Blog: The Educated Reporter

Local and National News About the Chicago Teachers Strike (DAY 2)

Local and National News:

“To say that the contract will be settled today is lunacy,” CTU president Karen Lewis told cheering teachers in a series of speeches that included AFT president Randi Weingarten.

Press statement from Sec. Duncan: “I hope that the parties will come together to settle this quickly and get our kids back in the classroom.”

Chicago Teachers Strike Reverberates Nationwide, in Presidential Race: Is the labor unrest a sign teachers unions are no longer tolerant of the president’s brand of education reform or something more local? Is the CTU just looking for an apology from Mayor Emanuel? But there are still specific policies that are driving a wedge between the city and the union: a 20 percent increase in instruction, using student performance to gauge teacher success from 25 to 40 percent of an instructor’s evaluation, class size, more libraries, and the word that won’t go away–poverty–and a teacher’s limited ability to overcome its effects on student learning. 

School board president David Vitale feels the two sides are close to an agreement, reports the local ABC News station. Still, the two topics that CTU is hung up on the most–teacher evaluations and rehiring laid-off instructors (known as recall)–were not discussed. 

Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week reports CTU is no closer to coming to an agreement with the city. Regarding one of the sticking points–recall rights–30 principals signed off on a letter arguing they should have final say on who they hire, something the recall rights CTU is asking for would not permit. Also, AFT president Randi Weingarten is slated to speak this afternoon in Chicago. Her previous calls for reconciliation likely leaves her in arduous position. 

  Twitter Break:     CTU reframes strike issues: “Our fight is over fair compensation, working onditions and resources for our students.”              

A powerful Democratic mayor at odds with a union is emblematic of the changing political landscape for Big Labor and the Democratic party. As NPR explains, unions can no longer count on the party’s support and the latter would be remiss if it continued to rely on labor largesse. 

Meet Karen Lewis, the Union Leader at the Center of the Chicago Teachers Strike”

Chicago Sun-Times with its local coverage of the strike and  how it affects parents.

Regardless, the Sun-Times reports that while city aldermen back Emanuel, parents seem to support the teachers. In fact, 48 percent of registered voters in Chicago approve of the strike versus 39 who oppose. Emanuel’s support is thin: nearly three-quarters say he is doing an average, below-average or poor job dealing with the strike. 

Student athletes may be enjoying their impromptu holiday, but they’ll have to leave their cleats hanging: The school district’s waiver to bypass a rule that cancels school sports games was rejected. 

On the first day of the strike, 18,000 students were cared for at the 144 schools, churches, and community centers that were part of the city’s contingency plan help parents find their children a safe haven. The district has over 350,000 students. 

Inside one of the dozens of ad hoc education programs set up to keep kids safe and pre-occupied during the strike. You’ll find fitness and board games, but very little learning. For what it’s worth, the union is calling these centers “scab schools.”

There’s little evidence that performance pay for teacher teams improves student outcomes  

Parent voices are mixed, but the Chicago Tribune finds mothers and fathers tentatively sympathetic to the teachers’ demands. If the strike drags on, that could change. The contingency plans, which also include sports games at a park, are upsetting some families with students that adjust slowly to change and unfamiliar faces.

The state teacher evaluation laws on the books right now as part of an education package approved by Gov. Quinn in 2010.

CPS says it has also added an appeal process for erroneous teacher evaluations, as of its Aug. 23 offer.                   

CPS fact sheet on tchr evaluation concessions: Teachers can choose whether or not to have their 1st observation each year count for rating.                   

Mean, Median, and Fuzzy: teachers argue their median pay should reported, not their average pay. The city publishes that figure, though it’s buried in a policy packet that is roughly 260 pages. 

Hechinger Report comes out with a story explaining the political circumstances of the Chicago strike. In conversations with national union leaders, labor is still a fan of Obama and supports his candidacy. The publication also investigates the hostility unions have for tying standardized tests to teacher evaluations. 

Labor has more than benefits to fight for; as budgets continue to be tight and the job market shows limited growth, the bargaining position of unions is compromised:

“Major teacher strikes have been rare in recent years, compared with the 1960s and 1970s, when teachers went on strike frequently for better pay and improved bargaining rights. While unions generally got what they wanted in the past, they face a tougher climate today.

With the weak economy, unions have seen massive teacher layoffs, increased class sizes and school districts unable or unwilling to boost teacher salaries.”

Just a fraction of CHI charters are unionized – and not w/ the CTU. Nationally, 12% of charters are union.


The New Yorker: “Another problem is that talk of breaking teachers’ unions has become common parlance among the kind of people whose kids do not live below the poverty line, polite Pinkerton agents of education reform, circling at cocktail parties. No doubt there are some lousy teachers in Chicago, as there are everywhere.”

Is it a coincidence the striking teachers were paid last Friday? If the labor dispute drags on, teachers will be less eager walk the picket lines, writes Mike Antonucci. He also notes previous strikes may have cost teachers more than what they settled for, even if they did score slight salary gains. In  Hawaii in 2001, striking teachers gained a princely $148 a year. 

Does It Pay to Become a Teacher? Compared to other countries, U.S. teachers are paid less and work more.                   

The American Prospect: Is Chicago the next Wisconsin for labor? “If a big city Democrat with such outstanding party credentials as Emanuel is seen as squashing the teachers’ union, that doesn’t bode well for the Democrats nationally in their quest for union voters. Nor does it help the American Federation of Teachers as it fends of challenges in places far less friendly to unions than Chicago.”

Chicago is not Wisconsin, writes Alexander Russo, but it has features that make it similar to Los Angeles. Restrictions to collective bargaining aren’t responsible for the salvos between Emanuel and CTU, but like in LA, the Chicago mayor is pro-charter and supports parent trigger laws. 

Education Next’s Frederick Hess and Martin West wonder if the strike will defang moderate labor leaders and pave the way for a more strident education reform coalition: “Union leaders are rarely voted out of office, and when they are, the reasons aren’t always clear. There is anecdotal evidence, though, that those union officials who seek to professionalize teaching, or partner with districts in reform efforts, are risking a challenge from hard-liners in the ranks.”

Twitter Break 

The strike in Chicago is caused by capitalism, according to the union.

Photo credit: Twitter/Catalyst-Chicago and Twitter/Micah Uetricht ‏