Tenth Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, Chicago’s first elected Chicago Teachers Union member of the Chicago City Council.

I can imagine that at this coming Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner the topic of Chicago teachers might come up in somebody’s family conversation. On one side of the table young cousin Martha, a Chicago teacher herself, will be extolling the virtues and sacrifices of her colleagues and why the union’s bargaining position is fair.

Uncle Bill, an ardent supporter of the presidential aspirations and immigrant positions of Donald Trump, will sneer and say, “If your union bosses are all for the kids, why the hell are they asking for any money. Sweetie.”

Talk of current events at extended-family Thanksgiving dinner can often be a toxic combo.

Personally, that’s not true for me. There will only be union supporters sharing turkey at our dinner. Things may only turn south when the dessert dishes are cleared and we engage in what my brother calls full-contact Scrabble. It is only then that the gloves may come off.

One year we went head to head over the legitimacy of the word, clafouti.

Since the word included all seven tiles, the outcome of the debate was a game changer.

I only tell this story because it was my Scrabble word and I remember winning the game. Other members of the Klonsky family may remember it differently, of course.

Perhaps the spirit of unity that I saw at last night’s CTU rally will spread across the land on Thursday. Uncle Bill and cousin Martha will come together as folks did in Butler Field on a cold November evening on the Lakefront.

By the way, even most Chicagoans don’t know that the lawn in front of the Petrillo Band Shell is called Butler Field. I received many calls during the day yesterday asking, “Where the F is Butler Field.”

What the rally demonstrated to me was that this fight is more than a fight for money. Oh. Make no mistake, Uncle Bill. It’s about money.

Rahm and the board want money and they want to take it from the teachers, nurses, paraprofessionals, clinicians and others covered by the CTU contract,  a contract, which President Karen Lewis reminded me, has already expired.

Yes, Uncle Bill. This is a contract fight in which the board wants to take money away from their employees.

Last night was a rare sight. Real diversity in a city that rarely has a chance to witness such such a thing. It was a show of support with Democrat State Representative Robert Martwick from the northwest side of Chicago sitting with young Black Lives Matter activists.

As an aside, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery gave a rousing speech. Illinois Education Association Executive Director Audrey Soglin was announced but was a no-show.

Maybe the cold kept her car from starting.

No matter. My take-away is that if the teachers in Chicago walk, it will be for genuine fairness. Nor just for money.

And this is just some advice I give to Mayor Rahm and CEO Forrest Claypool. I give it for free. You should settle now and avoid a strike. It is much harder to settle when teachers walk out for fairness than it is to settle when they bargain for money.

It is harder to quantify fairness than it is to quantify money. Union members will know it when they see it.

Am I right cousin Martha?




Peter Cunningham came home to Chicago after working for six years in Arne Duncan’s Department of Education. He started something called Education Post.

It’s time for a different conversation about public education and what our children need — an honest and civil conversation of many voices, united by a common belief in the power of education to transform lives.

Honest and civil wouldn’t be the words that come to mind reading Cunningham’s op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times yesterday.

He says CTU members didn’t really vote to strike the other day, even though 97% of them voted to support the negotiating team in rejecting the board of education’s current bargaining position.

He called the vote a “phony.”

Cunningham says teachers were “whipped into a frenzy of anger and mistrust” by President Karen Lewis and CTU leaders.

I need help following Cunningham’s argument. Lewis whipped the teachers into a frenzy in order for them not to vote for a strike?

Then he brings out the tired old blather that teachers should share the pain. As if teachers haven’t given enough while the millionaires of this city have robbed the city blind – with the Mayor’s blessing.

Cunningham wants teachers to accept Forrest Claypool and the Mayor’s  7% pay cut,

Teachers are also among the very city taxpayers being hit by the Mayor’s property tax hike.

The pension liability is not the result of the 7% pension cost pick-up by the board. It is the result of the failure of the city to pay, over many years, what it owes into the various city pension funds.

Boards of education picking up pension costs in lieu of salary is not uncommon in the state. It is the result of collective bargaining in which both sides find mutual benefit to the arrangement.

