CTU says contract talks “broken down”

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CTU press conference

Photo by Kalyn Belsha

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced Thursday, June 25 that contract talks with CPS broke down after the district refused to negotiate on "non-economic" issues.

Chicago Teachers Union leaders say contract negotiations broke down today and accused the district of refusing to bargain on what they’re calling “non-economic” issues such as grading policies, testing and lowering the cut scores on educators’ evaluations.

In addition, union leaders say CPS is threatening to cut 3,000 jobs – a mix of teachers and paraprofessionals – on top of asking for $200 million in other budget cuts.

“We are still willing to come back to the bargaining table and our talks could continue, but as of right now talks have broke down,” CTU President Karen Lewis said during a press conference at union headquarters. “Instead of making a deal with us, they’ve made threats.”

She added that a strike isn’t “off the table.”

Shortly after the CTU press conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement urging the union back to the bargaining table. He also accused the union of trying to “shortchange our children by eliminating evaluations for tens of thousands of employees or lowering teachers’ performance standards.”

CTU leaders said they haven’t asked to eliminate evaluations, which are required under state law, although they have asked to stop observations of clinicians for one year while a new evaluation system is being developed.

The mayor said he was “encouraged that both sides finally acknowledge that CPS is in a fiscal crisis and lacks the resources to provide additional compensation, and that is a step in the right direction.”

CPS officials did not offer any comment Thursday evening.

The union had been optimistic going into today’s bargaining session, as it had already come to agreements with CPS on some of the most basic terms on the contract: a one-year deal, no pay raises and the preservation of both the district’s  7-percent “pension pickup,” as well as the step-and-lane salary structure.

Union insiders had told Catalyst that the district was under pressure to hammer out a deal before next Tuesday –  an important date on many fronts. That’s when the CTU’s current contract expires and when CPS is required to make a $634 million payment into the teachers pension fund. A bill to grant CPS a delay in making that payment was voted down in the state House earlier this week but Speaker Mike Madigan has said he’ll bring it back for a vote next Tuesday.

Union attorney Robert Bloch said it’s “unlikely” a deal will be reached before then and that there are no more bargaining sessions currently scheduled.

Details on negotiations

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey took issue with the mayor’s comments about teacher evaluations. He explained that the union wanted to lower the cut score for rating teachers as “developing” – the third of four categories under the CPS evaluation system – from 284 to 260. He says that’s because teachers who are rated as “proficient” in all but one category can still earn an overall rating of “developing” under the current system.

“We’re not trying to eliminate evaluations,” he said. “We want to address what is a deep inconsistency in the evaluation system by changing the cut score.”

Sharkey added that CPS wants to reduce the number of required principal observations – a proposal that speaks to the district’s recognition that principals are overwhelmed by the number of required observations and lengthy paperwork. Teachers, too, complain about the tedious paperwork required by the REACH Students evaluation system, which is now going into its fourth year.

Union leaders said another major sticking points in today’s negotiations was the district’s unwillingness to discuss granting teachers more autonomy on how they grade students’ work. In the past two years, Lewis said, school principals have been increasingly setting standardized grading scales for all classrooms.

“There have been policies that have come down that have basically said ‘You must put x amount of grades in for each subject every week’ It was some arbitrary number,” she said. “People want to be able to have some autonomy over their grading and that wasn’t happening. We even said ‘Could we at least put it to a faculty vote, or something?’ But they said no.”

When asked why she told reporters earlier this week that the union was close to a deal, Lewis said she thought the union’s non-economic proposals “would be easy. It turns out they weren’t.”

  • Concerned Parent

    Shame on CPS for dropping the ball. You want support from Springfield and you wont budge on controlling your own over-spending. Will not blame the House if they vote no again to you Rahm – this is on you!

  • Concerned Parent

    You really have lightweight xx and the controversial xxx on the CPS negotiating team? Good reason talks broke down. Nego 101-never put those on the team that have an interest in keeping their jobs.

  • Taylor Loomis

    As a parent, the testing must stop !

  • xian

    So the mayor doesn’t even understand the difference between clinicians and classroom teachers? This explains why he’s made such a mess of our system.

    It appears only one side in the room even knows what our system does. Clearly evaluations for clinicians need to be geared toward the actual job they are doing-they aren’t now.

    Misevaluating hurts students.

  • Concerned Parent

    Let us remember that U Chicago showed 60 schools that had NO teacher evaluation last year-shows that the CPS REACH system dose NOT work.
    Rahm is looking dumb here- wish one of his people would tell him the truth.

  • Rosita Chatonda

    I want to talk about the state of public education. In view of the
    1,400 jobs that will be cut to satisfy the financial deficiet created
    from years of misuse and abusive policies that undermined the integrity
    of inner city schools in Chicago. As Vice chair of the South Shore
    Community Action Council, (CACS) we were created to satisfy the needs of
    Senate Bill 620 and 630 which calls for CPS to have community voice. We
    are supposedly recognized as community voice for CPS. Many times we
    have a different perspective and vision from CPS. On the other hand am a
    unionist , I respect and adore the kinds of unions that protected
    workers and insured a great contract to secure the rights of teachers
    who sit before our children on a daily basis. It is imperative that
    teachers work in the best working conditions possible to insure that our
    children receive the best possible education.

