The Chicago Teachers Union has entered into day two of its strike and officials say they are not close to a deal with the Chicago Public Schools, despite city Board of Education President David Vitale having claimed otherwise.
“The Chicago Teachers Union has 49 Articles in its contract, to date, we have only signed off on six of them,” said CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin in a press release. “The Chicago Public Schools has made proposals to change nearly every article. It is not accurate to say both sides are extremely close—this is misinformation on behalf of the Board and Mayor Emanuel. We have a considerable way to go. This is a fact they cannot deny."
Negotiations between the two parties began this morning at 9:30 a.m. with the union reporting that today's talks are covering teacher evaluations, which Mayor Rahm Emanuel cites as one of the two remaining issues that need to be resolved despite CTU's claim that several line items still need to be addressed. CTU is not happy with a plan that would base 25 percent of a teacher's evaulation on student performance and test scores. The plan is set to start this year for some 300 CPS schools and is based off a state law passed in 2010, which requires student performance to be part of teacher evaluations by the 2016-17 school year. (The legislature, according to some education experts, was at least partly lured into passing the law by the potential to receive millions in federal Race To The Top funding, which PI will cover in more depth later today.) The deadine for the evaluation system to begin was moved up in Chicago to this academic year, which CTU argues was done unfairly.
"CTU believes the plan CPS imposed upon us in March was illegal,” Gadlin argues. “They do not have the right to impose any change while negotiations are ongoing. We believe there are many aspects of their evaluation plan that must be bargained. That is why we have charges pending before the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB). The Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010 allowed the Board to unilaterally implement their plan after a 90-day period of negotiations has ended. Negotiations have not ended and there is no contract in place."
Though the union agreed to have 25 percent of teacher evaluations be based on student performance, which is much less than the district's original proposal of 45 percent, the timeline and application of the standards remains a bone of contention between the union and CPS. CTU argues that as many as 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs under the new evaluation plan, which, they say, does not take other important factors into consideration, like poverty, students' homelife environments, and violence. According to the Huffington Post, the city appears dubious of CTU's figure for potential job losses, with the mayor adding that no jobs would be lost during the first year of the evaluation process in order to account for any potential implementation hiccups.
IERLB is set to hear the issue in Springfield on September 24 in order to determine whether to issue an injunction against CPS for the evaluation changes.
Meanwhile, CTU appears ready to strike for as long as they deem necessary.
"Teachers, paraprofessionals, and school clinicians are prepared to walk the line as long as it takes," said Gadlin. "We are fighting for our students; we are fighting for education justice. We remain optimistic. Our fight is over fair compensation, working conditions and resources for our students. In Illinois, unions have the right to strike and it is a right that our citizens have protected over the years.”
As for CPS, although attendance at the Children First contingency plan sites has reportedly been low, the district added three additional locations today, they say, in response to parental feedback. Those locations include Englewood's Harper High School, Caldwell Elementary School in Stony Island Park, and Hirsch High School located in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. The Chicago Park District, Safe Haven sites, and some non-profits are also working with the district to house children during the strike, while local community groups are offering parents their own alternatives to the Children First sites.
UPDATE 1 (6:42 p.m.): CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters that the strike appears to be headed into a third day as the union and CPS remain "miles apart" on the issue of teacher evaluations, which has been a main topic in today's talks. Check back with Progress Illinois for ongoing coverage of today's actions and the CTU strike.