Cunningham warns the CTU how bad the optics will be if there is a strike. He says it will look bad for the union to have teachers walking the picket line while charter schools are crammed with kids.

Only charter schools aren’t crammed with kids.

Raise Your Hand has found over 13,000 empty seats in Chicago charter schools this year.

That is a thousand more empty seats than last year.

It ain’t optics most of us are worried about.

The Mayor and Forrest Claypool have threatened to fire 5,000 teachers by December.

Cunningham, in a frenzy, wants teachers to give even more.

“CPS’s tragic shortcoming over the years has been its penchant for distortion and deception, and its well-earned lack of credibility in all corners of this State.”



James C. Franczek
Franczek Radelet P.C.
300 South Wacker Drive
Suite 3400
Chicago, IL 60606-6785

Dear Mr. Franczek:

The Chicago Teachers Union has directed that I promptly respond to the maliciously false letter you issued today purporting to justify the decision by Chicago Public Schools to precipitously withdraw from its proposed one-year contract extension.

The misstatements in your letter are profound and disturbing. As you know, our last meeting on July 30 ended on the verge of an agreement pending resolution of two issues. President Lewis then met with the Mayor on August 2 to hear the Mayor’s concerns. As we entered the room to resume negotiations today, CPS immediately withdrew the entire extension proposal without bothering to hear the Union’s response, and now falsely suggests that we were at impasse.

How far were we apart? The Union had proposed that for one year a small subgroup of tenured teachers be added to the much larger group who, in the event of economic layoffs unrelated to pedagogy, would be laid off in order of seniority. Already, CPS currently provides over 80% of tenured teachers such protections. To contend that this small addition for a single year would “irreparably undermine the effectiveness of our evaluation system” is flatly untrue – though we had not in any event concluded our negotiations on this subject.

And the remaining issue? The Union’s proposal that CPS commit $10 million to a community-based anti-violence initiative at 20 local schools – a proposal your team heartily endorsed from the moment it was raised, and required only agreement on where to secure the funding. You now call it “an issue that divides us,” but you know better.

Your misstatements continue with the false claim that we disagreed over matters about which total agreement was already achieved. Most particularly, you claim we “have disagreement” over pension pick-up, when you know that CPS had proposed, and the Union had agreed, that CPS would maintain the pension pickup for another year. How can you claim this issue divides us when the CPS itself proposed to maintain it?

CPS’s tragic shortcoming over the years has been its penchant for distortion and deception, and its well-earned lack of credibility in all corners of this State. Regrettably, once again CPS proves true to form in making more specious claims to support its perceived short term interests.

Sadly, CPS walks away from agreements that the Union was prepared to accept and submit to membership ratification, including no increase to base salaries, a commitment to achieve significant healthcare cost savings, mutually agreed reforms to evaluation practices, grading practices and student testing, plus CPS’s promises not to unilaterally open new charter schools, not to close more neighborhood schools or to impose disruptive school turnarounds – agreements CPS now throws out the window.

After four months of bargaining over an extension agreement that CPS requested and proposed to the Union, it has evidently decided to seek confrontation rather than compromise, setting us directly onto a collision course. We have no doubt that CPS will now seek to impose a 7% educator pay cut, destroy more neighborhood schools, and continue its ranking and sorting of teachers and children by unproven educational methods – all at the expense of CPS students and the dedicated professionals who educate them.

Robert E. Bloch
CTU General Counsel

CPS pension bill paid for with the the lives of teachers and students. In debt by design.


CPS did not meet its pension obligation yesterday.

CPS teachers and students made the payment for them.

Yes, there was a transfer of $630 million into the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

But it was paid for with classrooms that in September will be overflowing with students and teachers in the unemployment line.

1400 current teachers will lose their jobs.

Bankers are smiling.

They will be paid and none will lose a job.

The Chicago Teachers Union has argued that the city is broke on purpose. The CTU is right as rain.

Yes, the Mayor is a terrible manager.

Yes, his hand-picked board is made up of a bunch of hustlers and bumbling fools.


