It's teacher hunting season!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is 38% Chicago Murder Spike a Duncan Legacy? UPDATE

Activists have long charged that the murder increase in recent years was the direct result of the closing of schools and sending students across gang boundaries because of school closures.

See latest front page article by Monica Davey in the New York Times about the murder rate increase. "Rate of Killings Rises 38 Percent in Chicago in 2012"

Big Education APE reminds us to go back two years in the Chicago Tribune:

[Bill] Gates also invested $90 million in one of the largest implementations of the turnaround strategy—Chicago’s Renaissance 2010. Ren10 gave Chicago public schools CEO Arne Duncan a national name and ticket to Washington; he took along the reform strategy. Shortly after he arrived, studies showing weak results for Ren10 began circulating, but the Chicago Tribune still caused a stir on January 17, 2010, with an article entitled “Daley School Plan Fails to Make Grade.”

Six years after Mayor Richard Daley launched a bold initiative to close down and remake failing schools, Renaissance 2010 has done little to improve the educational performance of the city's school system, according to a Tribune analysis of 2009 state test data.

…The moribund test scores follow other less than enthusiastic findings about Renaissance 2010—that displaced students ended up mostly in other low performing schools and that mass closings led to youth violence as rival gang members ended up in the same classrooms. Together, they suggest the initiative hasn't lived up to its promise by this, its target year.

Read also the blog contribution by Yana Kunichoff at, from March 2, 2012: "Are overlaps between school closings and youth violence a coincidence?"
Just blocks from Carter's Barbershop in North Lawndale where The Chicago Reporter sets up camp for its weekly radio show are two schools on the turnaround and closure list voted on by the Chicago Board of Education last month.

Thomas Herzl Elementary School, at 3711 W. Douglas Blvd., is slated for turnaround next year, and Julia Lathrop Elementary School, at 1440 S. Christiana Ave., will be closed.

These schools aren't too different from most of the 17 schools on Chicago Public School's list of low-performing schools slated for an overhaul: They're heavily low-income, and most students are of one race. At Herzl, for example, 97.9 percent of the students come from households reporting income below the poverty line, and 98.3 percent are black.

But there's another unifying, and telling, factor to all the schools on the closure and turnaround list: They are situated in majority black and brown neighborhoods in the city. Check out this map by Vocalo's Sarah Lu to see the divide. [ed.: click to zoom in.]

Meanwhile, these same neighborhoods see record amounts of youth violence. Twenty-two communities on Chicago's South, Southwest and West sides--where the school turnarounds and closures are based--saw nearly 80 percent of the city's youth homicides, according to a recent Reporter investigation.

Coincidence? Research and reporting on the subject says probably not. Since 2005, thousands of students have been sent to schools outside their neighborhoods following school closures under Renaissance 2010, the education reform program launched by former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
[ed. note: Renaissance 2010 was launched by Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer, Arne Duncan.] Teachers with the community; community with the teachers EdNotes has posted a Chicago teacher's statement, "Why I Voted to Authorize the Chicago Teachers' Strike," from Alternet, June 22, 2012. The teachers care for the students. But there is a tremendous disconnect between the policy makers and what is right for teachers carrying out their work for students. Likewise, EdNotes has posted a link on parent support for teachers, should things reach a strike: "'Parents will walk picket lines...'," a link to Mike Klonsky's blog, June 27, 2012. Parents recognize the same kind of disconnect: the appointed School Board and superintendent have no understanding of what parents would like for their children.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bullying of Teachers Online Worse Than in Past - Maher Writer Berates Victim

Associated Press has reported on student bullying of teachers and administrators, in Christine Armario's "Bullying of teachers more damaging in online era", June 23, 2012.

The article reports that, while the problem has existed for decades, it is worsening in the online age as cyber predator students can taunt teachers, capture the episodes on their cellphones and post video images of the teachers breaking down.

The article gives a particularly offensive incident of students tormenting an upstate New York (Greece, a Rochester suburb) schoolbus monitor, Karen Klein, with sadistic taunts like "You don't have a family because they all killed themselves because they don't want to be near you."

