* 5:29 pm - The Chicago Teachers Union is backing out of its agreement to support the school reform bill which passed the Senate last month on a unanimous roll call. From a press release…
“Our members have spoken clearly and decisively – they do not like this bill and demand changes to the language inserted during last-minute midnight maneuvers that restricted their collective bargaining rights,” said CTU President Karen Lewis.
CTU’s House of Delegates specifically called for the removal of Section 12(b) which states:
A dispute or impasse over any Section 4.5 subject shall not be resolved through the procedures set forth in this Act, and the Board, mediator, or fact-finder has no jurisdiction over any Section 4.5 subject. The changes made to this subsection (b) by this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly are declarative of existing law.
According to CTU attorney Robert Bloch, “The Section 12(b) amendment is a two-sentence atomic bomb that was slipped into the 110-page bill at the last minute. It sabotages union bargaining rights, blocks the Education Labor Board from enforcing the law, halts pending Labor Board trials, and allows Chicago Public Schools to tear up labor contracts it made on school issues found in Section 4.5 which pertain only to Chicago, such as class size, class schedules, pupil assessment policies and now the `length of the work and school day and length of the work and school year’.”
In addition to 12(b), the CTU House of Delegates called out Section 13(a)(2.10) requiring that 75% of all union members in the bargaining unit vote affirmatively to authorize a strike only in Chicago. According to Lewis, “For the rest of the state, that threshold is 51% of voters, not of members. A strike is the last option. It is a serious move. We’ll take the challenge of 75% versus 51%, but of members who participate in the voting process. Imagine if that was the requirement to win a seat in the State legislature?”
“Bargaining in good faith appears to be a bar set too high for these so-called education reformers – Advance Illinois, Stand for Children, Illinois Business Roundtable and their millionaire funders – who joined forces with the mayor-elect to steer the conversation, and the legislation, away from school improvement to an attack on unions and the children and families they serve. When you rob educators’ ability to bargain for true school improvement – safe schools with smaller class sizes, class offerings and how your school day is structured to meet your students’ needs – the quality of education available to all children is put at risk. CPS is an inequitable system. This bill does not change that basic travesty,” said Lewis.
As subscribers know, the unions didn’t know about a couple items in the bill, but everything else - including the provisions they are complaining about today - was well-known by the CTU when the bill passed.
* From a couple of weeks ago…
Stand For Children’s chief, Jonah Edelman, has argued these restrictions are necessary because a strike by CTU could be used to block efforts to increase the length of CPS’s school day, an Emanuel administration priority. Recent statements from CTU President Karen Lewis, however, suggest this may be a non-issue — or at least one that can be bargained over the way employers and organized employees do when a contract is up. Lewis told the Tribune editorial board that “she is ‘very open’ to a longer day and year ‘if we’re talking about bringing a rich curriculum back to the public schools. We want art, music, PE, history, science, everything.’”
In a letter to CTU members, Lewis portrayed the deal as a victory over billionaire-backed education “reform” forces that initially pushed legislation which would have gutted tenure and effectively banned teacher strikes. “We successfully made the case that the right to strike, seniority, due process and a solid evaluation system all play an integral role to make possible the promise of democracy, equity and quality in public education,” she wrote to explain why she personally gave the CTU’s endorsement to the legislation. The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and Illinois Education Association (IEA) also backed the legislation, known as SB 7.
* This could be why President Lewis is backing off now…
Although union leaders and school reformers made their deal late on the night of April 12, Lewis failed to inform delegates of that fact the following day when she addressed the regular monthly meeting of that body via Skype. Other CTU elected officers and members only learned of SB 7 a few hours later when Sen. Lightford entered it into the legislative record. Lewis’ first public statement on the bill came via a CTU press release the following morning.