CTU House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to suspend the strike

Mayor Rahm Emanuel:  CTU’s settlement ‘an honest compromise’


350,000 CPS students back in school on Wednesday


By Chinta Strausberg

At 5:31 p.m. Tuesday, Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) Karen Lewis held a press conference announcing that the House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly in favor to suspend the strike paving the way for students to return to the classroom Wednesday.

It will be good news for 350,000 students who have been out of school for the past six-days. It was the first strike in 25-years. The full membership is expected to mirror the House of Delegates vote.

“It will go to the membership (that will vote) up or down,” said Lewis who said Tuesday’s vote was 98-2 with some members being “diehard holdouts.” Explaining, she said some people were angry about the four percent raise“ that had been taken away and they wanted that to be an issue. “We have agreed to not continue to arbitrate that issue. Some people were not happy with the economic terms.”

Ending more than 400-hours of negotiations, it will take about two-weeks for the full membership to ratify the vote up or down, according to Lewis.

“We said we could not solve all the problems of the world with one contract and that it was time to suspend the contract,” she told reporters.

Lewis said the House of Delegates finally got a chance “to read the fine print. That is extraordinarily important to us.”  Last Friday, they did not have enough time to read the document and given the Jewish High Holy Days Tuesday was the first day they could reconvene for a vote.

On the issue of principal hiring, Lewis said, “The shelf-life of principals is a tad over four-years. We cannot get a perfect contract…that will make all of us happy.”

Asked if this takes pressure off of her, Lewis said, “I haven’t had a chance to have any pressure taken off of me since I took this job. On June 11, 2010, I was elected on June 15th. The board decided to lay off people outside of seniority order basically destroying our contract. You name it. I expect next week there will be something else. I’m sure there will be school closing issues. There will be pension issues.” She said the issues would continue to come.

Asked what is her message for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Lewis said, “I hope he agrees to this in good faith and that he carries out this contract in good faith.” She said trust “will be a big issue. It is going to see how this contract is enforced. That will make a big difference….”

“We are trying to have people understand that when people come together to deal with problems of education…the people that are actually working in the schools need to be heard. I think this has been an opportunity for people across the nation to have their voices heard, and I think we are moving in the right direction,” said Lewis.

On the issue of evaluation, Lewis said, “There is a committee that will be looking at this particular evaluation system and if there are any tweaks that’s when those will happen…during the time the committee is meeting….”

Asked about the upcoming problems of school closings, Lewis told reporters, “We have been fighting school closings on a very small basis. We have an entire union understanding the nature of that now. The issue is we cannot get a perfect contact. There is no such thing as a contract that will make all of us happy. We are realistic about that, but the other issue is do we stay on strike forever until every little thing that we want is capable of being gotten”?

Mayor Emanuel is expected to speak out on this issue soon. 

Mayor:  CTU’s settlement ‘an honest compromise’ 

By Chinta Strausberg

In a late evening press conference held at Walter Payton College Prep, Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tuesday responded to the Chicago Teacher Union ‘s (CTU) vote to suspend the seven-day old school strike calling it “an honest compromise.”

Thanking all those including ministers who opened up their church doors to house the students, Emanuel said, “It means returning our schools to our primary purpose, the education of our children. It means a new day and a new direction for the Chicago Public Schools.

“In this contract, we gave our children a seat at the table. In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more but our kids got less. This time our taxpayers are paying less and our kids are getting more,” Emanuel said.

Referring to past contracts, the mayor said both teachers and principals  “had to make false choices about where they spent their time because there was so little of it.”

Saying the city has been discussing the need for more school time for more than a decade, Emanuel said officials “lacked the ability to achieve our primary educational goal. We have been discussing the need for more reading and more recess, for more science and sports, for more math and music, geometry and gym….

“Each time it was postponed or rejected because the changes were considered too difficult. Today, that era and those false choices come to an end,” the mayor said explaining that grade school students will gain an additional hour and fifteen minutes every day and two additional weeks each year.

He said high school students will gain an additional 30-minutes each day and two additional weeks every year. For the more than 6,000 kindergarten students, Emanuel said they will have additional two-and-a-half years in the classroom by the time they graduate from high school. “That two-and-a-half years of additional education is a new day and a new direction for Chicago’s children and Chicago’s schools,” said Emanuel.

This extra time in the classroom, the mayor said, “Is transforming our classrooms and our children’s lives. This full day gives our kids more quality time for learning and teachers more opportunity to provide quality instructions.” He said the agreement also gives the principals “the freedom they need to lead their teams. Principals will have the responsibilities they deserve and the accountability for results that we as a city demand.”

He said for the first time principals will have a “meaningful” evaluation system that is based and designed by teachers. “Our evaluation system has not changed in 40-years while our students and the world they live in and work in has.”

“This year for the first time in a decade our parents will have more school choices and children will have more educational time. That is what it means to have a new day and a new direction for Chicago’s children.”

The mayor added, “We have taken a half billion ($500,000,000 or $500 million) out of our central office and put that money back to work in our classrooms where it belongs. We will save where we an so we can invest where we must, in the classroom in the future of our children.”

He said they are also providing parents “more tools to be partners in their children’s schools. For the first time, parents get the same report card that the principal receives on the school’s performance….”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.