CHICAGO – As Chicago Public School teachers and supporters head into the fourth day of a strike in the nation’s third-largest school district, Chicago Teachers’ Union president Karen Lewis and school board president David Vitale showed optimistic signs that an agreement could be reached soon.
“We feel like we’re in a pretty good place. We’ve made a lot of progress today. We spent a lot of time on evaluation,” a smiling Lewis told reporters just before midnight on Wednesday. The originally proposed teacher evaluation system –that would be contingent upon students’ success on factors such as standardized tests– has been a hot topic of debate in the contract negotiation talks, along with layoff recalls.
According to Lewis, recent issues of school closings, consolidations and charter school openings continue to affect contract negotiations, especially the issue of recalling teachers who are laid off when schools are consolidated or closed.
“That’s why we have such an issue on recalls,” Lewis said Wednesday.
The union is adamantly against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close over 100 “under-performing” schools, because they will put several unionized teachers out of work.
“That’s a direct attack on the union,” said John Kugler, a union advocate for CPS clinicians who provide “wraparound services” for students which include nurses, psychologists, social workers and other staff.
“We are here as public sector employees. We are here to protect the children’s rights of Chicago, the children’s right to have a fair, free public education and have the resources they need to have an opportunity in this society.”
Lewis said that experienced and dedicated teachers, many of them African-American, could see their careers destroyed by the district’s plans to close these schools, since they work in many of the schools that would be closed or consolidated.