While the top issues leading to the strike have revolved around salaries, benefits, job security and teacher evaluations, Lewis said Sunday that teachers are still not happy with teacher evaluations being weighted toward student performance.

Also, teachers aren’t happy with how the city’s board of education has chosen to deal with recalled teachers, namely, which teachers will be rehired in the event of a school closing, consolidation or turn-around, Lewis said.

“They don’t like the idea that people’s recalled benefits are basically cut in half,” Lewis said.

Additionally, “the big elephant in the room is the closing of 200 schools. They are concerned with this city’s decision on some level to close schools. They are extraordinarily concerned about it,” Lewis said.

Emanuel announced earlier last week plans to close at least 120 under-performing schools. Many of the schools are in impoverished neighborhoods of Chicago, where predominantly African-Americans live and teach. Lewis argued that those 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.

CTU Delegates accepted a temporary contract late last week that addressed these issues. Under the 2012 contract, concerning layoffs and recalls: “when schools are consolidated, closed or phased-out, highly-rated teachers will have the opportunity to follow their students to the consolidated school. Order of layoff is by performance: Unsatisfactory teachers first, then by class (probationary/tenured), then by Developing (formerly Needs Improvement – in two groups, those rated lower in this category then those rated higher), and then Proficient/Excellent,” according to the CTU.

“For the first time, CPS will have hiring standards for teachers that have earned credentials beyond a certification to teach. [This] initiative will create hiring standards to ensure all candidates meet minimum hiring requirements to raise the bar on the quality of our teachers and to ensure that all teachers across the city meet these minimum expectations,” CTU said in a statement.

“The Initiative also creates guaranteed interviews for tenured highly-rated teachers who are laid off because of closings, consolidations, phase-outs, enrollment drops and academic reasons. CPS will aim to fill 50 percent of vacancies with Proficient and Excellent displaced tenured teachers. Principals will not be restrained by this goal and will continue to have the ability to hire the highest quality candidates of their choosing.”

Lewis contends that the deal is not a good one for her members, but “it is the deal we’ve got.” The 2012 contract also noted the following changes:

  • Elementary students gain 1 ¼ hours to create a 7 hour school day. High school students gain ½ hour to create a 7 ½ hour school day.
  • Students gain 10 full instructional days.
  • A unified calendar is created so all public school children attend school on the same days. A joint Board-Union Committee created to work on specifics.
  • Student growth is part of teacher evaluations for the first time, accounting for 25% of their evaluations in years 1 and 2 of the contract; 30 percent in year 3; 35 percent year 4; and potentially 40 percent in year 5 if Joint Committee approves. A student survey will be piloted in Year 2, with implementation in Year 3 at 10 percent of total, subject to Joint Committee.
  • The cost of living increase will rise three percent in the first year, two in the second, two in the third and if teachers accept a fourth year, teachers will receive a three percent raise.
  • Tenured teachers will continue to be evaluated on biennial cycle if receiving a Proficient or Excellent rating.
  • Unsatisfactory and Developing teachers will face layoff in their first year. Remediation and dismissal may occur immediately post-rating (which tenured teachers receive in their second year of implementation).
  • Teachers will receive a three-year contract with the option of a fourth, “based on trigger.
  • Principals will maintain full authority to hire whichever teacher they deem best.
  • There will be no change in the class size policy.

Asked why the CTU chose not to end the strike in the nation’s third-largest school district to send children to school, Lewis said: “it was clear [that a] majority wanted to stay out. That’s why we’re staying out.”

Renita D. Young is a multimedia journalist based in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung