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NEWS RELEASE

IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin

September 26, 2016 312-329-6250

 

 

Teachers vote 95 percent to authorize strike to resolve contract dispute

CTU House of Delegates to meet Wednesday to discuss possible strike date

 

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released totals of its recent strike authorization vote. Now, its governing body will meet in a special session on Wednesday, Sept. 28 to determine the next steps, including whether to issue a 10-day strike notice to the Chicago Board of Education. If that happens, the first possible date for a teachers’ strike would be Oct. 11. This would be the third work stoppage by the city’s public school educators since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011.

 

The Union’s Rules & Election Committee reported that on a 90.6 percent turnout, 95.6 percent of votes cast voted in favor to strike. This should come as no surprise to the Board, the mayor or parents because educators have been angry about the school-based cuts that have hurt special education students, reduced librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers’ aides, and eliminated thousands of teaching positions.

 

The CTU House of Delegates will meet this week to discuss the next steps in the contract fight. CTU officers and rank-and-file members will conduct a press conference at the conclusion of that session to share the results of those deliberations.

 

 

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 27,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at http://www.ctunet.com.

 

Julie Woestehoff is interim director of Parents Across America. For many years, she ran a parent group in Chicago called Parents United for Responsible Education.

In PAA’s newsletter, she recalls how parents warned Chicago Superintendent Arne Duncan that his public school-closing/charter-opening program called Renaissance 2010 would likely lead to violence. Do you remember Renaissance 2010? Arne Duncan said that Chicago schools would enjoy a dramatic renaissance by the year 2010. Julie sent me her newsletter after reading a similar post that I had written about the possible connection between school closings, neighborhood destabilization, and increased violence. Arne Duncan learned nothing from the failure of Renaissance 2010; he brought the same policies to Washington and embedded them in Race to the Top.

She writes:


It has been more than 10 years since I and many of my former colleagues began warning Chicago that massive school closings would not improve education and would most likely lead to increased violence. It gives me no pleasure to see that this prediction has come true, and to such a tragic extent.

We began to sound the alarm about school closures in 2004, as Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan touted their Renaissance 2010 program, an attempt to satisfy the business community’s call to create 100 charter schools. Some of us slept on the sidewalk outside of the Board of Education headquarters the night before the August 2004 board meeting so that we could present a steady stream of testimony the next morning against the plan’s proposed 60 closures.

While Arne Duncan dismissed parent and community concerns, affected schools and neighborhoods became increasingly dangerous. In 2006, the media reported that violence had soared at five of the nine high schools that accepted most of the students transferred out of the high schools closed under Renaissance 2010. West side activists rose in anger in 2007 when 27 children were killed within a few months of the closure of the only open enrollment high school in Austin, the city’s largest neighborhood, forcing their children to travel across several gang lines to get to school. The nation was gripped by the horrific 2009 recorded murder of Fenger High School honor student Derrion Albert by a few youth from a faction of students transferred to Fenger after their neighborhood high school was closed.

In 2012, I wrote an article for Huffington Post, “Are Charter Schools the Answer to — or One Reason for – Chicago’s Violence?” The number of shootings and homicides had taken another alarming leap, and a charter school official suggested that the solution was opening more charter schools. The studies and reports I cited made it clear that this idea was exactly the wrong approach.

Along with the warnings and protests, advocates also tirelessly developed school improvement proposals in collaboration with recognized education experts, parents, teachers, students, and neighbors. All of these community-generated proposals were dismissed and disrespected by district officials.

Mike Klonsky writes about the latest anti-union screed from the Chicago Tribune.

Funny thing about the Trib: they complain about the union but not about the Mayor’s indifference to the children of Chicago.

Mike Klonsky comments this evening on an especially meretricious list of “children’s rights.”

http://michaelklonsky.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-tribunes-so-called-schoolchildrens.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+mikeklonsky+(SmallTalk)&m=1

A reformer’s dream. School choice (vouchers and charters).

