Monday, September 10, 2012

Press Release: 

CPS Fails To Negotiate Fair Contract To Prevent First Strike In 25 Years

More than 29,000 teachers and education professionals will not report to work today 9/10
CHICAGO— After hours of intense negotiations, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent the first teachers strike in 25 years. Pickets are expected to begin Monday at 675 schools and the Board of Education as early as 6:30 a.m. Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians have been without a labor agreement since June of this year.
Union leaders expressed disappointment in the District’s refusal to concede on issues involving compensation, job security and resources for their students. CTU President Karen Lewis said, “Negotiations have been intense but productive, however we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike. This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could avoid. Throughout these negotiations have I remained hopeful but determined. We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve.
“Talks have been productive in many areas. We have successfully won concessions for nursing mothers and have put more than 500 of our members back to work. We have restored some of the art, music, world language, technology and physical education classes to many of our students. The Board also agreed that we will now have textbooks on the first day of school rather than have our students and teachers wait up to six weeks before receiving instructional materials.
“Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation. However, we are apart on benefits. We want to maintain the existing health benefits.
“Another concern is evaluation procedures. After the initial phase-in of the new evaluation system it could result in 6,000 teachers (or nearly 30 percent of our members) being discharged within one or two years. This is unacceptable. We are also concerned that too much of the new evaluations will be based on students’ standardized test scores. This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator. Further there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control.
“We want job security. Despite a new curriculum and new, stringent evaluation system, CPS proposes no increase (or even decreases) in teacher training. This is notable because our Union through our Quest Center is at the forefront teacher professional development in Illinois. We have been lauded by the District and our colleagues across the country for our extensive teacher training programs that helped emerging teachers strengthen their craft and increased the number of nationally board certified educators.
“We are demanding a reasonable timetable for the installation of air-conditioning in student classrooms--a sweltering, 98-degree classroom is not a productive learning environment for children. This type of environment is unacceptable for our members and all school personnel. A lack of climate control is unacceptable to our parents.
“As we continue to bargain in good faith, we stand in solidarity with parents, clergy and community-based organizations who are advocating for smaller class sizes, a better school day and an elected school board. Class size matters. It matters to parents. In the third largest school district in Illinois there are only 350 social workers—putting their caseloads at nearly 1,000 students each. We join them in their call for more social workers, counselors, audio/visual and hearing technicians and school nurses. Our children are exposed to unprecedented levels of neighborhood violence and other social issues, so the fight for wraparound services is critically important to all of us. Our members will continue to support this ground swell of parent activism and grassroots engagement on these issues. And we hope the Board will not shut these voices out.
“While new Illinois law prohibits us from striking over the recall of laid-off teachers and compensation for a longer school year, we do not intend to sign an agreement until these matters are addressed.
“Again, we are committed to staying at the table until a contract is place. However, in the morning no CTU member will be inside our schools. We will walk the picket lines. We will talk to parents. We will talk to clergy. We will talk to the community. We will talk to anyone who will listen—we demand a fair contract today, we demand a fair contract now. And, until there is one in place that our members accept, we will on the line.
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the state and country who are currently bargaining for their own fair contracts. We stand with those who have already declared they too are prepared to strike, in the best interests of their students.”
“This announcement is made now so our parents and community are empowered with this knowledge and will know that schools will not open on tomorrow. Please seek alternative care for your children. And, we ask all of you to join us in our education justice fight—for a fair contract—and call on the mayor and CEO Brizard to settle this matter now. Thank you.”
The union is not on strike over matters governed exclusively by IELRA Section 4.5 and 12(b).
The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at .

The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve

The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve is a new Chicago Teachers Union study which argues in favor of proven educational reforms to dramatically improve the education of more than 400,000 students in a district of 675 schools.
These reforms are desperately needed and can lead Chicago towards the world-class educational system its students deserve. As CTU President Karen Lewis stated, “This report will quickly become the leading public policy platform for all people truly interested in how to reverse the status quo in our city's public schools.”
Download Full Report Here:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

An Open Letter to Our Black Youth

We, the individual members of the NATIONAL BLACK EDUCATION AGENDA (NBEA) are mothers and fathers, grandparents, God-parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters entrusted as the loving adults and tradition-keepers who hold together our own Black families. We are also your neighbors, mentors, counselors, coaches, pastors, teachers and professors. It is in the spirit of love and family responsibility, that we write to you— our urban African American youth— and extend our heartfelt apology.

Each one of us deeply regrets that America's education system and its urban schools have failed you so miserably, for so long. Many of us work in the schools. Many of us also run after-school or cultural enrichment and college-prep programs. We have an inside view and know exactly what the education system's problems are and who is responsible for them being, and staying that way.

We are writing this letter to you because from this day forward, we refuse to allow public perception to continue to blame you for the gross failures, racist practices and educational negligence of a society. America is a very wealthy nation run by grown-folks who make laws and education policies, yet in every area pertaining to Blacks and other people of color, there are just too many shameless, selfish adults of every racial background who aren't abiding by the very laws and rules they get paid to enforce.

