Within an hour after CTU’s House of Delegates refused to vote to suspend the week-long teachers’ strike, Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement saying he has told city lawyers to ask a judge to force teachers to go back to work.
Last week, Emanuel had called the strike one of “choice” and hinted that he believed the union could not call a strike over teacher evaluation and recall rights—the two major sticking points in negotiations.
A provision added to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act last year says Chicago teachers can strike only over pay and benefits.
Emanuel also cited health and safety concerns for children as a factor in asking for an injunction.
“While the union works through its remaining issues, there is no reason why the children of Chicago should not be back in the classroom,” Emanuel said.
CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin responded: “They said the Montgomery bus boycott was illegal, too.”
CTU leaders have said they believe teacher evaluation and recall are linked to pay and are thus fair game for a strike. The union also sought to insulate itself against a court injunction by filing an unfair labor practice complaint, just days before the strike.
The basis of that complaint was the union’s charge that CPS started illegally implementing provisions that had not been negotiated in the contract, such as failing to pay teachers step increases and implementing a new teacher evaluation system.
Filing an injunction is a risky move for Emanuel. If he loses in court, he would further anger teachers and make them more suspicious of the deal. If he wins, forcing teachers to end their strike could anger members of other unions.
The emergency injunction will likely be filed Monday and could be heard immediately.
Vetting the deal
At the same time, teacher delegates will be meeting with their colleagues to gauge their opinion on the deal hashed out by the school district and union last week. The House of Delegates will come back together Tuesday afternoon where they will either vote to suspend the strike or reject the deal.
CTU President Karen Lewis had suggested the delegates would vote to end the strike on Sunday evening. But instead of the usual chants and cheers emanating from the union hall, a booming “no” could be heard several times.
Lewis emerged to say that delegates wanted to wait until Tuesday to vet the deal with members. Team Englewood Delegate David Stiber said the decision was made by having those in favor of waiting stand up and, while it wasn’t everyone, a clear majority rose.
Stiber said he will talk to his colleagues and then survey them to see how they feel about the deal.
Lewis, who has come out of delegate meetings in the past strident or jovial, seemed subdued on Sunday night. At one point, she called the deal a “bad” one, but later she defended it, saying “it was the deal we could get.”
She noted that the district has financial problems and that curtailed the ability to push for certain things. The union had demanded more social workers, lower class sizes and air conditioners in every school, but the deal leaves these things out.
“They are not happy,” she said of the delegates. She said they aren’t satisfied with the agreements on teacher evaluation and recall and they wonder if they can win more concessions.
The “elephant in the room,” as Lewis has said, is the realization that CPS officials may well close 80 to 100 schools over the next few year—a move that could result in layoffs of thousands of teachers.
The deal hammered out provides some extra protections for teachers. Yet Lewis said her members are skeptical.
“There is no trust, by our members, of the board,” she said. “So you have a population who are frightened that they will never be able to work again.”
Further complicating the situation, both CPS and CTU have offered up their versions of the detail, which are not exactly the same.
Compensation and length of contract
CTU and CPS agree that the deal provides a 3 percent raise for teachers in the first year and 2 percent for the second and third year. The contract would be for three years, with an option for a fourth year by agreement, with a 3 percent raise.
CPS will keep paying step and lane increases for education and seniority. But the step structure will change to give greater value to those with 14 thru 16 years of experience. This will also save the district money.
CPS says paying for these raises will cost the district $74 million per year, considerably less than for the salary increases in the last two contracts.
CPS also dropped its attempt to increase contributions for health care. However, CTU agreed to have its members participate in the city’s wellness program. If someone opts out, he or she will have to pay $600 per year.
The union’s big win in this area is getting CPS to agree that half of its new hires will be displaced teachers. “This is the first time in history that CPS guaranteed jobs for displaced teachers,” says CTU lawyer Robert Bloch.
CPS emphasizes that principals will maintain the ability to hire whomever they want to teach in their school. “Principals will not be restrained by this goal,” according to a CPS fact-sheet.
So how will this work? Bloch says that on a given date of each year, there will be a determination of how many displaced teachers there were and how many were hired. If it is less than half, then CPS will make up the difference by taking the most senior teachers and putting them to work as long-term substitutes. Bloch points out that CPS will have a financial incentive to put these teachers to work.
Another win for the union is that teachers of closed schools will get to follow their students to the receiving school, if there vacant position.
However, CPS also would claim victory in this area, should the deal be approved. Layoffs would be based on performance first, then on status, with probationary teachers laid off before tenured. Also, teachers only get five months in the displaced teacher pool, not the 10 months they previously had.
The union’s fight on tying teacher evaluation to student performance was complicated by the fact that state law requires it. CPS had wanted to give more weight to performance than the state requires, but CTU held the line and got the district to agree to the minimum: 25 percent of the evaluation tied to test scores in year 1 and 30 percent in year 2 and 3.
A joint committee made up equally of district and CTU representatives will decide if the weight will increase in future years. It is unclear what will happen if the committee is split. The joint committee also will decide whether student surveys will be part of the evaluation in year 3 of the contract and beyond.
CPS touted the fact that teachers with unsatisfactory—the lowest rating—could be fired quickly. CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll says they will have 90 days to work with a mentor and move into the proficient category—two rungs up the ladder. If they do not they will be let go.
“We are not talking about a year or two,” she said. “We are talking about something much more immediate.”
But Bloch pointed out that they only have to move up to proficient based on teacher practice measures, not on student growth in test scores.