The Chicago Tribune reports that a tentative deal has been reached in the teachers strike that would resume classes as early as Monday for 350,000 students.
The union’s House of Delegates will review the proposal at a meeting this afternoon and is likely to vote to end the five-day-old teachers strike on Sunday after final details have been worked out, officials say.
“I’m pleased to report that the talks today were very productive,” CTU attorney Robert Bloch told reporters. “We are still continuing to work out the details of the contract, but we are hopeful that we will have a complete agreement to present to the union’s House of Delegates by Sunday.
“And if the delegates so vote, we will suspend the strike and students can return to school on Monday,” he said.
That House of Delegates meeting is occurring at this hour. David Vitale, the head of the Chicago Public Schools, said parents should prepare to have their kids in school on Monday.
The general framework is as follows. Teachers would get a 16% raise over four years, with adjustments for more tenured teachers. Raises could not be rescinded in the event of a fiscal emergency. Health insurance premiums would not rise for teachers provided they take part in a wellness program. Mechanisms for teacher evaluations (which will now include an appeals process), as well as recalling teachers who have been laid off due to school closings and consolidations, are apparently solved, though details there are few. It’s also unclear whether the longer school day and school year will get incorporated into the contract, along with a timetable for fixing crumbling classrooms, ensuring working air conditioning systems and dealing with class sizes.
This was not necessarily about one contract but a larger worker’s rights movement, and a challenge to the corporatized, privatized drift in education policy. We’ll have to see the details, but the Chicago Teachers Union has performed admirably in defending those rights and bolstering the labor movement generally.
Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who is now a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been watching the strike closely.
Simpson said Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s confrontational style has galvanized the CTU.
“He has made the CTU a much more effective union, and much more unified than it would be, normally,” Simpson said [...]
“This is a town in which the Democratic Party depends on its union support, and Rahm may not only alienate the teachers; discussions with the firefighters and the police are not going well. He could well end up even more alienating the entire labor base,” he said.
But this is not about one bumbling mayor. It’s about raising questions about the rush to fire teachers based on evaluations of standardized tests, which has got even the LA Times’ editorial board, which has argued for test-based evaluations in the past, to admit “The state standardized tests were never designed to measure an individual teacher’s performance, much less decide his or her pay.” It’s about lifting the veil on the education reform movement and exposing its union busting agenda. It’s about parents finally becoming aware of what is being done in the name of “saving their children.” It’s about recognizing that there is no crisis in public education that cannot be solved by teachers and administrators working together rather than one trying to shove the other out of the decision room.
Richard Rothstein writes:
The strike represents the first open rebellion of teachers nationwide over efforts to evaluate, punish and reward them based on their students’ scores on standardized tests of low-level basic skills in math and reading. Teachers’ discontent has been simmering now for a decade, but it took a well-organized union to give that discontent practical expression. For those who have doubts about why teachers need unions, the Chicago strike is an important lesson [...]
I frequently get letters from teachers, and speak with teachers across the country who claim to have been successful educators and who are now demoralized by the transformation of teaching from a craft employing skill and empathy into routinized drill instruction using scripted curriculum. They are also demoralized by the weeks and weeks of the school year now devoted to gamesmanship—test preparation designed not to teach literacy or mathematics but only to make it seem that students can perform in an artificial setting better than they actually do.
Teachers needed a galvanizing event to come out of the shadows and stand up to the denigration of their profession. The Chicago Teachers Union provided it.