It's teacher hunting season!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

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.

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