In a number of cases the students seem to have the upper hand. One student harassed a teacher on Facebook. She sued for violation of free speech rights after she was suspended. The American Civil Liberties Union represented her. Armario wrote that, "She settled for $15,000 to cover her legal fees and her suspension was wiped from her record."

A teacher's lawyer said that courts "tend to side more with the students unless you can show dramatic problems."
Read more at the original article.
An altruistic Toronto, Ontario soul started a fund for Klein, a 68-year old grandmother.
Klein isn't accepting the apologies of the middle school boys that abused her. She isn't pressing charges, either.

And leave it to a callous media figure, Chris Kelly (writer for Real Time with Bill Maher) on Huffington Post, far removed from the struggles of public school employees to blame the victim and say that the boys abuse showed that she wasn't doing her job. -A very familiar barb for those accostomed to administrators' telling teachers that students' disruption and disrespect was something that they were personally responsible for.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pearson's Pineapple Socked Your Kid; Tentacles into Teacher Evaluation

(Scroll to bottom for links to parents' groups against the tests.)
Media roundup on Pearson PLC [wikipedia article link], (Pearson's "Investors" page showing double digits assets growth since 2007 --a global economic slowdown, but a boom in government spending on tests and texts to support test-driven curricula), target of 400 protesting parents this week in mid-town Manhattan: (Here's Lindsey Christ's NY1 story with video yesterday "Schools Boycott Latest Round Of Standardized Testing" on high-stakes and protests over the test mania.)
Pearson mis-used children's author Daniel Pinkwater's story about a talking pineapple in standardized tests in April and it baffled many kids. Only a wide-spread public outcry got the question dumped from counting on students' test results.
When the New York Times is outraged ("When Pineapple Races Hare, Students Lose, Critics of Standardized Tests Say") people listen. Parents Across America noted Leonie Haimson's role in exposing this fiasco. She blogged on a Thursday, by the next day, April 20, 2012, the story snowballed and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) Commissioner had to pull the question. (But what about other baffling, illogical questions? Don't get me started on another standardized test in New York City that same week stumping students by using the phrase "giddy-up". Hello? This is 2012, not the 50s or 60s or 70s. Western --cowboys and "Indians"-- culture references went out decades ago.)

Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss May 7, 2012 reprinting Diane Ravitch on Pearson's expanding reach:
The closing clincher:
Many years ago, I interviewed a famous [professor] at MIT about the role of standardized tests in education. He said something I never forgot. He said, “Let me write a nation’s tests, and I care not who writes its songs or laws.”

Are we prepared to hand over our children, our teachers, and our definition of knowledge to Pearson?

Ravitch's endorsement of parents' June 7, 2012 rally against Pearson:
"Parents Vs. Goliath":

Ravitch, June 7, 2012, on "Pearsonizing Our Children":

Valerie Strauss, June 9, 2010, on Montgomery County [Maryland] Public Schools' selling out to Pearson:
"MCPS selling its reputation to Pearson"
* * *
From Strauss' May 7, 2012 column: Barack Obama / Arne Duncan's U.S. Department of Education, Pearson and testing:
With the U.S. Department of Education now pressing schools to test children in second grade, first grade, kindergarten — and possibly earlier — and with the same agency ["Ed Dept seeks to bring test-based assessment to teacher prep programs," Strauss at Post, April 23, 2012] demanding that schools of education be evaluated by the test scores of the students of their graduates (whew!), the picture grows clear. Pearson will control every aspect of our education system. [Link is to Michael Winerip's May 6, 2012 NY Times column, "Move to Outsource Teacher Licensing Process Draws Protest."]
Now we learn from Michael Winerip in the New York Times that Pearson has made a deal with Stanford University to license teachers, no matter what state they are in.
The deal is this: the school of education is supposed to send Pearson two 10-minute videos of the prospective teacher, plus the response to a written examination. Someone in the Pearson shop–possibly a retired teacher–will evaluate the prospect and decide after a brief review, whether they should get a license to teach.
From Winerip's above linked May 6, 2012 article:
Sixty-seven of the 68 students studying to be teachers at the middle and high school levels at the Amherst campus are protesting a new national licensure procedure being developed by Stanford University with the education company Pearson.
The UMass students say that their professors and the classroom teachers who observe them for six months in real school settings can do a better job judging their skills than a corporation that has never seen them.
They have refused to send Pearson two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, as well as a 40-page take-home test, requirements of an assessment that will soon be necessary for licensure in several states.
From Madfloridian's Journal, May 2012:
Testmaker company Pearson makes deal with Stanford University to license teachers long distance.