No collective bargaining for teachers.

Merit pay.

School closings.

Here is Mike’s bill of rights for kids:

“A real student Bill of Rights might include items like:

The right to learn in a safe environment in a safe community.

The right to be well-fed, rested and clothed.

The right to opt-out of high-stakes, standardized testing.

The right to attend a racially desegregated public school.

The right to gender equality including freedom from LGBT discrimination.

The right to vote and have voice on important matters concerning school policy.

The right to think critically, free from censorship, locker searches and book banning.

The right to have a qualified, certified teacher in every classroom.

The right to the same level of funding and resources as students in the wealthy suburbs.

The list of student rights could and would be a lot longer, if students had any voice in compiling it. I’m quite sure that didn’t happen over at the Tribune.”

In Chicago, hunger strikers sat in front of Dyett High School, demanding that Mayor Emanuel keep the school open.

They wanted an open enrollment neighborhood high school, and Dyett was the last one in the city.

Not only is the school open, the city spent $14 million to renovate it. It reopened as an arts-themed neighborhood high school.

Total victory for our friend Jitu Brown and his steadfast, courageous allies.

Jitu would be the first to say that he does not deserve credit or recognition. But he was there every day. He led. The hunger strikers won.

Jitu Brown hereby joins the honor roll of this blog. I am happy to say that he is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

If you recall, a group of valiant parents, educators, and activists conducted a hunger strike to protest the closing of Dyett High School in Chicago.

Mike Klonsky reports here on their victory.

The Dyett hunger strikers and the Bronzeville community didn’t get all their demands met by a resistant school board bent on school closings. But their struggle ended in victory, make no mistake about it. Proof — the Dyett High School for the Arts will open next week with a $14.6M upgrade one year after the 34-day hunger strike ended.

Congratulations to friend Jitu Brown and the other strikers. You won!

Troy LaRaviere took the job as principal of Blaine Elementary School, which was already a respected and successful school, and promised to make it the #1 rated neighborhood school in the city within six years. He did it. He also courted trouble by publicly criticizing Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his harmful education policy that favored charters over public schools. And he courted more trouble by endorsing Bernie Sanders and becoming a Sanders delegate at the Democratic National Convention. But his greatest transgressions were his repeated critiques of the high-level mismanagement of the school system under mayoral control.

In this post, he announces his resignation, explains the methods he used at Blaine to achieve success, and once again blasts Rahm.

Troy, I know you have a great future ahead of you. I hope another big district is wise enough to hire you.

If Rahm Emanuel were wise, he would ask you to become Superintendent of Schools and help every elementary school in the city.

Dora Taylor, parent activist in Seattle, describes that city’s battle to prevent the mayor from taking control of the public schools. She notes that the reason for mayoral control is to avoid the messy business of democracy, where parents and ordinary citizens get the opportunity to influence decisions about their schools and their children. Mayoral control and the establishment of state or local “emergency managers” are flimsy but powerful means of eliminating democracy and allowing politicians and elites to exert total control of decisions. Mayoral control and emergency managers clear the way for school closings and privatization. Parents don’t like school closings, but under mayoral control, schools are easily closed and replaced by charter schools.

Philadelphia, under the autocratic School Reform Commission, is constantly teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse, as the SRC closes schools, fires teachers, cuts costs, and opens charters. Its attempt to void the union contract was recently tossed out by the state supreme court. Philadelphia’s public schools have been stripped bare, while its charters are thriving (except the ones led by people who have been indicted).

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made history in an invidious way by closing 50 public schools in one day, claiming they were under enrolled, at the same time that he continued to open new charter schools.

One of the worst examples of the autocratic seizure of control occurred in Michigan under Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. She led the way to the establishment of an emergency financial manager for Detroit, under whose watch the district’s deficit tripled and charter schools proliferated. Detroit is now a worst case scenario, where there is plenty of choice, but none of them are good choices. The recent New York Times article about Detroit schools was titled, “A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift.”

