Judge sets date for hearing on teachers’ union lawsuit

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During Wednesday morning’s hearing for the Chicago Teachers Union’s 
lawsuit over layoffs
, Chicago Public
Schools chalked up a preliminary victory on the question of scheduling.

During Wednesday morning’s hearing for the Chicago Teachers Union’s 
lawsuit over layoffs,
  Chicago Public
Schools chalked up a preliminary victory on the question of scheduling.

The next court date for the case is Sept. 15. It is expected to be the final hearing on the union’s request for an injunction; the rest of the case will be heard at a later date.

Union lawyers argued this morning that their request for an injunction needed to be heard before the regular school year starts on Sept. 7.

But instead, the judge gave the Board of Education slightly more time to prepare its case. Documents detailing the district’s arguments are due by Sept. 10.

“I am mindful of the fact that under the union’s view, teachers are being laid off unfairly,” U.S. District Court Judge David Coar said, “but this (delay) is a fairly minor imposition.”

In asking for an injunction, the union is arguing that teachers who are not reinstated before the school year begins will face “irreparable harm” if returned to their classes mid-year.

Schools may not have open positions for any reinstated teachers, the union argues. And if a change in teachers affects student performance, court documents state, the reinstated teacher “may suffer a negative evaluation or have his own professional reputation suffer.”

Wednesday afternoon, officials sent out a news release saying the case had been expedited.

“The case is on a fast track,” union attorney Tom Geoghegan said in a statement. “We hope to receive a swift and favorable decision.” 

Before the next hearing, both parties will be able to take depositions and interview witnesses.

The union largely already has the evidence it needs to move forward. “The entire case the union is presenting rests on documents produced by the Board of Education,” Geoghegan told the court.

But scheduling the hearing for Sept. 15 gives CPS time to bolster its response, which may focus on disputing the accuracy of some of the union’s complaint – particularly, those made in a statement by Chicago Teachers Union Staff Coordinator Jackson Potter.

“In the affidavit that the plaintiffs attached, they make a number of allegations that senior teachers are being replaced by new hires or probationary teachers,” said Sally Scott, a lawyer representing the Board of Education, after the court appearance.

During the discovery period, she said, lawyers will be able to gather evidence that those claims are untrue.

As the case continues, the union is continuing to publicly take on CPS. At Tuesday night’s budget hearing at Lane Tech, members of the union and community groups made statements opposing the district’s planned budget and asking the district to avoid teacher cuts.

Union President Karen Lewis asked CPS to cut funding from area offices. The statement was accompanied by a document showing that the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year includes dramatic funding increases for many area offices.