    As a former
    parent of four children that went to both private and CPS schools, ad
    now a grandparent of 4 grandsons that were educated in another state and
    now attend CPS, I have a vested interest in CPS. AS and educator for
    over 25 years in both Catholic and Public schools in the inner city. . I
    have a vested interest in education. As a former union organizer, for
    CTU, I have a vested interest in securing the rights of members. I must
    say that I have never seen a relationship so bad between the mayor and
    CTU. The impact of this is not felt by the union heads, CORE and Karen
    Lewis, by the mayors office. All of these people receive a healthy
    paycheck weekly as our parents, students and teachers bear the brunt of
    this ridiculous fight between the mayor and Karen Lewis.

    Personally, I’m so sick of it I could puke. Something has to be done. A
    few months ago, the mayor was being challenged by the CTU’s hand picked
    candidate after Lewis decided she would not run, Chuy Garcia. The CTU
    dumped millions of money and resources into a campaign that they lost.
    They contend that they won , however, they DO NOT sit in the mayor’s
    office. Let me make it clear, I supported Lewis and CORE giving g hours
    of donated time and fundraising to her campaign in 2009. I was a
    complete supporter of the CORE agenda. However, as Maya Angelou would
    say, “When you know better, you do better” . I’m saying that to say, I
    watched the racial firings of thousands of African American teachers and
    watched the CTU turn a blind eye to this crisis for years. I also
    watched the racial firing that went on at the CTU when the young
    predominately White CORE team took over CTU.

    With that in mind,
    the people have chosen their mayor. We need CORE and Lewis to get back
    to protecting their members jobs.Give up the personal vendetta and
    organizing OUR communities. That’s the job of the people that live in
    them, not CTU’s job. Loosing 1,400 jobs that will impact our students,
    parents and teachers in the most vulnerable schools in the city. To the
    mayor, we ask resources, more funding and that those cut positions are
    those of the inexperienced supervisors that make the veteran teachers
    jobs a living hell in these schools.

    • Karma

      Rosita is right. The focus of CTU should be its members who pay dues. Social and political activism have a time and a place.

      I am not insensitive and completely aware of how coalition’s can work together to ostensibly improve the school system for students, teachers,etc. However, I question why so many dollars have been spent and focused on national hot topics and not on what CORE was elected to do. After watching Clinton and Obama speak at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washigton I really got the message – enough has been done. Go to blazes members of the middle class and those at the bottom rung.

      I am weary of Karen Lewis acting brand new with regards to negotiating with CPS and Rahm. Rahm threatened CTU with the 3000 layoffs,. So why is she using the word blindsided? The 1400 promised layoffs,in my opinion, are just a preview of what is to come. Teachers can march and protest forever
      The power brokers don’t give a hang.

      Another issue is what does CTU intend to do about all the black, veteran teachers who were displaced in 2012 – 2014? Why isn’t their crack legal team working on that? Who is left to get laid off ? Who will be left to pay dues,protest, march and most importantly -TEACH!!!

      The new teachers are not going to stay and I do not blame them. What is the incentive to stay? Remember, they have seen how CPS discards its veteran teachers. The less experienced can see the handwriting on the wall. The harsh reality is that they are pawns in a power game. It was never intended for them to stay.

      The Union can and should bring attention to the many issues that impact teaching and learning. However, it is not a social service agency and its purpose is not to solve the social and politocal ills of this world.

      • Rosita Chatonda

        While the CTU has dumped over 5 million in a campaign to get Chuy Garcia elected. 6,000 primarily African American veteran teachers have lost everything. The CTU wants nothing to do with them except have the unemployed support their political aspirations. I took it upon myself to write a grant and a programs called “Teach For South Shore” to bring early retired Displaced teachers back into the classrooms part time to supplement their income. We had hired 39 teachers and 40 parents. Governor Rauner took our funds back in January. If I can think of theses things and I’m only one person. Why can’t the CTU do something to finally help Displaced teachers? This program cost less than 1 million. They could have funded a program like this for 6 years with the money they threw away on this election. Not only that, teachers will be absolutely insane to vote CORE and Lewis back in. ham is mayor and he will not give teachers anything with an agitating leadership team like CORE and Karen Lewis Running Things. Time for New Leadership. CAUSE meets every second Tuesday at Operation PUSH @ 6:00, Teach For the future INC. Meets every first Thursday @ 1809 East 71st, Let’s unite and support a new leadership team teachers. NO MORE CORE! Let them do their political organizing but not at your expense.

  • Rosita Chatonda

    Please excuse the typos.

  • Martha Rosa-Salgado

    CPS will never get its house in order. With the constant changes in top level administrators who do not understand the Chicago system. In addition, they come in with solutions that they have used at other districts. One size does not fit all! In addition, when administrators such as BBB come in with their cronies, self interests groups coming to fix a problem they only see throw tunneled vision. CPS has to focus its priorities. There are too many administrators that are doing nothing to improve education. We need schools that focus on real results. We need autonomy in the schools, allow principals and teachers to drive their own ship, they are in the trenches and know what is needed.