Pearson's press release touting their teacher evaluation contract with New York State:
"Pearson Named Approved Provider of New York State Teacher Evaluation Rubrics; NYSTCE Framework for the Observation of Effective Teaching Designed to Meet Unique Needs of Local Education Agencies":
* * *
Education imperialism too? / Or Education Deform goes international
They are attempting penetrate India with their student testing wares:
"Pearson Brings America’s No.1 School Test to India" --a boosterist blurb at "digitalLearning: Learning Through ICTs":
Pearson's "Investors" page trumpets their move into several of the "BRIC" countries: " . . . a significant expansion into fast-growing developing economies including China, India, Africa and Brazil."
Links to parents' groups:
Change the Stakes
Class Size Matters Fair Test (National Center for Fair & Open Testing) Parents Across America
Time Out From Testing
United Opt Out National

Saturday, June 9, 2012

BREAKING: CTU Might Have 90 Percent for a Strike of Chicago Schools; Obama's Weingarten's Damage Control

Organized labor suffered a demoralizing set-back Tuesday with the failure to recall Scott Walker, the viciously anti-labor governor of Wisconsin.

To its south, the inspiring mobilization of a strike authorization vote.  The Chicago Teachers Union has voted this week on whether to strike.  The media have been variously patronizing or damning.  In some instances, there are glimmers of understanding of what teachers there are facing.
And Chicago Public Schools "CEO" [sic] Jean-Claude Brizzard sent a teacher-bashing letter to homes that got one grandparent considering supporting the teachers' strike. See the grandparent's letter in the Chicago Tribune.  Brizzard criticized teachers for not waiting until a July report has been released.  But he is ignoring the fact that holding a vote in the summer impedes the ability to get a strike vote quorum.
Years of teacher bashing, capped with mayor Rahm Emanuel's demand for a ten percent lengthened school day, without an adequate raise, fueled the climate for a strike vote."He created an incentive for them, the causes and conditions for teachers to mobilize in a way they haven't mobilized before," said Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

(CTU President Karen Lewis casts her ballot.)
BREAKING: NBC reports multiple sources reporting that the CTU has as much as 90 percent of vote-participating teachers voting in support of a strike.  Report at NBC. The state government interfered with union autonomy and forced them to get 75 percent support in order to launch a work stoppage.  "He created an incentive for them, the causes and conditions for teachers to mobilize in a way they haven't mobilized before," said Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"He created an incentive for them, the causes and conditions for teachers to mobilize in a way they haven't mobilized before," said Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
 --an Associated Press Report at ABC.
After the release of an official vote count on Monday, we will see if the CTU exceeded the required percentage.
Substance News, the best source of accurate news and analysis of Chicago education news, reports that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made a trip to Chicago to publicly praise mayor Emanuel.
Read the quote to the end. It is a classic case of Orwellian double-speak.
"Whether it's the mayor's infrastructure program here in Chicago, or eventually everything else we're doing around the country, is that when labor and business start working good together on trying to put people back to work with good jobs, when we start building things, it builds hope around the country," Weingarten said. ABC News, which quoted her above, reported that "Mayor Emanuel is in a love fest with the American Federation of Teachers today."
What a nasty distortion of reality. As Jim Vail of Substance News says, Weingarten's trip to Chicago was a mission from the President Barack Obama White House, a trip to do damage control on what is a public relations disaster [the Emanuel war on teachers and the teachers' fight-back against Emanuel and Brizzard] for President Obama, a trip to actually extend more support for the 1% than for the working teachers of the city.

