June 8, 2012: teachers hold strike authorization vote, deep dive on how we arrived at this stand-off, I predict that Superintendent Brizard will be out in 12 months.

Good morning everyone,


Vote started Wednesday and continues through the end of the week. The union needs ‘yes’ votes from 75% of all 25,000 members for strike authorization. Once they get that, the much smaller CTU House of Delegates can vote later to actually start a walk-out.

Which way will the vote go?

We don’t really know yet. That said, all word on the street says CTU’ll come in above the 75% threshold. If that happens it’ll be a staggering show of force for the union and a huge blow to CPS and the mayor. A year ago absolutely no one thought CTU could get ‘yes’ votes from 75% of members. I definitely didn’t.

When will we know?

I asked CTU spokesperson Stephanie Gadlin when they’ll announce results. She says:

We think Monday, maybe Tuesday at the latest. So far, so good, though we want to ensure every member has had the opportunity to vote—or not if that’s their wish. This is a huge and important process and we want to ensure we have done everything correctly as determined by the guidelines set by our rules and elections committee. Ballots continue to pour in and we must verify every vote and make sure that each ballot cast was by an eligible member and has not been tampered with in any form.”

Why is this so surprising? Why did no one believe CTU would actually win a strike authorization vote?

SB7, the new state law passed last summer, created the 75% threshold. In the past total turnout for these votes was less than 75%. It seemed like way too big a majority for CTU ever to actually get, which some say is why the law was written the way it was. Now that’s backfiring, since CTU crossing such a high threshold would give them the biggest strike mandate in Chicago history.

So what changed? How did we get here? How could so many teachers actually vote ‘yes’?

TACTICS? Voting ‘no’ to a strike authorization means there can be no strike, no matter what happens. Voting ‘yes’ means there can be a strike but doesn’t have to be. Many smart teachers are simply voting ‘yes’ to keep all options on the table, whether or not they’ve made up their minds.

RAHM’S FAULT? I took this view earlier in the week with this tweet:

All blame for teacher strike will lay w/ Rahm. Chose to cast reform as battle btwn himself and obstacles. He made it a fight. Didn’t have to.”

DECLARING ALLEGIANCE TO THE PROFESSION? A friend e-mailed with an explanation I think is better than mine:

“A lot of people, including CTU and CPS, are misreading this vote, seeing it as a referendum on Brizard and the CTU leadership”

“Everyone else – a silent majority, if you will – are relatively unaware and undecided on specific policy issues, BUT they are frustrated by the constant turnover at central office and they perceive themselves as victims of a general “attack” on teachers.  To these teachers, this vote is NOT a referendum on Brizard or the CTU leadership, but something much bigger….an opportunity to declare their allegiance to the profession.  My guess is that these teachers will vote overwhelmingly to strike.”

Related: letter to the editor in Sun-Times. “They don’t deserve the treatment they receive from sanctimonious politicians who want to treat education as if it were a factory making widgets.

Related: Similar take by Ramsin Canon: A Long Time Comin’: Chicago Teachers Strike Authorization Vote Begins Today.

TONE OR POLICIES? My view is that the teacher animus and strike urge aren’t about hours or raises or any specifically negotiated policy. They’re about an abstract sense of unfairness/ mistreatment/ hypocrisy and, as my friend describes, the desire to take a stand against all the changes to the profession crescendoing with the reform movement.

What’s everyone else saying?

A Letter to CEO Brizard from a Teacher.” Scorching list of grievances, Declaration of Independence-style.

The Sun-Times editorial board says CTU risks setting teachers’ hopes too high. Acknowledge teacher anger but hits CTU and CTU-leader Karen Lewis for misrepresenting CPS’ positions, ignoring CPS’ fiscal constraints and not preparing membership for the reality that they’ll have to sacrifice, too. Like my friend, they see this stand-off becoming abstract—a battle about the larger future of teaching. They want CTU to ground it back in the reality of a specific contract with CPS.

CTU letter to parents. “Do not be alarmed—this vote is NOT a vote to strike.”

Russo asks readers to “Tell Us About The Voting.” 52 comments w/ on-ground intel.

CPSObsessed has “The CTU Contract Negotiation Thread.” 652 comments (!)

Mark Brown: “Idea of teacher strike no longer farfetched, but for now it’s only a vote.”

Teacher on CPS: like a ‘marriage going through a rough patch’” Great piece by Sun-Times’ Konkol and Rossi. They hand the mic to a veteran teacher who voted ‘yes’ but doesn’t want to see a strike.

Where’s Superintendent Brizard? What’s he doing in all of this?

Sounding unimaginably out of touch.

Telling WBEZ’s Becky Vevea the vote “disrespects teachers.”

Telling WTTW’s Elizabeth Brackett that he’s talked to 11,000 teachers and they’re actually not mad.

Directing all teachers to send this letter home about strike authorization vote “rumors” and how his “respect for teachers runs deep.”

A prediction: This week, for the first time, it became clear to me that Brizard has to go. I thought a month ago that the big CPS leadership shake-up proved Rahm’s disgust but that he had no choice but to keep Brizard around. Firing him in the first year would look too clumsy politically. The last month has changed my view. It’s like Brizard’s on another planet. Keeping him is actually worse, not just for the district but also for Rahm, than the pain of amputating him. It’s insane that we’ve arrived here. For Rahm, firing Brizard essentially means raising a white flag on his entire first year of school reform. Yet that’s actually become a less damaging alternative than the charade of acting like Brizard’s relevant or speaks for CPS. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s the middle of the night and I’ve reached a point of clarity. Get rid of him. Do it soon.

Mark it– I predict that one way or the other Brizard’s gone in 12 months.


1,954 Chicago teachers plan to retire this summer. 40% more than last year.

A Roosevelt sociologist has a report on TIF money distribution for schools. She argues TIF spending exacerbates inequality. Selective enrollment schools are 1% of the district but get 24% of TIF money. Here’s Greg Hinz’s Crain’s coverage. Full report here.

Only 1% of CPS students have 504 plans, which give accommodations like extra test time for students with some disabilities. Suburban districts have 504s for 4-5% of students.

Trib graphic: % of students with 504s by district.

Youth Connection Leadership Academy, the charter school whose network announced it would close two days after staff voted to unionize, is not closing after all.

CPS and CTU are fighting over a ~$35M federal grant for merit pay. Chicago won the grant by telling the Department of Education it’s working with CTU, which it isn’t. CTU says CPS lied and wants the money returned. CPS says it had an agreement with previous CTU leadership. DOE asked for the money back but now says it wants to find a way for Chicago to keep the cash. I don’t see how demanding CPS give away school money is a good move for anyone.

More: “Teachers union president: CPS committed ‘grant fraud’

Legislator Kim Lightford takes her colleagues to task on school funding in a Trib letter to the editor:

Senate Bill 7, the reform package I helped negotiate last year, was approved 112-1 in the House, 54-0 in the Senate. You’d think this overwhelming majority would similarly demand the resources needed for success. Instead, I watched many of these so-called reformers turn their backs on our children and our public schools. In one vote the General Assembly puts teachers and administrators on notice that they need to perform to higher standards, only to turn around and repeatedly slash funding for their training and development.”

U of C frat that racist-ally hazed pledges now apologizes.

GED’s getting overhauled to align with Common Core. New version out in 2014.

Trib’s Joel Hood and Noreen Ahmed-Ullah say “Chicago schools battle closely studied across country.” From their story:

“The headlines from Chicago are emailed around to mayors and policymakers every morning,” said Joe Williams, head of Washington,D.C.-based Democrats for Education Reform, a group started by Wall Street hedge fund managers. “I think people want to see what’s possible, both politically and on the ground in schools and in communities.”

CPS and SEIU (2nd largest CPS union) sign new 3-year contract. (WBEZ runs an AP story?)

The cost of literacy: Overcoming learning disabilities.” WBEZ’s Julianne Hill visits a family struggling to help their son, who has a learning disability. They’re able to afford private school and tutoring. What happens, everyone asks, for families that can’t afford the extra help?

Related: Vevea writes up the difficulty getting diagnoses and documentation for CPS students with learning disabilities: “Reading disabilities fly under the radar in public schools.”

Linda Lutton visits Fenger and finds the high school in the middle of an intense school-wide reading remediation push. 90-minute reading fundamentals blocks for every 9th grader. “A high school confronts its reading struggles head on.”

Teachers in three Head Start programs join SEIU. Rebecca Harris covers for Catalyst, quoting an aide who makes $10.94 an hour.

WGN’s Gaynor Hall deep-dives on AUSL and Phillips High School. Mostly friendly: “A non-profit group, armed with noble goals and dedicated staff, has been awarded contracts for eighteen Chicago schools, with a mandate to turn them around.”

U of C Charter teacher/TeachPluser Vibha Sanghvi writes on teaching students to ask for help.

Chicago teacher Karyn Keenan reflects on her first year using Daily 5.

Carter G. Woodson Campus in Top 17 Schools in District for Selective Enrollment High School Acceptances.” Out of 443 district/charter schools! Disclosure/brag: my wife works there.

Charter funding equity bill defeated. Would have forced districts to fund charters at least at 95% of traditional per-pupil funding. Now it’s 75%. I hated seeing RYH and others against this.