Can anyone really believe that the mayor who ran as a wise financial wiz kid, who made millions on Wall Street, didn’t know what was happening?

We are a city and state in debt by design.

“We are blindsided by reports that the district intends to lay off 1,400 public school educators, given that we just met with them yesterday and there was no mention of this action. These layoffs prove that the Board never intended to make the pension payment in good faith and that they are using this to justify more attacks on our classrooms,” said Karen Lewis, president of the CTU. “Putting 1,400 people out of work is no way to balance a budget and resource our schools. This is going to hurt our students and the most vulnerable children in our district. These cuts are a result of a history of poor fiscal management by the Board of Education. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked board has led this district over a financial cliff.

“We are outraged at this deceptive action that only furthers the distrust teachers, parents and students have with the Board. We thought it suspect at the time that the Board was pressuring us to sign off on an agreement on yesterday, before we had a complete agreement. This is retaliatory and unnecessary because (the mayor) refuses to seek revenue options to stabilize CPS. ”

Who will be targeted by the layoff of 1400 teachers?

Union activists, trouble-makers, and senior teachers.

“Let no good crisis go to waste,” the Mayor has said.

The CTU leadership saw this coming. That is why their bargaining focused more on evaluation than on salary.

Layoffs are tied to evaluations.

The current state of hiring and firing at CPS is a throwback to the worst Chicago patronage days.

Which may, in fact, be now.

The current evaluation procedures give principals the power to down-grade the over all ranking of those who don’t bow and scrape to their every whim with a down-grade in a single category.

Local hiring allows principals the power to hire friends and family.

My old precinct captain, Guido, would be jealous.

At the very same time as the layoff announcement was made Catalyst was reporting:

In 2013 the Illinois State Board of Education and the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute asked more than 100,000 teachers and 750,000 middle and high school students a series of questions aimed at determining which schools had the best climate for teaching and learning.

In three of the broad categories – effective leaders, collaborative teachers and ambitious instruction – Chicago Public Schools had higher ratings than other types of school communities across the state, according to a recently released report.

If this is permitted  to stand, say goodbye to all that.

CTU on Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s resignation. “A horrible example for our students who look to her for leadership.”

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Statement of the Chicago Teachers Union on the resignation of CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union is not surprised at the resignation of Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett. The current federal investigation that forced her departure sets a horrible example for our students and the educators who look to her for leadership. She leaves Chicago not only under a cloud of suspicion and organizational chaos, but also following one of the darkest hours in our city’s history when she closed 50 public schools in a single year—the largest number in U.S. history. Byrd-Bennett’s investigation, as well as the obvious conflicts of interest among current Board members, underscores why we have advocated for an elected school board. We wish her well in her endeavors.

Random thoughts on the CPS contract offer by an outsider.

Duncan And Emmanuel Promote Education Dept's Summer Reading Initiative

I’m a retired teacher who has lived in Chicago for 40 years. Still, I am an outsider in that I have never taught for CPS, I am not a member of the CTU and not privy to any more information about current bargaining than you are.


You have to wonder sometimes.

Governor Private Equity decides to cut state funding for autism services on Autism Awareness Day.

The CPS board and the Mayor choose National Teacher Appreciation Week to offer a contract proposal that would have Chicago teachers taking home 7% less in their paycheck.

Here is one of my take aways from the CPS proposal: The next time a politician, school reformer or school board member starts yammering about merit pay and pay-for-performance, make sure they include exactly how it is going to be paid for.

By every measure Chicago teacher performance is up in the face of constant CPS turmoil, corruption, incompetence plus working conditions that would chase most in the private sector to move permanently to Costa Rica.

Now they want to cut the board’s entire pension contribution to show their thanks.

We can now rule the merit pay discussion closed.

it is also clear to me that the board offer demonstrates that nobody expects the Illinois Supreme Court to rule that Senate Bill 1 is constitutional.

Least of all Mayor Rahm.

He used the pension deals he made with some city employees in his election campaign. But like most of the claims he made during the election campaign, it was smoke.

