Chicago teachers suspend strike, classes to resume
Chicago teachers union officials voted to end a strike that halted classes for 350,000 students in the nation’s third-largest district and illustrated the bitter national struggle over changing how teachers are evaluated, hired and fired.
Classes are expected to resume Wednesday, city officials said, bringing a close to the seven-day strike. Tuesday’s vote by the union’s governing board came days after the city and the teachers union reached a tentative deal on a three-year contract. The union’s full membership must now ratify that deal in a vote that union leaders said would come within the next couple of weeks.
Tuesday’s voice vote by the governing body, with what union President Karen Lewis said was an “overwhelming” majority approving an end to the strike, came after the approximately 800 members of the body, known as delegates, had voted Sunday to continue the strike into its second week to give teachers time to study the tentative deal.
The deal for the first time links teacher evaluations to student test scores, giving city officials what they say is a more rigorous system to identify the worst-performing teachers — and fire them if they don’t improve. And the deal lets the city lay off teachers based on performance, rather than simply based on how long they have served.
But it still gives preference to tenured teachers in that process, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to agree to conditions that make it hard to fire some teachers who receive weak evaluations, and to limit some of the power of school principals to choose their staff. Unions failed to gain new concessions they sought on issues like reducing class sizes.
Union officials didn’t predict certain passage of the contract by members, but Ms. Lewis defended the deal.
“There is no such thing as a contract that would make all of us happy,” she said. “But the other issue is, do we stay on strike forever until every little thing that we want is capable of being gotten?”
“I feel today that people are accepting the reality that we got as much as we could get,” said Sharon Schmidt, a high-school English teacher and delegate as she walked into the meeting.
Chicago’s teachers strike — the first in a major urban center since Detroit’s in 2006 — has focused on issues at the heart of fights over education policy, including the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and fire poor performers, and job guarantees for laid-off educators in urban districts hemorrhaging students. The battle over those issues has grown increasingly intense in recent years, thanks in part to the embrace of such initiatives by a group of Democratic mayors, such as Mayor Emanuel, seeking new ways to address long-standing urban-education problems while also grappling with budgetary woes.
Source:The Wall Street Journal