Back to school, again

Classes resume following end of teacherís strike this week

09/19/2012 10:00 PM

Contributing Reporter

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Ryan Poelker, a University of Illinois at Chicago student, stands with a group of protestors outside Smyth Elementary on the edge of University Village Monday morning. Poelker said heís standing with the teachers because his dad was a shop teacher.

More than 350,000 Chicago Public School students returned to their classrooms Wednesday after the Chicago Teachersí Union ended its eight-day strike on Tuesday.

Ninety-eight percent of the unionís house of delegates voted Tuesday to end the strike after its leadership agreed to the Chicago Board of Educationís latest contract offer. While both sides have claimed victory, CTU President Karen Lewis and many CTU members say the fight is far from over. Still under discussion are issues such as class size.

Reiterating his belief that the strike was illegal, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday prior to the unionís vote continued to call the walkout ďa strike of choice.Ē Emanuel had threatened legal action to force the teacherís back to work, seeking an injunction from the courts. Circuit Court Judge Peter Flynn did not grant the injunction, yet said he would hear the arguments from both parties on Wednesday of this week, which wonít happen now that the strike is over.

The strike, which was the cityís first since 1987, lasted 12 calendar days. The house of delegates agreed to end the strike after several hours debating at a closed meeting held near Chinatown. The rank-and-file membership still must vote on the contract, but that didnít stop classes from resuming on Wednesday at schools around the city.

The new contract gives teachers a 3 percent cost-of-living raise in the contractís first year, followed by 2 percent raises in the second and third years. An optional fourth year would offer a 3 percent raise again if both the union and CPS agree to extend the deal.

The board also agreed to hire more than 500 extra teachers, including those in physical education, music and art.

The contract also establishes a CPS hiring pool of laid off teachers, promising that half of all new teachers hired will come from that pool. According to fact sheets distributed by CPS and the union, principals maintain the right to hire the teachers they want. At schools slated to be closed or consolidated, highly-rated teachers have the opportunity to follow their students to new schools, with spots being given out in order of best performance.

The school board compromised on its goal of tying teachersí evaluation to student performance on standardized test scores. The board conceded to the unionís wishes by limiting the evaluations to 70 percent teacher practice and 30 percent test scores.

Still, teachers, students, and their parents celebrated the end of the strike this week. CPS has not announced how the lost school days from the strike would be made up.

The strike began last Monday Sept. 10, with Chicago teachers walking the picket line and holding rallies all of last week. CTU President Lewis last Saturday led a rally of more than 25,000 supporters at Union Park near Ashland and Lake Street.

Terry Dean and Ben Meyerson contributed to this report

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By Pedro J Cordova Jr from Printer\
Posted: 09/24/2012 11:38 AM

Recently I watched reruns of Good Times because I\'m enthralled with the opening and closing videos of Chicago. The content of two episodes captivated me too because they\'re pertinent to today\'s issues-the lack of supermarkets in certain impoverished neighborhoods and where to send one\'s kids to get the best education. This show which took place over 30 years ago discussed issues that are relevant today. Where have we been, where are we now and where are we going? Has anything changed?