Dora Taylor writes in The Progressive:

The most egregious example of a politician’s undemocratic control of public schools can be seen in the state of Michigan with the decision by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to hire Emergency Financial Managers. The emergency managers have the power to take control of a city’s government, reduce pay, outsource work, reorganize departments and modify employee contracts. Emergency managers can also deem school districts “failing,” close public schools and convert them into charter schools.

The first appointed emergency manager, Robert Bobb, took over the Detroit Public School system in 2009. The County Circuit Court in 2011 found this takeover illegal but soon after, emergency managers were appointed in mostly minority communities around the state, including the city of Flint. In several of these towns, such as Highland Park, Michigan the public schools were closed and taken over by charter operators.

Darnell Earley, the unelected manager of Flint, presided over the devastating decision to switch the city’s water supply to the Detroit River resulting in lead poisoning of residents throughout the city. After the water disaster, Mr. Earley was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to become the CEO of Detroit Public Schools.

Now the Emergency Managers are being named CEOs, as in Chicago, and given tremendous powers. These CEOs can:

Assume the financial and academic authority over multiple schools;

Assume the role of the locally elected school board for those schools they have been assigned;

Control school funds without the consent of the locally elected board;

Permanently close a school without the consent of the locally elected board;

Sell closed school buildings without the consent of the locally elected board; and

Convert schools into charter schools without the consent of the locally elected board.

The people have no voice or control over how their children are educated or by whom. The same holds true for mayoral control. That’s why, in Seattle, people are fighting back.

This is the kind of nondemocratic governance that organizations like ALEC love. Governor Rick Snyder loved it too, since it gave him control of so many districts. The emergency manager gambit blew up in his face when his own appointee, Darnell Early, was responsible for the decision to switch the water in Flint from a safe source to one that was not safe.

All of this matters because the fight for democracy is being waged in state after state. Georgia, for example, will decide in November, whether to allow a state commission to open charter schools against the wishes of the local community.

Let’s hope that former Governor Granholm recognizes that her decision to allow the appointment of emergency financial managers was a disaster. She is a member of Hillary Clinton’s transition team.

Xian Franzinger Barrett is a passionate teacher of middle school students in Chicago. He just received his layoff notice, the third in six years. He is one of more than 1,000 educators who were laid off. As a teacher, he does his best, but the people who run the school system–namely, Mayor Rahm Emanuel–seem to be incapable of stabilizing its finances. This doesn’t happen in affluent suburbs. It happens all too often in big-city districts, where the kids are mostly black and brown, and their parents lack political power.

Xian is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, and I have gotten to know him since we launched in 2012. I can attest to his love for his profession and his students. Mayor Emanuel wants to put a stop to that.

Friends tried to console him but Xian writes:

But oppression is not an accident; it is a centuries-long design.

That is the only explanation for a Chicago where my students who have already lost parents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement have to persevere through more cuts in school funding, and the mayor who covered up the murder of one of their peers before he was re-elected sits comfortably in office. It’s the only way to explain a Chicago where an eighteen-year-old lies dead and those who were paid to protect him revel in paid administrative leave.

Oppression is the only way to describe the reason why I sit jobless, surrounded by piles of published student work from brilliant teaching and learning in a class I was asked to teach, while those who mismanaged the funds of the district collect their checks and continue to wield power over our students. We can’t shrug this off and persevere. To paraphrase Angela Davis, we cannot continue to accept what we cannot change, we must change what we cannot accept.

Xian is a fighter. He won’t quit. He will be there long after Rahm Emanuel has gone and been forgotten.

