Education International
Education International

USA: Chicago teachers’ successful negotiations

published 24 September 2012 updated 24 September 2012

Following the well-followed strike it called for on 9 September, the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) entered immediate negotiations with Chicago legislative officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. As of 17 September, the strike has been called off after the CTU succeeded in negotiating a fairer contract for Chicago’s teachers.

Around 6.000 teachers were facing potential dismissal due to recent education reforms that were passed in Chicago, a state which houses the third largest public school district in the country. Chicagoan teachers’ jobs were at stake due to unfair evaluation practices wherein they were to be held accountable for their students’ standardized test scores. This among other issues, such as teacher benefits and pay increase freezes, triggered the largest American education strike in 25 years.

CTU President Karen Lewis saw the strike as a necessary means to an end, after several failed negotiation attempts over an eight month period. “This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator,” Lewis said. She went on to explain that “ there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control.”

AFT steely support to colleagues in Chicago

One of EI’s national affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has issued a news release in support of the CTU, one of its affiliates.

In it, AFT President Randi Weingarten states: “Today, the Chicago Teachers Union overwhelmingly voted to suspend the strike following an extensive discussion of the proposed tentative agreement. In the coming weeks, the full CTU membership will vote on the tentative agreement negotiated between the CTU and Chicago Public Schools. This agreement guarantees that Chicago teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians will return to the classroom knowing that their schools and community are strengthened because their voices and experience have been respected. And parents can send their kids to school knowing that their teachers fought for the resources children need to succeed, including having textbooks on time and investments in art, music, physical education and other subjects that expand and enrich children’s minds.”

She also stressed: “This tentative agreement follows intense negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the district. And it was forged amid a backdrop that saw a broad cross section of parents and other Chicagoans join teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians in calling for a fair, substantive contract that gives educators and students the tools they need to succeed.”

CTU: collective-bargaining is an essential tool to strengthen public schools

CTU President Karen Lewis and her leadership team, with whom the AFT worked closely throughout this process, have represented their members well and made clear that their concerns go beyond wages and benefits to include all the issues affecting their students’ education.

Lewis said that CTU members demonstrated that collective-bargaining is an essential tool that strengthens public schools. These issues are at the heart and soul of public education in America, and Chicago has demonstrated that we have a shared responsibility and a national obligation to address them.

“What’s happened in Chicago has changed the conversation and shown that, by communities uniting and acting collectively we can transform our schools and guarantee every child the high-quality public education he or she deserves,” she explained “Now let’s hope this turns the page to a new chapter in education reform, where we can work together to achieve what our kids need—in Chicago and throughout the country.”

EI: decent working and living conditions for Chicago’s teachers

EI stands in solidarity with Chicago colleagues. EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen stated: “EI represents the voice of teachers worldwide, and Chicago’s teachers need to be heard. Teachers’ job security should not suffer as a result of poor education reforms. Quality education is contingent upon quality, effective teachers, whose rights should not be deprived of them. Chicago’s teachers deserve a fair system of evaluation, as well as appropriate pay and benefits.”