see, it was a loss. I cried for a week. I had such hopes for the school, the program, the diverse community, and to be fair, the program works for some kids (who happen to mostly be older girls). The teacher works hard (the weekly rubrics!). The principal seemed to want to do a good job (though my husband described him as a “salesman” or “business manager” rather than an educator. I didn’t really know what he meant.) It seemed perfect. But it wasn’t for our son, who would say when I asked how his day was,” Good. I stayed on Green.”

This post by Ken Previti directed me to a hugely important story that I had missed.

David Sirota of Pando and Ben Joravsky of The Chicago Reader unearthed a story of money, politics , and greed that is startling.

The headline is that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top donor bought a big bloc of stock in Marriott hotels shortly before Marriott won a very lucrative contract from the city. The deeper story is about the web of money and contracts that makes buddies of all the movers and shakers in Chicago. This is a city that claimed it had to close 50 public schools and that pensions were too much to bear.

Yet Chicago has a program called TIF (Tax Increment Financing) that allows the mayor to spend vast amounts of money: “As previously reported by Pando and the Reader, TIF is a program in which Chicago annually diverts roughly $500 million in property taxes–paid in the name of schools, parks, police, etc.–into bank accounts largely controlled by the mayor. The money is supposed to be used to subsidize development in blighted communities that are so poor they would receive no development—but for the TIF.”

This, Emanuel was able to award a coveted contract to Marriott. “After all, the company will be running one of America’s largest hotels next to America’s largest convention center – and doing so with massive taxpayer subsidies, but without having to pay to construct the hotel and without having to pay property taxes.”

“Keep in mind–TIFs divert property tax dollars from public schools that are so dead broke many of them can’t afford to buy basic supplies, like toilet paper. Moreover, the mayor is earmarking money to build the Marriott at the very moment he says he has to jack up property taxes and cut payments to pensioners because the city can’t afford to make good on its pension obligations.

“In short, the city claims it doesn’t have money for its school children or retirees, but it somehow has plenty of cash to enrich a hotel corporation – one that just so happens to be part owned by the hedge fund of the mayor’s largest contributors.”

So is this a story about schools? Yes, indeed. When a city closes public schools because it has a deficit but gives generously to finance a luxury hotel that won’t have to pay taxes, this is a story about public officials who don’t care about schools, education, or children.

NEWS RELEASE
FOR EMBARGOED RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
Midnight, May 21, 2014 312/329-6250

New CTU report analyzes massive public school closings on one-year anniversary
“Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago” examines myriad of CPS’s Broken Promises

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released today a report on the state of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) one year after the Board of Education (BOE) voted to close 49 elementary schools and one high school program, the largest, one-time school closing action in U.S. history and a decision made in the wake of massive opposition and protests throughout the city of Chicago.

The study, titled “Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago,” looks at what happened as a result of the mass school closings of 2013, and answers such questions as: Were CPS promises for receiving schools kept? How much money was saved? Did resources increase at affected schools? Have services increased for special education students at consolidated schools.

On May 22, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked BOE shuttered 50 neighborhood school communities, “turned around” five schools and co-located 17 others. Faced with widespread opposition to this action, CPS promised hundreds of millions of dollars in capital improvements and transition supports for schools receiving students from closed schools. CTU examination of the evidence has found, however, that promises made to receiving schools were hollow in many cases and only partially fulfilled in others. Among the findings:

· Receiving schools are still disproportionately under-resourced compared to other elementary schools.
· Students were moved to schools with libraries, but funds weren’t available to hire librarians. Just 38% of receiving schools have librarians on staff, whereas across CPS, 55% of elementary schools have librarians.
· Computer labs were upgraded at receiving schools but only one-fifth of these schools have technology teachers.
· CPS touted iPads for all receiving-school students, but included few related professional learning opportunities for teachers.
· CPS spent millions on large-scale programmatic changes at 30 elementary schools, but the success and continued funding of STEM and IB programs remain to be seen.

“Shuttering our schools was touted as a hard and difficult choice by the mayor and the Board, but this was the easy, draconian choice,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Parents, teachers, and the public demanded resources and supports for these education communities. Sadly, by making promises that remain unfulfilled, these schools and the students they serve have been dealt yet another blow—from failed policy to broken promises.”

For this report, the CTU interviewed teachers from seven of the receiving schools to gather information about the fulfilment of CPS promises. Additionally, researchers reviewed CPS material on the school closures, operating and capital budget documents, position files, vacancy reports, class size data, and other public data.

