What the Chicago teachers won, in one post

September 19, 2012

Chicago Teachers Union head Karen Lewis / (Scott Olson, Getty Images)

The Chicago teachers' strike is over, with a tentative deal reached, and teachers got some big concessions on evaluations and school day length. What does the tentative agreement actually say and how does it differ from the union and school district's starting proposals?

Teacher evaluations: Under the deal, a system in which standardized tests make up 30 percent of the criteria for teacher evaluations will be phased in, replacing the proposed system where the tests counted for 40 percent. Illinois state law mandates that standardized testing count for at least 20 percent and CTU was pushing for a number closer to that minimum. Emanuel initially offered 20 percent in a rejected proposal earlier this week, so CTU actually lost a fair bit of ground on this in the past few days.

Pay: Teachers will get a 3 percent pay raise this year, 2 percent raises the next two years, and a 3 percent raise in the fourth year, though the latter is subject to renegotiation if teachers judge that insufficient. This is actually down from the district's initial offer of a16 percent raise over four years, but it phases in more quickly and does not implement the changes to the pay ladder that the district wanted. Teachers still will pay only 2 percent of income on pensions, with the district picking up the rest.

Layoffs and recall: The deal establishes a mandatory layoff order in which teachers are grouped together by performance on evaluations and ordered by seniority in each group. So a very inexperienced, very poorly evaluated teacher would be first on the chopping block while a very experienced, very positively evaluated teacher would be last, but a very experienced but very poorly evaluated teacher would be laid off before a very inexperienced and very positively evaluated teacher. If openings arise, they have to be filled from the pool in the reverse order. This is a change from the previous system in which teacher recall was not mandatory, but all teachers had to reapply for openings. It bears a strong resemblance to the initial offer on recall from the district.

Class size: The teachers did not get new enforcement mechanisms for maintaining the district's ill-followed class size cap, but it did earn more funding for a panel meant to monitor the issue.

Air conditioning: A committee will be formed to consider options for providing A/C to classrooms. It's something, but no guarantee the situation will improve by next summer.

School day length: High school teachers no longer have to teach "division," or homeroom period. The 50 additional minutes of the class day are devoted to study hall where students do homework and are supervised rather than instructed. All school day length or schedule changes have to be approved by a vote of the teachers. This is a huge win for the teachers going forward, even as it preserves Emanuel's longer school day.

All told, teachers won big on school days, got basically nothing on class size or air conditioning, got an ambiguous result relative to the district's offers on pay and recall policy, and got a big win on evaluations, but not as big as the win they'd have gotten earlier this week. So the teachers definitely got more than they'd have gotten absent a strike, but some of the issues they were loudest on, such as class size, didn't change at all.

The end result is that the Chicago public schools will base more of evaluations on tests, base more of their layoffs and recalls on evaluations rather than seniority, and have longer school days than before Emanuel took office.

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