The City will have to pay the promised pension costs. Chicago teachers already make a 9% contribution. 7% is picked up by the board in lieu on salary compensation, as has been the practice since the 1980s. For the board to now suggest that teachers pay the rest of their own pension cost is a bargaining non-starter from my point of view.

When considering a contract offer, employees must consider the entire package, which is why the CTU says this offer will result in a 7% reduction in teacher net salary, without even taking into account discussion of raises.

This leads me to wonder who Rahm and the CPS board are really talking to with this proposal. Not the CTU who they must have known would react exactly as they did.

The bargaining offer was not even made public by CPS, but rather the CTU. Certainly CPS knew that would happen too.

I have to think that this is more for the benefit of Springfield legislators who will use up the next six weeks figuring out how to spend revenue that they don’t have and refuse to raise.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

And these kinds of ridiculous offers are always at the start of bargaining. Not the finish.

Rahm is the master of making an early big bet to try to bluff his opponents.

Let me share the single most important lesson I learned from bargaining teacher contracts for over twenty years:

The most important word is no.

Saying yes ends negotiations. Saying no means you get to come back and bargain tomorrow.

Once again we should give kudos to the CTU leadership. Although restricted by SB7 to bargaining salary and benefits, they continue to teach us all what it means to act as a social justice union and have placed issues of class size and democratic elections of Chicago’s school board on the table for bargaining.

A good contract for teachers and staff is important for all of us because the danger that the board scandals, mismanagement and claims of financial trouble have is that it undermines the stability of the places we send our kids and grandkids every day, and to the future of our public schools.

They are bargaining a contract now but privatization is their end game.

CPS enrollment and tenured teacher layoff numbers. I’m trying to make meaning from the data.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 9.27.04 AM

Source: Catalyst.

CPS enrollment numbers came out this week. There are fewer students in CPS now than at any time since 1970.

Although the enrollment numbers have been in steady decline for years, there was a major jump the last two years.

The jump in numbers coincides with Rahm’s closing of 50 neighborhood public schools.

Since Rahm imposed the largest shutdown of public schools in American history, 6,000 students have left the system.

At the same time as neighborhood schools closed, more charter schools opened. The newly opened charter school enrollment has not matched the neighborhood school decline, however.

Charters are being opened without their seats being filled.

Ask CPS administration for an explanation for any of this and you get none.

CPS’s McCaffrey said until the preliminary 20th day enrollment numbers are vetted, the district is unable to speculate why the schools lost children. More detailed numbers will be out in the coming days and that will help CPS understand what areas of the city are losing the most kids and what grade levels see the biggest drops.

Meanwhile Catalyst reports that some teachers who were laid off during the summer have now been recalled.

But for those who believe mistakenly that tenure and seniority rights somehow guarantee life-time employment, the numbers tell a different story.

The CTU CPS contract does have specific language regarding order of layoffs and seniority rights.

But those rights have been significantly eroded as a result of Senate Bill 7, which ironically the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association endorsed, as well as by the shift to school-based principal discretion over layoffs and hiring.

And the CTU CPS contract has no recall provision other than the right of teachers to retain their limited tenure and seniority rights if they are rehired.

Of the 299 non-tenured teachers laid off this summer, 177 or 59 percent were brought back for full-time jobs, according to district data that the CTU shared with Catalyst.

Meanwhile, of the 231 laid-off tenured teachers, 123 or 53 percent were rehired and more of them landed only substitute of part-time jobs. 

Apparently few principals are willing to spend the money to hire laid-off teachers with valuable classroom experience. It would take more out of their school-based budget than hiring a less expensive non-tenured, yet inexperienced teacher.


CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey says the stats prove that the district’s new student-based budgeting model discourages principals from hiring more experienced teachers because they are paid more. Last week, CPS officials announced they wouldn’t cut school budgets if their enrollment numbers fell below projections. Sharkey says he’s glad principals won’t have to lay off more teachers, but that it’s too late to reverse some of the negative impacts already felt by experienced teachers because of the new budgeting formula.

Sharkey is absolutely right.

It also brings into sharp focus the impact of the slow but steady erosion of tenure and seniority rights for teachers in Chicago and across Illinois.