Hack for Portland Schools this week. Where’s ours?

Katie Osgood, a vocal pro-union SPED teacher, has up an intense blog post on the one year she worked in a CPS elementary school. (h/t Russo, for me).  From Katie’s post:

It’s funny, because now, after a couple years of getting educated in the corporate education reform agenda, I can discuss in detail every policy decision, the history of reform that led to my experiences, and debate what the flaws and holes of the reforms were with research to back it all up. But at the time, I had no words to put to the feelings I had.”

WTTW’s Yasmin Rammohan looks at Stand For Children and the teletownhall, an organizing tool they put front-and-center this year in reform parent organizing.

Raise Your Hand is coming to Logan Square! Parent education forum Monday, June 11, at Haas Park. UNFORTUNATELY  I will not be there. It’s also the inaugural meeting of Friends of Brentano. Can I give you guys a clipboard to get names of local parents who want to sign up?

Principal Selection.” CPSObsessed has updates on searches at Lane Tech, Amundsen, Burley and Jahn; asks parents to share news from their schools. 259 comments.

Chicago Tonight’s Phil Phonce has up a 12-minute interview with Karen Lewis.

Brizard visited WBEZ for his monthly call-in show “Ask Brizard.” Audio and LiveChat transcript here: http://bit.ly/Mfv0SM

Says Linda Lutton in the live chat: “Important: Brizard says the district is NOT thinking of closing 100 schools next year. That’s been a big rumor.

Josh Kalov live-tweeted it. He says Brizard said: “I am not a fan of merit pay.””

More tweets here at #askbrizard

Also discussed: field trips, afterschool activities, Brizard’s new baby, teacher pay models.

Non-Brizard tweets you should read:

@cst_pallasch Rahm and American Federation of Teachers Prez Randi Weingarten share a stage at Bill Clinton’s event and DON’T discuss the strike vote CTU is taking against Rahm

@CTULocal1 Matt Damon (Still) Loves Teachers http://bit.ly/LB3LRy

@JuanRangel While Chgo Teachers Union conspire to strike, 100s of parents fill hall to join UNOs newest school on northwest side. http://bit.ly/LB46n8

‏@WBEZeducation  Seems not long ago I wrote about Chicago’s 100th new school: http://bit.ly/LhDj2s. Now teachrs and principal fired: http://trib.in/KwayzY

On that last one… the school opened 2 years ago. The founding principal Lutton quotes in her article didn’t even last 12 months. The staff she met was mostly replaced in year 1. It was the replacement staff fired in year 2.


STEVE SILVIUS! My college friend/long-time ed reform sparring partner has an edtech start-up that’s kicking ass. Three Ring. It’s free and lets teachers simply digitize student paper/pen work. Steve wants to bring the power of digital to authentic assessment—not just multiple choice tests. Steve says “We have not yet started a real PR push.” Hm. I notice they’ve been in Forbes, Mashable and Fast Company.

My neighbor, for tweeting “over dudes that posture as activists & revolutionaries but are liars, cowards, and womanizers in personal relationships.

Xian and Kristen for tweeting nice and helping each other out. Warms my heart.

Ray Salazar, local blogger and AP English teacher, for his fantastic post on pushing AP enrollment and success among black and latino students. Shares data on CPS AP enrollment/performance by race, as well as lessons learned from his own experiences growing minority AP success. http://bit.ly/KfOgF8 (h/t Russo for me)

Aunt Maud! I can’t think of anything scarier than a high school reunion. You’re courageous. See you at the farmer’s market sometime soon.

Austin! Can’t wait to see you next week.

Carter. Webinarring it up. You’re the man.

Nat. Congrats on the new companion.

GRACE. Belated congrats on your publication. You’re badass.

Natasha. Your text so, so made me day. We need to talk.

Natalie—thank you for worrying about KC. I will call. You’re good people.

DAN! Welcoooome. 12? You really want to do 12?

That’s it!

Thanks everyone!

Happy Friday.

Happy almost end of the year.

Happy everything,


Share Wonks with this link: http://bit.ly/KlhsKl

*****ABOUT THIS******

This is an experiment. My hope is to build a weekly tip sheet that keeps track of developments in the Chicago schools world. I’m not claiming to be especially qualified to do this; it’s just that I’ve wanted it to exist for a long time and it keeps not existing. Guiding beliefs are 1) Chicago children deserve the world’s best education and 2) currently they’re not getting it. Other than that there’s no orthodoxy.

You’re getting this because I thought you might want it. If you don’t, write me and I’ll unsubscribe. If you’re reading this because someone sent it to you and you want it, write me your name and email address. If I’m getting something wrong (or right) or you want me to think about something, email me.

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