CTU President Karen Lewis: Union gets framework details Sunday - FOX 32 News Chicago

Lewis: Union gets framework details Sunday, class possible Monday

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Teachers heard chanting "CTU, CTU "as they get briefed on contract proposal inside union hall. Teachers heard chanting "CTU, CTU "as they get briefed on contract proposal inside union hall.
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says negotiators have a framework to end a five-day public schools strike, but members won't receive written details until Sunday.

When delegates were told there was a framework for a deal, chants of "CTU, CTU" could be heard from the meeting room.  But specific language about key sticking points: teacher evaluations and teacher recall, still needs to be put in writing.

So members were told to return Sunday when they will be briefed in detail and then delegates will vote on whether to suspend the strike.

Lewis spoke Friday afternoon, saying union delegates who would vote to suspend the strike won't be told what the framework is until Sunday, when they also can see the completed language. Lewis reiterated that there is no contract yet with Chicago Public Schools and she says the "strike is not suspended." But the union president says she is still hoping students will be in class on Monday.

"They are very suspicious you have to understand, we have been a little burnt by the board in the past, so things go on, things go off we want to make sure that all our I's are crossed and our T's are dotted that's how serious this is," Lewis continued.

In a statement from Rahm Emanuel on the tentative contract framework reached by CPS and CTU, the mayor said, "This tentative framework is an honest and principled compromise that is about who we all work for: our students. It preserves more time for learning in the classroom, provides more support teachers to excel at their craft, and gives principals the latitude and responsibility to build an environment in which our children can succeed. Now, our most important work continues: providing every child in every community of Chicago an education to match their potential."

CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard also released a statement Friday, confirming the framework in place. He said, "We have a framework in place for a fair agreement that we believe is good for our teachers, students, and taxpayers and look forward to our kids getting back into the classroom."

As delegates poured out of the meeting it was hard to guage how they felt, although some appeared tired as the strike reached it's fifth day without a formal deal

"I think there's a range of moods I think we want to go back to the classroom, but we are willing to do whatever we need to, we are prepared to go back to teach and we are prepared to continue to walk 2401 teachers prepare, that's what we do, " said teacher Adam Heenan.

But if they didn't know much, teachers didn't seem bothered by it.

"It was very interesting," teacher Scott Saffro says. "I'm always a positive guy, I was born that way. I've been a teacher for 31 years got to be positive."

Lewis said there had been compromises, not concessions and she attributed the tentative agreement to what she would only call "creative thinking."

But when pressed on why they did not just brief members today-- instead of waiting for Sunday-- CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey suggested that was not a good idea until contract language is put in writing.

"So if the way this discussion comes out in public is with half characterizations on one part of it and not the other part, a kind of dynamic where people can't look at the entire thing and consider the settlement as a whole, that actually undercuts that process," CTU's Jesse Sharkey says.

The nearly 800-member House of Delegates could vote to suspend the strike, but not to approve the contract. Union members would vote on that later.

Chicago School Board David Vitale said the "heavy lifting" was over. He declined to say where each side compromised and stressed that union delegates still must vote to formally end the strike.

Vitale said the agreement gives children the time they need in the classroom and teachers the respect they deserve.

The walkout, the first by Chicago teachers in 25 years, canceled five days of school for more than 350,000 public school students who had just returned from summer vacation.

As the bargaining dragged on, teachers returned to the streets for rallies to press the union's demands, which include a plan for laid-off instructors to get first dibs on job openings and for a teacher-evaluation system that does not rely heavily on student test scores.

On Thursday, contract talks pushed on for more than 15 hours. Vitale said early Friday that the two sides had worked beyond the evaluations issue and had begun crunching numbers on financial matters.

Lewis said negotiators had many "productive" conversations, but she declined to describe the talks in detail.

"It was a long day," Lewis said. "There were some creative ideas passed around, but we still do not have an agreement."

The union scheduled a Friday afternoon meeting of the delegates who would be required to approve any contract settlement with a majority vote.

About 15 minutes after Lewis entered the meeting, delegates could be seen through the windows cheering and applauding, some on them on their feet and pumping their fists in the air.

Journalists were not allowed inside, and there was no way to know what they were applauding.

The strike by more than 25,000 teachers in the nation's third-largest school district has idled many children and teenagers, leaving some unsupervised in gang-dominated neighborhoods. It also has been a potent display of union power at a time when organized labor has lost ground around the nation.

The union is trying to win assurances that laid-off but qualified teachers get dibs on jobs anywhere in the district. But Illinois law gives individual principals in Chicago the right to hire the teachers they want, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel argues it's unfair to hold principals accountable for their schools' performance if they can't pick their own teams.

The district has offered a compromise. If schools close, teachers would have the first right to jobs matching their qualifications at schools that absorb the children from the closed school. The proposal also includes provisions for teachers who aren't hired, including severance.

It wasn't clear if the union had accepted the proposal, but Lewis said it "did not intend to sign an agreement until these matters are addressed."

Readers of the Sun-Times opened the paper Friday to a full-page letter to Emanuel written by the Boston Teachers Union.

In the letter, the union reminded readers that some of the things Chicago teachers are fighting have long been available to Boston teachers, including the right to let teachers with seniority move into jobs in other schools if their schools close down.

Perhaps more significantly, the union took Emanuel to task for the contentiousness of the negotiations, putting the blame on the mayor's shoulders.

"Perhaps you can learn from us -- and begin to treat your own teaching force with the same respect," the union wrote.

Meanwhile, Chicago teachers said they were planning a "Wisconsin-style" rally for Saturday, regardless of whether there is a deal on the contract.

The union has won widespread support from other teachers unions around the country, and a couple of hundred Wisconsin teachers planned to come to Chicago to join the event.

"It's really sort of a spontaneous kind of organizing," said Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, which unsuccessfully sought the recall of Gov. Scott Walker.

The walkout is the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years. A 1987 walkout lasted 19 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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