Kudos to Vail, for pointing out that Weingarten never taught a full program for a full year in her life.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Not Just Field Tests: Across U.S., Parents Mobilizing Against Test Mania

Ed Notes reports that Parents are mobilizing here in New York, on June 7, 11 A.M. in a Field Trip against the Field Tests, outside Pearson Headquarters, at 1330 6th Avenue. Parents are rebelling, across the U.S. against the deformers' tests; and they're making news. Round-up from FairTest, Huffington Post, New York Times SchoolBook:
From FairTest: "Testing Protests Expand Across the Nation" From Boston to Florida to Oakland:
Protests against high-stakes exams surged across the country this spring as grassroots groups in a dozen states staged events to voice their opposition to the increased use and misuse of standardized testing in public education. Ranging from small local gatherings to statewide rallies, the events were united by their denunciations of reliance on standardized test scores to determine whether students will be promoted to the next grade or receive a high-school diploma.
Parental resistance has grown steadily in response to high-stakes testing policies. More than 20 states now require students to pass an exit exam to receive a high school diploma. Several more will soon impose such requirements, though some other states are now retreating from such mandates (see story p.7). Organizers of at least a dozen events collaborated through the Assessment Reform Network (ARN), a project based at FairTest. ARN now supplies technical assistance and other resources to over 30 state and local organizations across the country that work to improve assessment and accountability practices.

 Rallies and Marches

• More than 1500 people, from both cities and suburbs, converged in a statewide demonstration in Albany, New York, on May 8 to oppose the state's use of the Regents exams to determine high school graduation and the growing power of state tests to undermine teaching and learning.

 • A May 5 rally in Los Angeles, California, drew 300 people. The Coalition for Education Justice, which organized the event, urged city and state educational officials to protect students from "racist and class-biased high-stakes testing."

 • Also on May 5, in Detroit, Michigan, the first rally sponsored by FREE, a coalition of parents, students, teachers and university professors, drew about 75 to call on the state legislature to "get rid of the MEAP," the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests.

 • Rallies were held at opposite ends of Massachusetts. A hundred protesters attended a May 8 demonstration in Northampton, while 300 gathered on the Boston Common on May 15 at a rally initiated by the Students Coalition for Alternatives to the MCAS (SCAM) and sponsored by the Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CARE) and other organizations.

 • Arizona activists have been staging a series of smaller events, such as marches in Tempe in April carrying signs and letters addressed to state legislators, pickets at busy street intersections in Tucson, and leafleting at a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Phoenix. Arizona officials have already backed off from this year's graduation test requirements.

 • Other rallies were held in Austin, Texas; Olympia, Washington; and Columbus, Ohio.

 Test boycotts

• Schools in dozens of California communities had low test participation as students and parents refused to take annual Stanford-9 state tests. These included 600 students at two high schools in wealthy Marin County, and dozens in largely low-income Oakland. Opting out of the tests is legal and has become common across California. Press reports said up to 90% opted out at some schools

 • Close to 100 eighth and tenth grade students in Massachusetts protested the April test outside their schools, refused to answer the essay prompt on the test, or wrote their own essay on the exam explaining their opposition to the test. In May, when testing resumed, boycotts continued across the state. Though grade 10 students will have to pass the test to graduate (barring changes in policy), dozens of tenth graders boycotted. Hundreds of students in earlier grades in towns and cities across the state also refused to take the test.

 • Nearly 200 middle grade parents in the affluent New York suburb of Scarsdale kept their children home on test day. Unusually, this boycott had the open support of the school system. Students in Rochester and Ithaca also refused the exams.

 • In Washington state, about seventy high school families in the Vancouver area announced they would refuse to have the test administered to their children, using an "opt out" procedure allowed by state law. Students in other locales across the state also opted out.

 • Wearing white shirts, jeans and badges bearing student identification numbers, about half of the students at Boulder Colorado's New Vista High School protested the first day of the Colorado Students Assessment Program tests (CSAP) in February, chanting "standardized tests produce standardized students."

 • Across the nation, several teachers refused to administer standardized tests. Teach-ins • Ad-hoc parent and teacher groups organized teach-ins in Sacramento, California, and Portland, Maine, to raise awareness about the harms of high-stakes standardized testing.