This country has consistently undervalued the African American people. Stolen and brought here in chains, it does not acknowledge that its wealth was created by the centuries of forced labor, toil and tears of our ancestors. Nor does it readily recognize our vast Black history of accomplishments, scientific, technical and every-day inventions, intellectual gifts, cultural contributions, patriots and heroes except for using them during the month of February to try to sell the world a false notion that African Americans on the whole, are seen as valued and important. If that were true, then there would be no excuse for why the national priority isn't making right your schools; ensuring that you excel by affording you the exact same, rich opportunities to advance yourselves to lead the same kind of happy, successful and productive lives promised and realized by others in America.

The NATIONAL BLACK EDUCATION AGENDA (NBEA) formed because we know this. We know our African American history and the history of America, and we are stepping up to lead our Black youth in knowing it too. This country cannot fathom how deep our African-ancestral blood still runs within our families, providing us the individual will to endure and determination to struggle to overcome the horrible atrocities of discrimination in the most basic areas of life; equality in housing, jobs, access to healthy food, medical care and education. Remember that racial injustices, poverty and the inhumane conditions we endure, can never define who you, or we are as a people. The famous African American— the U.S. poet-laureate, Maya Angelou has written a poem called "Still I Rise"­ and we want you to find it, read it and take it to heart.

Know that the NBEA is growing our membership to survive any obstacles put in the way of demonstrating our abiding love for you— our glorious and brilliant Black children— and we will put forth the energy to see that you not only rise, but thrive.

The NBEA is individually related to each of you by a shared African ancestry, and our work is to create a sort of national family reunion of African-centered consciousness and principles that demonstrate respect for each other, our diverse experiences, knowledge, education levels, talents and gifts. As one giant Black family across America, the NBEA is hereby declaring to use all of this in our collective protection of your educations. We will no longer allow what you learn about yourself as a child of African ancestry, and your human potential to contribute to the betterment of your family, community and this society, to be controlled solely by others.

We promise to do everything in our power to positively change what your educational paths and schools are like, only we need your help.

First— we need you to honor life. It is never too late to love and respect yourself and decide once and for all, to take ownership over your academic and social lives. We need you to continue to make positive choices and allow your brilliance to shine through everyday, in everything you do. This means you must study, demonstrate self-discipline, Black pride and a personal determination to do what you can to avoid the trouble that seems to be around every urban corner.

Next, we know you are resourceful! We know you have dreams, goals and great ideas. We encourage you to keep following them along a positive path. We need you to step up as a leader in your own life. Do your best to help your parents and/or those whose roofs you live under, and remember to be respectful of our elders— forgiving them even if they aren't especially of you. Stop and consider what they must have endured in their lives to make them who they are. Treat yourself and others kindly, and know that good and decent people come in all colors of the human rainbow.

Please send us an email teaching us about you and the positive things in your life, along with a picture. Let us acknowledge your pride and share your accomplishments with your national Black family.

When we roll-out our Regional Action Groups, get involved and help the NBEA put your ideas and role-modeling to work for other young sisters and brothers.

We are asking you to take control over you— and think very carefully about how you choose to respond to challenges and hardships. Think about your individual power to overcome adversity, remembering that violence begets more violence. Giving up your inner peace because you are carrying hatred and grudges gets you nothing, and takes you no where good. We urge you to do things that invest in your brain, are healthy for your body and give you peace of mind: exercising, practicing a sport and expressing your hurts and hopes through the creative power of music, art, dance, writing and other positive outlets. If you believe in a higher power, invest in your faith. And make time to read everyday. Knowledge really is the base of your power. When you continuously fuel your brain, no one can hijack or steal it away from you. If you don't own a library card, get one. Read the "Autobiography of Malcolm X," even if you've seen the movie. The library will let you download free audio books for your iPod or phone. Hear the true stories of how our oppressed people have endured for centuries and learn what they did to make good and productive lives for themselves. Through the transformational power of books, find those that inspire and allow you to escape to distant lands. Allow yourself to travel the limitless world of your imagination. Hold on to that.

Should the problems you face be more than you can handle, look to your parents and if that's not an option, seek out a caring teacher, religious leader or youth worker in your community to talk to. Don't stop looking for help if any one person lets you down— decide never to give up on yourself.

As we lovingly make this request of you— we know change isn't easy. But we "feel you" and we've got your back. Meanwhile, the NBEA and our allies are fierce in demanding that this nation's schools and system of education implement policies that respect your intelligence, your parents, and your rights.

Again, change will not come easily. Just know that we believe in you— our brilliant, beautiful Black children, and we believe in our united power to make a difference in your lives, schools and communities. Hold onto hope and do your part. We are here for you. Know that we love you because we are you. You belong to us and we belong to you.

Lastly, we need you to know from America's history that every single time Black people in this country have decided to organize and mobilize, the nation has shifted a little more towards freedom and justice for all. That is our undeniable legacy. Our Black education agenda is a movement that will soon make history in this same manner: moving all of us closer to freedom and justice for all.

True that.

Signed, with love, hope and respect,
The members of the National Black Education Agenda
September 8th, 2012