A closer look into legal action surrounding teachers' strike - FOX 32 News Chicago

A closer look into legal action surrounding teachers' strike

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Yesterday's decision by leaders of the teachers union to continue their strike took some by surprise. Indeed, state law specifically prohibits the CTU from striking over two issues that appear to be at the heart of the walkout.

The General Assembly enacted a new law last year mandating, for the first time ever, that Chicago evaluate teachers based in part on how their students perform and they explicitly forbid teachers from striking over the issue. The union did it anyway. A big reason schools are still closed is rank and file concern that these new evaluations could cost some their jobs.

Driving strikers' anger at Mayor Emanuel is resentment of his push for a new type of teacher accountability. Many union activists insist it's unfair for the administration to test what students have learned in order to tell how good their teacher is.

Critics aimed at testing in a statement last spring:

"We, Chicago-area university professors and researchers who specialize in educational research, conclude that hurried implementation of teacher evaluation using student growth will result in inaccurate assessments of our teachers, a demoralized profession, and decreased learning among and harm to the children in our care." -- Signed by 88 educators.

School officials insist they're not in a rush, though the current, 45-year old evaluation system is virtually worthless.

"This is going to evolve," says Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz. "It's probably been 45 years too long in the making. But we're not just gonna set it in stone and assume it's not gonna need to be refined and continue to evolve."

The mayor offered to make the first year of new evaluations a sort of pilot program. Not even the worst-performing teachers would face dismissal. After that, any teacher needing to improve performance would get 15 months to do so, including 90 days of intensive one-on-one remediation.

"Well, I'm looking forward to the teachers, having had the 48 hours to review the agreement, to know that they're reading a fair contract, that they have been respected in this process," says Ruiz in response to a question about Tuesday's vote.

Union President Karen Lewis says it would be optimistic to expect a quick return to class. A spokeswoman says the Board of Education met 35 separate times, a total of 90 hours, with teachers and leaders of the union to discuss the new evaluation process. They say 2,300 people in total took part.

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