Let me get the important developments out of the way first. There is still no end in sight in day two of the Chicago Teachers Union strike.
Last night, school board president David Vitale said that only two issues, “recall rights” for laid-off teachers and the shape of the teacher-evaluation system, remain in place. Union president Karen Lewis retorted that that’s because the board hasn’t budged on its positions on those issues.
UPDATED, 1:16 p.m. In an aggrieved-sounding press release, the CTU today said the board was falsely alleging that a deal is close.
“The Chicago Teachers Union has 49 Articles in its contract, to date, we have only signed off on six of them,” a spokeswoman for the union said. “The Chicago Public Schools has made proposals to change nearly every article. It is not accurate to say both sides are extremely close--this is misinformation on behalf of the Board and Mayor Emanuel. We have a considerable way to go. This is a fact they cannot deny.”
Today, 30 Chicago principals sent a letter stating their position that they should have the final say over who teaches in their building, something that “recall rights,” which guarantee laid-off teachers first dibs on new jobs, would not allow.
Here’s a snippet from the letter:
We think it's imperative that principals be given the autonomy they need in the hiring process to do what is necessary to support our students and their learning. This autonomy is necessary to ensure that principals can hire the most qualified and best fit candidate for the position and our kids. Without this autonomy, principals may be forced to hire individuals whose skill set and value systems are not conducive to the school's culture, mission, and vision."
Also of interest: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten flew out to Chicago this morning. She’s scheduled to hold a news conference with other labor leaders around 4:30 CT today.
This is interesting on a number of levels, because Weingarten has been among those pushing for her unions to consider collaborative solutions to policy issues like tenure and teacher evaluation. (Internal critics charge this is really a nice way of saying unions should agree to concessions.)
This tension about when to broker deals, and when to fight, was on display at this summer’s AFT convention. CTU delegates, for example, have taken credit for pushing the AFT and Weingarten into taking a more aggressive stance on things like standardized testing.
There’s a backstory here, too, with regard to internal union politics. As GothamSchools reported this summer, in New York City, disillusionment with union inaction has even led to the creation of a political “caucus” in the New York AFT affiliate modeled on the principles that guided the group that helped Lewis rise to prominence in the CTU.
UPDATED, 4:45 p.m. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former CEO of the Chicago school district, finally weighed in on the strike with this very evenhanded statement:
I hope that the parties will come together to settle this quickly and get our kids back in the classroom. I'm confident that both sides have the best interests of the students at heart, and that they can collaborate at the bargaining table - as teachers and school districts have done all over the country - to reach a solution that puts kids first.
Photo: Chicago parents Carmen Brownlee, left, and, Latonya Williams, right, walk a picket line outside Shoop Elementary School in support of striking teachers on Sept. 11. —M. Spencer Green/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.