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Grassroots community groups in Néw Orleans, Newark, and Chicago filed complaints of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Justice Department and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. They seek an investigation of racially discriminatory school closings in their communities.

They wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Arne Duncan:

“Journey for Justice is a coalition of grassroots organizations in twenty-two cities across the country. The coalition has come together because, across our communities, education “reformers” and privatizers are targeting neighborhood schools filled with children of color, and leaving behind devastation. By stealth, seizure, and sabotage, these corporate profiteers are closing and privatizing our schools, keeping public education for children of color, not only separate, not only unequal, but increasingly not public at all.

“Adding insult to injury, the perpetrators of this injustice have cloaked themselves in the language of the Civil Rights Movement. But too many of the charter and privately-managed schools that have multiplied as replacements for our beloved neighborhood schools are test prep mills that promote prison-like environments, and seem to be geared at keeping young people of color controlled, undereducated, and dehumanized. Children of color are not collateral damage. Our communities are not collateral damage.

“Thus, we stand in solidarity, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization in Chicago, Coalition for Community Schools and Conscious Concerned Citizens Controlling Community Changes in New Orleans, New Jersey’s Parents Unified for Local School Education in Newark, and Journey for Justice member organizations across the country, to shed light on the racial injustice of school closings.

“Neighborhood schools are the hearts of our communities, and the harm caused by just one school closure is deep and devastating. This is death by a thousand cuts.”

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these community groups are appealing for justice even as the nation commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision striking down legal segregation.

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these complaints are filed to the administration of the nation’s first black president.

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these complaints are directed at the policies not of racist governors but of the Obama administration itself.

Secretary Duncan has encouraged and funded the school closings that are at the heart of the complaints. He has applauded and funded the privatization of schools in black communities. He openly admires the “no excuses” charter schools that emphasize control over education and that teach strict conformity to arbitrary rules, not the habits of mind and dispositions of a free people.

In effect, the Obama administration is being asked to overrule its own education policies. How sad. How ironic.

Troy LaRavierre, principal of Blaine Elementary school, one of the highest performing schools in the city, decided he had had enough. He wrote a candid letter to the Chicago Sun-Times blasting the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose political interference and disrespect were unprecedented in his career.

This is a man of courage. He won’t be silenced, not by Rahm Emanuel or anyone else who demands that he betray the best interests of the children in his care. No, he is not a “hero” like the billionaires pumping millions into the destruction of public education. He is the real thing.

He wrote to the Chicago Sun-Times:

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“Since 2011, CPS principals and teachers have experienced unprecedented political burdens. Early on, teachers felt publicly maligned and disrespected by the mayor, leading to the historic strike of 2012.

“While publicly praising principals in speeches and with awards, behind the scenes this administration has disregarded principals’ knowledge and experience. They have ignored and even suppressed principals’ voices in order to push City Hall’s political agenda for Chicago’s schools.

“The administration’s interaction with principals is often insulting. During the debate over the longer school day, some principals questioned its merits. CPS officials were then dispatched to tell the principals their opinions didn’t matter. “You are Board employees,” a central office official told a room full of principals at a meeting, “and when you speak, your comments must be in line with the Board’s agenda.” He instructed us to have an “elevator speech” supporting the longer day ready at a moment’s notice. We were told that if Emanuel and the press walked into our schools, we’d better be prepared to list the benefits of his longer day. In a move that further humiliated principals, they were called on at random to give their elevator speeches at subsequent principal meetings.

“Shortly afterward, CPS slashed school budgets, voted to close 50 schools and made disingenuous statements about the slashed budget giving more “autonomy” to principals. They insinuated these cuts would have little effect on classrooms. I spoke up to give Chicagoans a factual assessment of the effects of these cuts. A reporter from WBEZ Radio recorded a statement I delivered at City Hall in July 2013 and posted it on the station’s website. It became one of the station’s most downloaded audio files.

“Several months later, I spoke about overcrowded schools on WYCC television. A few hours before filming, I emailed CPS officials to inform them. Later that afternoon — unaware the show had already been taped — those officials told me not to appear because I did not have permission. On the subject of whether I had the right to speak as a private citizen, CPS said I should wait to receive clarity. After more than two months I’m still waiting for “clarity” from CPS on my right to speak.