 • In Virginia, parents conducted a variety of events in local neighborhoods across the state. At one local library, parents invited families to read and discuss children's books written about standardized tests.

 • At a student-organized citywide conference in Boston, Massachusetts, participants in the Teen Empowerment program used music, skits, poems and stories to voice their views on the MCAS while urging state leaders to listen to the experiences youth have with the tests.

 • A student-moderated forum at a high school in Panama City, Florida, screened a student-created TV advertisement and discussed the problems associated with use of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) to grade and rank schools.

 Next Steps

The visible rallies and boycotts are the tip of an "iceberg" of growing opposition to the misuse and overuse of flawed standardized tests. From small events in small towns to larger events in cities, the protesters represent the public face of many thousands of parents, students, teachers and others who are meeting, talking, petitioning and organizing to stop high-stakes testing. Many of the organizations which sponsored rallies, boycotts and other events will continue to share experiences, research and information through the ARN, which connects groups through a national web site, email discussion groups, conferences and other activities.

Contact information from organizers of the events, sample flyers and press releases can be found under "What's New" or the ARN page at, along with information about the ARN and participating organizations.
From Huffington Post: Public School Standardized Testing: Enough Is Enough for New York State Kids Christine Wachtell offers a refreshing proposal: Let the private school students and teachers go through the same test mania non-sense. Let those students get an all prep education. Let those teachers get pulled from the classroom to score tests.
Here is a modest proposal. Let's have private school students take the same standardized tests that public school students now take each year. While we are at it, let's require private school teachers to be absent from their students' classrooms for the same number of days as public school teachers, who now must serve as conscripted graders for the standardized tests. For public school children, it has been a long spring, shaped far too much by mandated testing. And the testing is not over. The latest outrage is that public school children are now expected to serve as free product testers for Pearson, the test preparation company awarded a $32 million, five-year contract to develop New York State's 3-8 grade tests. [The wikipedia article on Pearson.]

 From June 5-8 "field tests" -- tests composed entirely of trial questions that do not count towards students' annual test scores -- are supposed to be administered to one full grade at each public elementary and middle school. In trolling the internet, I discovered the English Language Arts and Mathematics Field Tests School Administrator's Manual. My favorite lines in it read: "Do not permit students to obtain information from or give information to other students in any way during the field tests. If you suspect that such an attempt has occurred, warn the students that any further attempts will result in the termination of their field tests." Students caught cheating on a test that won't be scored get to finish early.

When did we cross into the realm of the absurd? Let's just review how much of the spring already has been given over to testing. In April my fifth grade son, along with his aggrieved seventh grade brother, spent six days being tested in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. At ninety minutes per day, the tests were significantly longer than in past years. Then came May, when teachers at both my sons' New York City public schools were obliged to leave their classes in the hands of substitutes, while they graded other schools' standardized tests. My son's fifth grade teacher missed every Thursday for three weeks. Teachers at my older son's school missed even more days with their students. The principal of his middle school wrote to parents in late April: "Monday began a five-week period in which testing interferes with every aspect of the school program. During the six days of testing, three this past week and three days next week, every student will miss a minimum of 18 class periods. The six test days will be followed by three weeks, in which fourteen teachers ... will each be pulled out of school for five days, so they can assist in grading the tests ... This is what we are expected to do so the students can be tested!"

 A great deal of attention has focused on the flawed questions that appeared on this year's tests created by Pearson. Most notably, a nonsensical reading passage appeared on the 8th grade ELA test, concerning a race between a pineapple and a hare. The public outrage regarding that passage, quickly dubbed "Pinneapplegate," resulted in the invalidation of six questions. So too, my fifth grade son was asked on his math test to determine the perimeter of a trapezoid, even though it was later established that the particular trapezoid described does "not exist within the bounds of mathematics."

