With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Friday, June 26, 2015

Negotiations break down. But it's not over pay. Evaluations, testing & taxing.

CTU's negotiating team hanging tough.  

Four days ago, CTU Pres. Karen Lewis was saying, "We’re very close" to an agreement on a one-year contract. Yesterday, with the teachers’ contract expiring next Tuesday, Lewis announced that contract talks have broken off and the Chicago Public Schools’ “bargaining rhetoric is as empty as their bank accounts.”

Most interesting to me was that the deal stoppers, at least in the eyes of Rahm and his rudderless school board, were non-economic issues that wouldn't cost the board a penny. Remember, two education anti-union "reform" bills, one passed in 1995 and 2012 (SB7), supposedly limited the range of issues, with a few exceptions, that can be discussed during collective bargaining to economic ones. But that hasn't stopped the CTU from playing its role as a national model of the new unionism.

Even with major pay-raise concessions being offered by the union, Rahm and the board refuse to budge and inch on, 1) CPS's current discredited teacher evaluation system based mainly on students' standardized test scores as well as on the district's current over-testing regimen, and 2) CTU proposed revenue initiatives based on a more progressive taxing structure that would make the wealthiest pay their fair share.

Also standing in the way of an agreement by Tuesday is the simple fact that the board's leadership is in disarray. There's still no replacement for scandalized schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, which means for the second straight contract negotiations, the board side is basically leaderless. Plus the board's team includes Tracy Martin, who’s named in a federal subpoena into the $20 million SUPES contract scandal.

Only this time, there's no Byrd-Bennett waiting in the wings to come in a clean up the mess at CPS as there was in 2012 when Rahm gave J.C. Brizard the hook.

Not to mention Gov. Rauner's veto of the state budget and threatened shut down of state government entirely, which could change the game entirely.

I hope Lewis, Sharkey and team have some great strategies and tactics up their sleeves. They will need them.

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