The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 18 to suspend the union's strike following an extensive discussion of the proposed tentative agreement. In the coming weeks, the full CTU membership will vote on the tentative agreement negotiated between the CTU and Chicago Public Schools.
"This agreement guarantees that Chicago teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians will return to the classroom knowing that their schools and community are strengthened because their voices and experience have been respected," AFT president Randi Weingarten says. "And parents can send their kids to school knowing that their teachers fought for the resources children need to succeed, including having textbooks on time and investments in art, music, physical education and other subjects that expand and enrich children's minds.
"This tentative agreement follows intense negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the district. And it was forged amid a backdrop that saw a broad cross section of parents and other Chicagoans join teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians in calling for a fair, substantive contract that gives educators and students the tools they need to succeed. That's what this strike was always about. Sadly, real progress was made only after the strike—which had the support of parents and the community—became a reality.
"CTU president Karen Lewis and her leadership team, with whom the AFT worked closely throughout this process, have represented their members well and made clear that their concerns go beyond wages and benefits to include all the issues affecting their students' education. They demonstrated that collective bargaining is an essential tool to strengthen public schools.
"It was heartening to see the level of support for CTU members from parents and community members who share the simple yet powerful belief that education is more than tests and test prep, and that the people who educate our children should be respected and involved in decisions affecting what goes on in our schools.
"By standing up for what teachers need to teach and students need to learn, Chicago's teachers and parents sparked a national conversation about how we make every public school a school where parents want to send their kids and teachers want to teach. The issues raised by Chicago's educators and parents resonate across this nation because they are being felt by teachers, students and parents everywhere. These issues include endless budget cuts that have eliminated art, music, gym and other critical subjects from our public schools; a growing obsession with high-stakes testing, denying kids the rich learning experiences they need; closing down rather than fixing neighborhood schools, which destabilizes neighborhoods; and concentrated poverty that forces schools to take on more in the face of dwindling resources. With all of this, teachers continue to be denied the tools and conditions they need to do their jobs and then are blamed for every problem facing our schools.
"These issues are at the heart and soul of public education in America, and Chicago has demonstrated that we have a shared responsibility and a national obligation to address them. What's happened in Chicago has changed the conversation and shown that, by communities uniting and acting collectively, we can transform our schools and guarantee every child the high-quality public education he or she deserves. Now let's hope this turns the page to a new chapter in education reform, where we can work together to achieve what our kids need—in Chicago and throughout the country." [AFT press release]
September 18, 2012