 How much testing is too much? Let's keep in mind that the SAT takes under four hours to measure college-bound students' verbal, mathematical, and writing skills. Should assessing my fifth grader's mastery of these same subjects take 9 hours? And does he really need to sit through more testing this school year to help Pearson make more money? At his elementary school, all 5th graders are supposed to take a math field test in early June. When private school students are enjoying their first days of summer break, do my son and his friends really need to be reckoning again with faulty trapezoids? Across the nation, there is a groundswell of protest rising against high stakes testing, and in New York State public school parents are calling for a boycott of the NYS June field tests. [Link to Parent Voices NY.]

Isn't it high time for private school students and their parents to share in the experience? I have often heard it suggested that, if America had instituted a universal draft, we never would have gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. High-powered parents never would have tolerated sending their sons and daughters to Kabul instead of to college. Similarly, if New York State drafted private school children into statewide standardized testing, their high-powered parents would not stand for it. Then New York's headlong race toward ever longer, ever more high-stakes, and ever more flawed testing, would end quicker than a hare can beat a pineapple to the finish line.
From the New York Times Schoolbook: From a May 23, 2012 story and a May 24 update: By Hiten Samtani, "More Parents Are Saying No to Pearson's Field Tests"
Last month’s mandated standardized tests drew widespread criticism from many parents, who complained the tests were now dominating the curriculum and that too much weight is being put on the results to evaluate their children and teachers. Yet, despite the complaints over “high-stakes testing,” only a small group of parents decided to opt their children out of them, as many parents said they worried about the ramifications to their child and their schools if they did so. But as city students have begun a new round of standardized tests — this time so-called “field tests,” which are experimental tests that the state-contracted test-maker, Pearson, is using to try out questions on city students for future use — more parents are talking about opting out.

And test resistance appears to becoming more widespread, with substantial numbers of parents at several city schools deciding their children would not participate. Resistance also appears to be growing more organized. Groups like Change the Stakes are helping to spread information about opt-out procedures and have created a spreadsheet to help parents navigate the field testing landscape. ParentVoicesNY has created a boycott form letter that parents can download, sign and then submit to their school. The group also has direct connections with more than 20 schools, according to Kevin Jacobs, a public school teacher who is one of its active members.

 City officials said they will not have the final figures on how many parents chose to have their children opt out last month of the federally mandated standardized math and English tests for third through eighth graders. Results from these tests play a major role in grade promotion, middle and high school applications, and placement into gifted and talented programs. Test scores are also used in teacher and school evaluations . . . .

 An official at the city’s Department of Education said that unlike with last month’s standardized tests, the city does not monitor and analyze data from the field tests. The field tests are handled directly by Pearson, the official said, and the city’s approach to them is hands-off. The field tests are being given to help Pearson, the company who received a $32 million contract to design New York’s state tests, align its questions with the new Common Core learning standards. But it is doing so in an increasingly critical atmosphere, after multiple problems with last month’s tests, including errors in the multiple choice answers and complaints about a farcical passage related to a race between a pineapple and a hare. About 488,000 students will be involved in this year’s field tests, a spokesman for the New York State Education Department said. But last month’s standardized tests also had embedded field questions that will be used by Pearson purely for research purposes. As a result, the tests were 30 percent longer, another source of frustration for children and their parents. So why the need for the standalone field tests? The state Education Department spokesman said the validity and reliability of the state exams requires brief standalone pilot testing of questions, typically during a single 40 minute session . . . .

 Ms. Foote said she had feared that keeping her son out of last month’s tests would harm his school. Under No Child Left Behind, schools must have a 95 percent participation rate to satisfy their Adequate Yearly Progress, she said. “We wouldn’t do anything to hurt our schools.” But with the field tests she had no such qualms. “There were no consequences,” Ms. Foote said. “They’ve had a good gig going with this data department.” Jane Hirschmann, co-founder of Time Out from Testing, said that there were no known ramifications of boycotting the field tests. “Since they have no grade, they can’t be used for promotion, teacher evaluations, principal bonuses or a school grade,” she said. She added that a borough assessment implementation director from Brooklyn had said that as long as intent was expressed in writing, parents would be allowed to opt their children out. . . .