The Chicago Teachers Union spoke out against the draconian layoffs and budget cuts imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

STATEMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact Stephanie Gadlin
August 9, 2016 312/329-6250 (office)

CTU President Karen Lewis warns of inevitable strike should CPS enforce cuts to wages and benefits of public school educators

CHICAGO—The following is a partial transcript of CTU President Karen Lewis’ remarks from Monday’s news conference in response to the new Chicago Public Schools budget:

“I am Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. I am joined by fellow officers, Vice President Jesse Sharkey and Financial Secretary Maria Moreno. We are also joined by a group of rank and file teachers—all who are obtaining their national board certification, which is one of the highest distinctions in the nation for our profession. And contrary to the governor’s beliefs, all of whom can read, write, add, think…and vote him out of office.

“On Monday, August 29th, CTU members—teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians—will report to their schools and classrooms. They will be returning to work without a labor agreement amidst severe budget cuts and threats to their profession, income and benefits.

“Our members are returning to more than 500 school buildings that are filthy due to bad CPS outsourcing; with contaminated pipes that may have exposed children and employees to lead poisoning; and in a climate where random gun violence and neighborhood conflicts have gripped significant parts of our city in fear.

“Our members are returning to campuses where their colleagues have disappeared, by no fault of their own, but because of mandates from the Board that principals reduce positions and cut school budgets to the marrow. Fewer employees—including teachers’ aides—mean enormous class sizes. The more students in a classroom mean fewer minutes of personalized instruction for each student.

“And, though educators have already returned about $2 billion in salary and benefits to the district, with $100 million being returned this year alone, we are being asked to give more when there is nothing left to give. Understand that budget cuts impact students; they include cuts to programming, staffing and services.

“Our special needs students have been hit the hardest, and CPS continues to gut special education at record speed. Even as children are impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder due to rampant violence and death—including police shootings caught on video—CPS reduces social workers, school psychologists and nurses.

“Veteran educators, many of whom are nationally board certified, have been driven out of the district, out of our city, and some, out of the state. Just as highly skilled public university professors are being driven to smaller school districts in Florida and elsewhere, we are seeing teachers and good principals leaving CPS in record numbers. People go where they can engage in their profession, have significant impact on students and where their careers aren’t threatened at every turn.

“The Chicago Teachers Union has been clear. If the Board of Education imposes a 7 percent slash in our salaries, we will move to strike. Cutting our pay is unacceptable, and for years, the ‘pension pickup’ as the Board has called it, was part of our compensation package. This was not a perk. This was negotiated compensation with the Board of Education.

“The CTU has also been very clear—CPS is broke on purpose. Instead of chasing phantom revenue in Springfield and in between the seat cushions of Chicago taxpayers, Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago City Council can show true leadership and guts by reinstating the corporate head tax, declaring a TIF surplus and fighting for progressive taxation that would pull in revenue from the uber-wealthy in our city and state. The rich must pay their fair share.

“Chicago’s teachers are required to live in the city of Chicago. This means the mayor is telling us that even though he has stolen our raises, cut our benefits such as steps and lanes, and now threatens an even further pay cut of 7 percent, as taxpayers we must pay more and more and more for everything under the sun. None of that new revenue, however, will even go toward schools. This is absurd thinking.

“That is why the Chicago Teachers Union will attend all CPS budget hearings and call for truthful and fair taxation for CPS schools. Our members will do what they do best—educate the public, including parents, about the lies within CPS’ funding formula, the Board’s budgeting process and why the school district continues to cry broke.

“Cuts to our pay and benefits must be negotiated. We have been bargaining in good faith since the middle of last year and we have yet to come to an agreement. At some point a line has to be drawn in the sand.

“Chicago teachers do not seek to go on strike. We want to return to clean, safe, resourced schools. We want a fair contract. We will continue to partner with parents and community residents in fighting for the schools our students deserve.

“But we will not accept an imposed pay cut.

“To parents, play close attention to what is going on over the next few weeks so you can be prepared should CPS force educators back on the picket line. To CTU members, we’ve been telling you for months now to save as much money as you can.

“We do not know if Mayor Emanuel can stand another teachers strike, especially at a time when confidence in his leadership is at an all-time low, and when the city is in an uproar over another police shooting of an unarmed African-American youth.

“Do not force our hand.”