Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been in an aggressive mode for the past few weeks, ramming through a school day extension, unpopular with both parents and teachers. His aggressive stance has set up a strike possibility. Mike Klonsky blog reports "CTU and community protests force more Rahm concessions."
Schools CEO [sic] Jean-Claude Brizard "can't go anywhere these days without being greeted by community protests, even backing out of a scheduled meeting . . . for 'security reasons,'" writes Klonsky.
With national elections drawing near and a threatened teachers strike only 30 days away, Rahm is feeling pressure from inside his own camp to reach an agreement with the CTU. The Civic Federation is attacking his proposed school budget from one side while pro-union protests hit it from the other. CEO Brizard can't go anywhere these days without being greeted by community protests, even backing out of a scheduled meeting at UIC last week which was cancelled for "security reasons."
The school board was scheduled to pass it's $5.2 billion 2012-13 operating budget which would have locked in a meager, strike-inciting 2% raise for teachers right in the middle of heated contract negotiation and on the heels of the fact-finders report recommending a much higher pay raise. But, this morning, faced with the threat of massive protests at Wednesday's board meeting, the board announced that the budget vote would be postponed until after an agreement was reached with the union."
We are going to wait until August to allow for contract negotiations to continue because our budget outcomes will have to reflect those decisions,” schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll said.
Jackson Potter of the Chicago Teachers Union called the delay a good-faith effort by the district in ongoing negotiations. “It’s common sense as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “This is an opportunity to stand away from the precipice and talk about what are the ways in which we can get our schools back on track by investing in them."
The decision to delay the budget vote drew an angry response from the city's charter school crowd which stood to gain millions of dollars at the expense of city schools if the budget was passed on Wednesday.
At a rally Monday, leaders from some of the city's most prominent charter networks, including the United Neighborhood Organization, Noble and Chicago International Charter Schools, attacked union teachers for demanding a double-digit raise and called on the board to deliver on the $76 million allocated to them in the proposed budget. UNO's executive director, Juan Rangel, taking a page from The Sopranos, threatened,
"I know how this game gets played, and we're not going to allow the CTU to negotiate charters out."
But later today, the board announced even more concessions:
Instead of requiring teachers to work a 20 percent longer day, the Chicago Public Schools have agreed to hire more teachers to handle “enrichment programs” that include art and music. Teachers will continue to work the same hours they do now. Additional time in the classroom — adding up to a 7-hour day in elementary schools and 7.5 hours-a-day, four-days-a-week in high school — will be handled by the new hires.
Whether or not these announced concessions by Rahm's team are just a ploy or will be enough to avert a strike, community pressure for such concessions are certainly having an impact. Of course the devil is in the details and there's nothing in the board's announcements about teacher pay raises.
But it's clear that Rahm's strategy of posturing and refusing to bargain seriously has been upended. This in itself represents a victory for the CTU whose hand has been strengthened by growing community support and a solid 90% strike support vote of it's membership.