NATIONAL: Teachers Continue to Strike in Chicago after Union, City Fail to Reach Deal

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After a marathon session in Chicago’s Hilton hotel, rank and file members of the Chicago Teachers Union spilled into the street at midnight central time with no contract agreement — only the promise of a continued strike.

“No deal,” a source close to the negotiations told The Huffington Post seven minutes before midnight.

“We came in very optimistic and we left very disappointed,” the source later said.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus confirmed that no deal was reached. She added that both sides planned to meet again on Friday morning.

CPS board president David Vitale concurred. “We’ve got number crunching to do overnight,” Vitale said, according to radio station WBEZ.

CTU is striking for the first time in 25 years, taking to the streets to protest Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s education agenda. The latest news comes after parties on both sides said they were inching closer to a resolution. In fact, a source said, the two parties had mostly cleared up the thorny issue of teacher evaluations, agreeing to a scheme that decreased emphasis on the rankings based on students’ standardized test scores.

Twenty-five percent of the rankings will be composed of standardized test scores, and another 10 percent will come from teachers’ evaluation of student performance, thus satisfying a state law’s requirement of relying on performance measures for 30 percent or more after the first year. The agreement also provided more recourse to teachers ranked in the lowest categories. If a teacher’s practice or overall score improved, he or she would not be dropped into the lowest category.

The negotiations have proceeded in fits and starts, with breakthrough moments quickly leading to hopeless, locked down bargaining. The source in the room said the biggest sticking points were about salary, contract length and rights for laid-off teachers.

On the salary front, CTU is calling for a 5.8 percent raise, which is higher than CPS’s latest offer of an immediate 2 percent increase. Last year, Emanuel yanked a 4 percent raise that was written into the teachers’ contract, citing the district’s gaping deficit.

“It wasn’t so much the 2 percent as much as members still being upset about losing the 4 percent from last year,” the source said.

CTU also wants additional rights for dismissed teachers. Currently, if Chicago teachers are laid off, they make $35,000 a year and get benefits working as a substitute teacher as they try to find a regular job. CPS wanted to change that to a day-to-day substitute position that pays $140 a day with no benefits. CTU president Jesse Sharkey told the bigger negotiating team that he estimates CPS is trying to save $100 million overall.

The board and CTU also reportedly sparred about contract length, the source said. CTU wants a two-year contract, largely the union distrusts the mayor after he pulled last year’s raise. A shorter contract would also allow another strike before Emanuel’s reelection. CPS, the source said, wants a four-year contract, and was not willing to accept a compromise of three years.

CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters outside the Hyatt that she and CPS President Vitale are considering some “creative” methods of resolving the recall issue.

Robert Bloch, CTU’s lead attorney, told Catalyst Chicago magazine earlier in the evening that “negotiations go up and down. There are many areas, facets to be worked out.”

One of the negotiators told WBEZ about CPS, “They’re not playing fair.” Catalyst Chicago also reported a negotiator saying that CPS’s board “stopped bargaining and dug in their heels.”

On Friday, teachers are planning to canvass their neighborhoods then picket at their schools. At 2 p.m., CTU intends to hold a gathering of delegates. And on Saturday, the union will host a “Wisconsin-style” rally.

An Illinois state law passed one year ago made it harder for the Chicago union to strike by requiring 75 percent of its membership to vote in favor. The union had no trouble clearing that bar; 90 percent of Chicago teachers voted to strike this summer after months of sparring with the city.

And teachers aren’t the only ones in favor of the strike. A poll conducted by We Ask America found that 56 percent of 1,344 Chicago voters surveyed said they approved of the decision to strike; 40 percent said they disapproved. The strike is especially popular among the city’s minorities: 63 percent of African Americans and 65 percent of Latinos approved. Support was also strong among whites.

The strike has been ongoing since Monday, with the union, which represents nearly 30,000 teachers, demanding major changes to the Emanuel administration’s education agenda. The union has said it wants a guarantee that principals will be forced to rehire laid-off teachers before looking for new ones, an issue that has come to be known as recall rights.

The union has also demanded significant changes to the way the Emanuel administration wants to evaluate teachers, asking for less of an emphasis on standardized test scores and an overhaul of the consequences associated with the rankings. (An Illinois state law passed recently requires standardized tests eventually to count for 30 to 50 percent of teachers’ overall ratings.)

Lewis has said the strike has broader pedagogical goals as well. As she and many other Chicago teachers have explained, class sizes in some schools are exploding and the system doesn’t have enough social workers or, in many cases, desks or textbooks. Many teachers have reported teaching in 90-degree weather, since not all school buildings have working air conditioning.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/chicago-teachers-strike-no-deal_n_1882918.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices&ir=Black%20Voices

Article Courtesy of The Huffington Post

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