Chicago Teachers' Strike Vote Countdown to Wednesday

The Chicago Teachers Union is coming, on June 6, this coming Wednesday.
Its issues are issues for the teacher members of the New York City counterpart, the United Federation of Teachers. (Not so fast, their complaints involve a move to lengthen the school day. Actually, yes so fast, this is an issue in New York also, as the 2005 contract give-back to get a pay increase was the 37 and a half minute lengthening of the school day.)

(Photo is from overflow indoor rally of thousands of teacher in pre-strike mobilization last week)
Here's the CTU's public statement on their blog:
CTU sets strike authorization vote date.
by Stephanie Gadlin | June 01, 2012
CHICAGO – Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced it has set a strike authorization vote for Wednesday, June 6th, which will be conducted in all Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with CTU members. State law requires 75 percent of Union members to vote in the affirmative in order to authorize a strike. More than 90 percent of teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals have already rejected the Board of Education’s current contract proposals.
CTU President Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT, said a strike authorization vote was “an important step in ensuring the voices of over 25,000 public school educators will be heard at the bargaining table.” Teachers have criticized the Board’s proposals saying they are harmful to students. If the Board has its way it will:
Eliminate any real enforcement of class size limits: In their proposal to the CTU, CPS uses the same argument that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently made in Philadelphia. The CPS proposal claims, contrary to common sense and teacher experience, that class size does not matter. Their language in quotes says that “the board shall establish a class size policy and notify the union of that policy.” Not only will they impose whatever class size they think is appropriate, after they have said class size doesn’t matter, they have cut any funding in our contract to lower over-sized classes and have eliminated any real limits on ballooning class sizes next year. Ignore staffing levels in all schools: The Board has rejected all of the CTU's proposals on appropriate staffing levels for our students. Including art, music, physical education, library and world language teachers -- counselors, social workers, nurses and school psychologists -- despite woefully inadequate staffing levels throughout the district and a longer day that will require additional staff if it is to be a better day.
Reject ‘better school day’ proposals: CPS refuses to accept any of our recommendations regarding full day kindergarten, playground facilities and air conditioning for all schools -- despite just last week many of our schools reaching temperatures of over 90 degrees, when learning becomes nearly impossible and classroom conditions inhumane. They have already cut the facilities budget by 85 percent next year even as they propose 60 new non-union charters and plan to close nearly 100 schools next year.
Refuse to adequately compensate teachers: CPS continues to disrespect teachers with a 2 percent raise offer for the first year of a five year contract even though working at CPS is getting much harder next year.
Refuse to offer job security to qualified teachers: The Board plans to remove protections for experienced and qualified educators who lose their positions through no fault of their own which will exacerbate the current 50 percent teacher turnover rate every five years -- something that interferes with continuity and quality instruction.
“A strike authorization vote is not a vote to go on strike,” Lewis said. “…We want to avoid a strike. Strikes aren’t good for anyone—not our members, not our parents and certainly not our students. As a matter of practicality, it is important that we conduct this vote now while our members are still in schools and not while they are on vacation. We certainly hope to have a contract in place before school starts in the fall and we look forward to everyone—including our members—returning to the classroom.”

Karen Lewis and the CTU are taking a brave stand by considering a strike to defend on crucial issues. The crucial issues for New York teachers, class size, seniority protection and tenure rights, are central among the CTU's concerns.
They are standing up to Rahm Emanuel and his continuation of Richard Daley and Arne Duncan's disastrous public school deform policies. (For instance read Substance News' historical review of Chicago schools on those "refomers"' Hit List.) They are standing up to the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten who always seems to vigorously argue against striking --the same AFT president that is floating programs such as how to get rid of teachers and is promoting teacher evaluation programs. (-A president that contradicts herself: witness her valid point that "The states that actually have lots of teachers in teacher unions tend to be the states that have done the best in terms of academic success in this country.") A vote in favor of a strike would be a big embarrassment for Weingarten with the AFT convention coming at the end of July in Detroit, Michigan.
If the CTU indeed does go on strike, they will need support. Teachers' unions and other public sector workers should show solidarity with the Chicago teachers. Additionally, strike solidarity work would be good for sharing with other teachers the parallels between the CTU teachers' issues and those of teachers in other cities.