Chicago, IL - Sarah Chambers, a teacher at Saucedo Academy in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, was exhausted but happy when Fight Back! reached her Tuesday night, Sept. 18.
A member of the bargaining committee and the House of Delegates (HOD) of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), she had been on strike for the past week and a half; been in meetings in the morning with her coworkers at Saucedo, and then in the afternoon attended the HOD meeting, discussing the offer from management; and had been fighting hard against the corporate agenda of Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for two years.
When the HOD met on Sept. 16, Chambers had said she wouldn’t vote for a contract unless it included “a win for the kids.” Tonight she said the contract was a victory for teachers and students.
According to Chambers, the wins for the students included:
“Books on day one.” Hard as it is to believe, it has been common for Chicago classrooms not to receive text books for a month or more after the start of classes each year.
“Music, art, and language positions, which will continue throughout the contract.” The tentative agreement requires that the board will hire more than 600 additional teachers in those areas.
“The contract includes increased funds for resources for the kids.”
And finally, “They have to prove the teaching staff has increased diversity.”
For the teachers, the contract includes a 7% raise over three years; CPS lost its move to force ‘merit pay’ into the contract; and one half of all CPS hires must be displaced members.
A prominent issue in the past days was teacher evaluations. The CTU defeated a move by the School Board to evaluate teachers based mainly on test results.
For Chambers, one final victory was that, “We won language that principals cannot bully teachers and teachers have the right to design their own lesson plans.”
All of this was made possible, ultimately, by the unity of the members. According to the statement from union president Karen Lewis, “We feel very positive about moving forward. We feel grateful that we have a united union and that when a union moves together we have amazing things happen."