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Chicago teachers say they’ve been handed an ultimatum

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 10:52 EDT
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Chicago teachers strike via Flickr
 
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Chicago Teachers’ Union representatives say that school district officials have issued them an ultimatum with regards to their demands, according to ABC News. The strike is entering its third day as talks are set to resume at 11:00 a.m. today, Central time.

At the end of Tuesday’s talks, David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education told reporters that his side had presented a written proposal to the CTU and would not be returning to the table until the teachers’ union (which is which one poll found is supported by 47 percent of Chicago voters) had issued a written response of its own.

Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the CTU went before reporters after Vitale and told them that the board of education had issued the teachers an ultimatum.

“We do feel like it’s sort of an attempt to throw down the gauntlet, and that’s an unwelcome development,” he said. ”At the end of the day, they basically dug in their heels.”

At issue today are test-based teacher evaluations, part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial package of education reforms. According to Sharkey, if implemented the policy could cost up to 28 percent of Chicago’s teachers their jobs.

He told ABC, “The idea that 28 percent of our teachers could be fired due to poor performance is really an insult to the profession.”

According to the Washington Post, education experts have expressed concern that some of Emanuel’s reforms could do more harm than good.

A group of researchers and faculty from 16 universities sent a letter to the mayor telling him that firing teachers whose students fail to perform on standardized tests will only hurt the school district.

“The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children,” they wrote. “We believe it is our ethical obligation to raise awareness about how the proposed changes not only lack a sound research basis, but in some instances, have already proven to be harmful.”

Aside from the evaluations, teachers are also protesting Emanuel’s insistance on shifting funds to privately owned charter schools, the failure of Chicago Public Schools to deliver on a promised wage increase, added unpaid hours on the school day and reductions in vacation time, shoddy classrooms that reach temperatures in excess of 100 degrees in the spring and fall, a drastic shortage of social workers and guidance counselors to help the thousands of at-risk students in the district as well as the fact that 160 Chicago schools don’t even have their own libraries, lack music and art programs and more.

The 31,000 educators on strike in Chicago (whose average salary is around $59,000) will soon see their ranks swelled by school custodians, members of the Service Employees’ International Union, who filed a 48-hour notice on Tuesday that they, too, intend to walk the picket line. This is the first teachers’ strike in Chicago in more than two decades.

Watch video about this story, embedded via ABC News, below:

(image via Flickr Commons)

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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