Ms. Lewis "has thrown down a national gauntlet, of sorts, and said mayors and other reformers won't define teaching—teachers will define it," said Barbara Radner, director of the Center for Urban Education at DePaul University. "This is about the soul of teaching and who is going to define it going forward." -- WSJThis is a good report from the WSJ and does a better job than the NY Times. The national press is getting the message that this is no typical teacher strike and is as much over ideology and the soul of teaching as anything else. They are also getting the message that the public supports them. You don't see any of the astroturf groups out there protesting the teachers. That is due to the amazing work in the community the union has done.
One thing the press isn't reporting is Karen Lewis' salary. When she took over the new union leadership cut salaries severely and at one point Karen was making less than the old guard field reps. They managed to close an almost $4 million deficit left by the old Unity style corrupt UPC. Basically, Karen earns a teacher salary plus the equivalent of per session pay to cover all the extra time she puts in. It's less I bet than a 100 people in the UFT.
Many of us here in NYC are very familiar with the people running CORE.
See NY Times on Karen: Teachers’ Leader in Chicago Strike Shows Her Edge
The press loves to emphasize the leader and ignore that there is a real force behind Lewis and in fact she is the person out front. That is not an easy place to be but she was chosen because she can handle it. There are so many other strong voices in CORE. And she is responsible to them. CORE is so different from Unity and has given those of us working in MORE a model to work from. If you watch the Al Ramirez (one of the 2 originals in the group that became CORE) you will see the leadership and organizing abilities they bring to the table.
MORE Chicago Solidarity Event - Aug 23 2012
I have a great Ed Notes exclusive video of Karen appearing as a speaker at the AFT Peace and Justice caucus in Detroit which I will put up. You get Karen unfiltered through the press. (I also taped Karen in Seattle in 2010 just a few days after CORE took over the union - if I can find that I can put up an edited piece).
In Chicago, Standoff Built Over Two Years
With rank-and-file support to launch Chicago's first teacher strike in 25 years, Ms. Lewis, a high school chemistry teacher, has positioned herself as a champion of resistance to the national education-reform movement, making Chicago a central battleground over control of U.S. public schools.
Thousands of teachers picketed Tuesday, staging boisterous rallies at the Chicago Public School headquarters and calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's ouster. City leaders said the two sides were close to agreement. But union officials said dozens of issues in the contract negotiations remained unresolved.
Parents struggled to juggle children and work. Many fretted over the disruption. Krystyna Sobek, a maintenance worker in downtown Chicago, said she had to ask her parents to watch her 11-year-old daughter.
"I feel that she should be in class," she said. "I'm thankful because I do have my mom, and without her, where would I take her? Pay for day care? That would be hard for me."
Other parents joined picket lines. Erica Clark, a member of Parents 4 Teachers, brought her 16-year-old son. "The main point is that parents, teachers and communities are rallying together, doing what they need to do," she said.
City officials said 18,000 of the school system's more than 350,000 students had attended more than 140 schools staffed to provide basic activities and serve meals on Monday. The city announced it would extend the program to six hours a day to make it easier for working families.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the 1.5 million-member national group that includes the Chicago union, joined the heads of other public-sector unions, including those representing nurses and police, in an appearance Tuesday to show support. The leader of a union that represents some school custodians said his members might start striking Friday in solidarity.
"To say that this contract will be settled today is lunacy," Ms. Lewis said, dismissing opponents as "rich people who think they know best."
Mr. Emanuel said Tuesday the strike was unnecessary. "It's not about getting rid of people, it's about raising the standards, raising the qualities in the schools," he told a news conference.
Ms. Lewis, the daughter of teachers, had been little involved in the union over two decades of teaching. In 2008, she joined the fledgling Caucus of Rank and File Educators.
Teachers on StrikeView Slideshow
The group felt union leaders were doing too little to fight the overhauls favored by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, who is now President Obama's Secretary of Education, including the expansion of charter schools and closing low-performing public schools.
Ms. Lewis took the top union job in June 2010 with a mandate to take a more adversarial role. She has since reveled in the spotlight, with a cheeky and sometimes aggressive style.
Reform efforts by Mr. Emanuel and others to tie teacher salaries and tenure to student test scores were unfair, she said, and didn't address larger problems created by poverty, poor curriculum and a shortage of counselors and social workers.
Ms. Weingarten, while showing solidarity with Ms. Lewis on Tuesday, has embodied a more collaborative approach to national school reform. She has supported teacher contracts—including one in Cleveland—that effectively weakened tenure rules and linked teacher evaluations to test scores.
The Chicago teachers' previous contract, negotiated by Ms. Lewis's predecessor, gave teachers a total wage increase of 19% to 46% over the contract period from 2007 to 2012, according to a fact finders report issued in July. Chicago's average teacher salary is now $71,000 a year, according to the city.
But some teachers were angry because they felt the union didn't do enough to prevent the closure of dozens of poorly performing schools and increase the number of charter schools, which generally hire nonunion teachers.
Advocates say schools that are too dysfunctional should be closed so students can go elsewhere. They say charters offer an important alternative to low-performing public schools and can experiment with new teaching approaches without the constraints of union contracts.
Campaigning in early 2011, Mr. Emanuel pledged he would institute a longer school day at Chicago schools, which he said was among the shortest in the U.S. Once elected, he appointed a district chief with a track record of challenging unions, and appointed a school board whose first vote was to rescind a 4% raise slated for last year.
Ms. Lewis derided Mr. Emanuel's longer school day as "baby sitting and warehousing."
Earlier this year, Ms. Lewis orchestrated rallies and sit-ins across the city, including one at Mr. Emanuel's home, to protest the mayor's policies. In June, when their contract expired, teachers voted to authorize union leaders to call a strike.
To address teacher anger over the longer school day, Mr. Emanuel in July agreed to rehire more than 400 laid-off teachers.
The city is now offering teachers a new four-year contract that includes salary increases of 3% in the first year, and 2% annually for the remaining years. In addition, teachers are eligible for raises based on years of service.
Union leaders have said salaries aren't a sticking point. They said they were fighting over proposals to change teacher evaluations, and the union's call for job security for dismissed teachers—as well as other issues including more school counselors and more air-conditioning.
Ms. Lewis "has thrown down a national gauntlet, of sorts, and said mayors and other reformers won't define teaching—teachers will define it," said Barbara Radner, director of the Center for Urban Education at DePaul University. "This is about the soul of teaching and who is going to define it going forward."