Chicago Public Schools may have won the first round of negotiations with teachers, but the teachers are ready to strike back, literally.
Two of the city’s largest high schools have overwhelmingly approved a strike, in what is called a “Mock Strike Vote.”
Sunday, Chicago Public Schools responded:
"At this early stage of negotiations with the CTU, any talk of a strike is troubling for our schools, students and their families. We should instead focus our energies on helping our children get the tools they need to be successful in the classroom and prepared for college and career."
- Becky Carroll, CPS Chief Communications Officer
At Taft High School on the city’s far North Side the vote was 100 percent in favor of a strike. In fact, some teachers on maternity or sick leave went to extra lengths to make sure their vote was received.
Meanwhile the vote at Lane Tech High School, also on the far North Side of the city, was in the 90 percent range supporting a strike.
“The pro-strike sentiment reflects deep frustration by CPS teachers over non-negotiated terms imposed on them that are burdensome and unfair,” said Chicago Teachers Union attorney Robert Bloch.
He explains the frustration stems from teachers feelings over a longer school day imposed this year and over the decision to impose it next year without discussion.
But the tip of iceberg came on Friday when CPS announced it would move forward with a new evaluation system for teachers without the support of the Chicago Teachers Union after months of negotiations. CTU expressed their disapproval with the decision by CPS to end negotiations and said they would not endorse the new system.
“It feels like the City has declared war on its teachers, who dedicate their lives to teaching children and are left wondering what they have done to be treated like this,” said Bloch.
He added that teachers hoped CPS would pilot test the program first before imposing something that could result in losing their jobs over untested “measuring criteria.” Additionally, teachers are concerned the new system will force teachers to “teach to test,” according to Bloch.
In 2010, the Performance Evaluation Review Act was signed into law requiring CPS to install a new evaluation system that includes student growth as a “significant factor” for rating teachers in 300 CPS Schools by fall 2012. The law also gave CPS the ability to impose its “last, best offer” of a new system if an agreement could not be reached with teachers in 90 days.
CPS Board of Education said they project a $700 million budget deficit for 2013 after a meeting on Wednesday, which could play a role in the salary negotiations currently going on between CPS and teachers. CTU said that CPS’ budget predictions have lacked credibility for a decade.
The Coalition to Organize Democracy in Education held a press conference that same Wednesday proposing that the Board of Education should have a Representative Elected School Board. Currently, Chicago is the only city in the state to appoint members.
In the last year, CPS has cut jobs and restructured multiple areas of the department.