CTU delegates approve April 1 teacher walkout

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

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From the Chicago Tribune:

by Juan Perez, Jr.

The Chicago Teachers Union's governing body gave its resounding approval Wednesday to a one-day walkout that would shut down the city's public schools April 1.

"This house is ready and united," CTU President Karen Lewis said after the early evening vote by the union's House of Delegates. "People are very, very upset and want to do something serious."

Union leaders called for what they described as a one-day strike in an effort to push Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators to create a new funding plan for schools.

"We are dying the death of a thousand cuts," Lewis said. "We need funding from Springfield, we need Gov. Rauner to get off of his anti-union 'turnaround agenda' and get a budget done. That's what we need."

The need for help from Springfield was the one piece of common ground between the union and Chicago Public Schools that emerged from Wednesday's vote.

"Chicago's students need their leaders to work together to convince Springfield to provide meaningful revenue reforms — not go on strike," district CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement after the union's vote.

"We're particularly disappointed that the CTU leadership has given Gov. Rauner more ammunition in his misguided attempt to bankrupt and take over Chicago Public Schools," Claypool said.

Claypool said CPS "will provide additional details about contingency plans for families that cannot make alternate arrangements for April 1."

The district has said the union's action would represent an illegal strike because it isn't in line with the state-mandated process that must take place before teachers can walk off the job.

CTU leaders have countered that the district's decision to withhold pay raises awarded based on education and experience — hikes that were part of the contract that expired June 30 — gives the union legal authority to walk off the job. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board has denied a union effort to challenge the district's move, but the case is not settled.

Lewis acknowledged after Wednesday's vote: "The fact is, this is new territory."

"We feel like we're going to be the first at everything," she said. "So this is not illegal. We're saying this is not illegal," Lewis said.

The walkout would keep more than 300,000 students out of the classroom for the second Friday in a row. In a cash-saving move, CPS set this Friday as one of three furlough days for teachers. The furlough order was one of the issues that precipitated the union's call for an April 1 "Day of Action."

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