“Recently, during a break at a training session, a few principals gathered to discuss what they could not say publicly. They expressed concerns about the impact of Emanuel’s effort to cut teacher pensions on our ability to recruit talented people into the teaching profession. They questioned unfunded mandates that pull resources from classrooms, and condemned CPS’ expenditure of over $20 million on Supes Academy — an organization the CEO of CPS once worked for — to provide principal training, a training that principals agreed was among the worst they’d experienced.

“Principal after principal expressed legitimate concerns that none felt safe expressing publicly. Finally, I spoke.

“This administration gets away with this because we let them. We are the professionals. Yet, we allow political interests to dominate the public conversation about what’s good for the children in our schools. Every time these officials misinform the public about the impact of their policies, we need to follow them with a press conference of our own to set the record straight.”

“Those who responded expressed concerns about being harassed, fired or receiving a poor evaluation. Principals sat paralyzed by fear of what might happen if they simply voiced the truth. One of them asked me plainly, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job?” The question awakened a memory:

“General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!”

“In 1989, when I was in the Navy, I was stationed onboard an aircraft carrier and accustomed to hearing the “General Quarters” battle readiness exercise. However, on January 4 of that year, it came with a sobering declaration: “This is not a drill.”

“Our ship had entered the Gulf of Sidra near Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, and crossed Gaddafi’s “Line of Death.” Two Libyan warplanes were headed our way. Fortunately, our F-14 fighter jet pilots were able to shoot the warplanes down. Our captain later praised the pilots and ship’s crew for our willingness to risk our lives to preserve American freedoms.

“So when people ask me, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job if you speak out?” this is my answer: I did not travel across an ocean and risk my life to defend American freedoms only to return and relinquish those freedoms to an elected official and his appointed board of education.”

Anthony Cody hails the Chicago Teachers Union for its unanimous vote to reject Common Core.

This vote is important for many reasons. First, it undermines the repeated (and false) claim that almost all teachers favor CC.

Second, it recognizes that CTU is worried about the standardization and double-duty testing, as well as the loss of creativity that CC will bring.

Third, Cody believes that the CTU vote will encourage other locals to speak out and voice their concerns, not only about the problems of CC, but the diversion if billions of taxpayer dollars to corporations and vendors.

Cody believes that Randi Weingarten’s recent statements indicate that she is growing skeptical about the CC.

The issue is likely to be hotly debated when the AFT holds its national convention in Los Angeles this summer. California has not yet suffered the CCSS testing, but LA lost thousands if teachers while Superintendent Deasy committed $1 billion to buy iPads for Common Core testing.

The Chicago Teachers Union adopted a resolution opposing the Common Core.

This is big news because the parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, accepted millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation to support and promote the Common Core.

Fred Klonsky posted the following account of the CTU action:

Chicago Teachers Union adopts resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards.

MAY 7, 2014

Today the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates passed a resolution opposing the Common Core standards.

A similar New Business Item was not permitted to be voted on at the recent Illinois Education Association state convention. It was ruled out of order by IEA President Cinda Klickna. The NBI had been introduced by veteran Park Ridge fifth grade teacher and delegate, Jerry Mulvihill.

From CTUnet:

Today, members of the House of Delegates (HOD) of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) passed the following resolution that enjoins the city’s educators to growing national opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying the assessments disrupt student learning and consume tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.

Now that the resolution has passed, the CTU will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core for teaching and assessment; and be it further and will work to organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the law that increases the expansion of nationwide controls over educational issues.

Common Core’s origins can be traced to the 2009 Stimulus Bill which gave $4.35 billion to the federal Department of Education which created the “Race to the Top” competition between states. In order to qualify for funding, the states needed to adopt Common Core with the added incentive that participating states would be exempted from many of the more onerous provisions of George Bush’s “No child left behind” program.

“I agree with educators and parents from across the country, the Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, a nationally board certified teacher. “Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration. We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America’s schools.”

The official text of the resolution follows:

Resolution to Oppose the Common Core State Standards

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students; and

WHEREAS, imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods – and as a result distort instruction and remove instructional materials from their social context; and

WHEREAS, despite the efforts of our union to provide support to teachers, the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study; and

WHEREAS, the assessments that accompany the Common Core State Standards (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are not transparent in that –teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available given the nature of computer adaptive tests; and

WHEREAS, Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research, as well as for supports such as those described in the Chicago Teachers Union report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding the Common Core and its impact on our students; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core State Standards for teaching and assessment; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the Common Core State Standards; and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago Board of Education, the Governor of Illinois, and all members of the Illinois legislative branch; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that should this resolution be passed by the CTU House of Delegates, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the 2014 Convention.

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