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Topic: Chicago Teachers Strike Ends
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Chicago Teachers Strike Ends
Posted: Sep 19, 2012 11:40 AM
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From HUFF POST CHICAGO, Wednesday, September 19, 2012. See
Chicago Teachers Strike Ends, Students Return To The Classroom Wednesday

By Tammy Webber and Sophia Tareen

CHICAGO -- Chicago children returned to school on Wednesday after
teachers ended a seven-day strike that disrupted the daily routines
of thousands of families and made the city a flashpoint in the debate
over union rights and efforts to overhaul the nation's public school

Jayton Howard, a 16-year-old student on the South Side, summed up his
feelings - and those of many others - in a word: "Great."

Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the
walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with those in
charge of the nation's third-largest school district. They said the
contract wasn't perfect, but that it included enough concessions on
proposed new teacher evaluations, recall rights for laid-off teachers
and classroom conditions to return to work pending a vote by its more
than 26,000 teachers and support staffers in coming weeks.

It was also a relief to parents. The strike stranded roughly 350,000
students and left many parents scrambling to arrange alternative care
for their children even though the district kept more than 140
schools open for several hours a day for meals and activities.

Some parents expressed hope Wednesday that the tentative contract
agreement would benefit students in a district grappling with high
dropout rates and poor performance.

"They'll win from the strike," said Leslie Sabbs-Kizer, referring to
her children as she walked them to a South Side elementary school.

Her son, 8-year-old Nkai Melton, said he was psyched for another
reason: "Going on the playground."

For parent Erica Weiss, an end to the strike meant she wouldn't have
to take her 6-year-old daughter to work.

"I am elated. I couldn't be happier," said Weiss, who had to leave
work in the middle of the day to pick up her daughter from one of the
schools that stayed open and then bring her back to her finance job
downtown. "I have no one else to watch her. ... I can't even imagine
the people who could have possibly even lost their jobs over having
to stay home with their kids because they have no alternate care. It
just put everyone in a pickle."

Wilonda Cannon, a single mother raising her four children in North
Lawndale, a poor West Side neighborhood beset by gang shootings, said
she was relieved that her two youngest were returning to class after
spending the last seven weekdays with their grandfather.

She said she hoped the agreement was the beginning of something new
for Chicago's public school system, which has long struggled with
high drop-out rates and low test scores. It will take months if not
years before parents and teachers will see whether the changes and
contract provisions pay off for students.

"I don't know all the ins and outs (of the contract negotiations) ...
but it does seem as though it's a step in the right direction,"
Cannon said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel - who filed a lawsuit this week to try to force
teachers back to work - called the settlement "an honest compromise."

Union leaders pointed to concessions by the city on how closely
teacher evaluations will be tied to student test scores and to better
opportunities for teachers to retain their jobs if schools are closed
by budget cuts.

"We said that we couldn't solve all the problems of the world with
one contract, and it was time to end the strike," said Chicago
Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

With an average salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are already among
the highest-paid in the nation. The district's final proposal
included an average 7 percent raise over three years, with additional
raises for experience and education.

But the evaluations and job security measures stirred the most
intense debate. The union said the evaluation system relied too
heavily on test scores and did not take into account outside factors
that affect student performance such as poverty, violence and

The union also pushed to give laid-off teachers first dibs on open
jobs anywhere in the district. The district said that could prevent
principals from hiring the teachers they thought most appropriate for
the position. The tentative settlement proposed giving laid-off
teachers first shot at schools that absorbed their former students
and filling half of district openings from a pool of laid-off
Susan Hickey, a school social worker, said she is eager to learn how
the students she counsels fared over the summer.

"How are they? Are they OK?" she said. "I'm glad to be back for all
kinds of reasons."
SIDEBAR PHOTO: Mary Edmonds, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union's
House of Delegates, celebrates after the delegates voted to suspend
the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in
Chicago. The city's teachers agreed to return to the classroom after
more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate
with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security
at the center of a national debate about the future of public
education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Associated Press writer Jason Keyser contributed to this story.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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