Mexican teachers strike to block reforms

Teachers in rural Mexico are striking to block education reforms pushed by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Peña Nieto’s first major legislative victory after taking office in December was a constitutional amendment eliminating Mexico’s decades-old practice of buying and selling teaching jobs, and replacing it with a standardized national teaching test. That’s heresy to a radical splinter union of elementary and high school teachers in Guerrero, one of the country’s poorest and worst-educated states. The teachers claim the test is a plot to fire them en masse as a step toward privatizing education, although there is little evidence the government plans that.

Reform advocates say the dissidents simply fear losing control over the state education system and the income it provides, despite the need to reform a system that eats up more of the budget and produces worse results than virtually any other in the world’s largest economies.

Armed vigilante groups have blocked highways and shut down store entrances in support of the teachers.

The head of the teachers union, Elba Esther Gordillo, is in jail charged with embezzling $200 million.

Parents are “plan to start giving their own lessons in parks, public squares and even restaurants,” reports the Wall Street Journal.  However, the parents association is afraid of  ”reprisals from striking teachers.”

Chicago: Brizard resigns as schools chief

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has resigned after only 17 months on the job. He will be replaced by the chief education officer, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a former teacher and principal who ran the Cleveland school system.

Chicago’s education scene remains a powder keg, ready to erupt at the smallest provocation,” writes Joy Resmovits in a strike wrap-up in the Huffington Post.

“Some of the most controversial issues at stake in the strike have yet to be completely decided,” she writes. Committees are meeting to discuss conflicts over issues such as teacher evaluation. The district will spend an extra $295 million over four years to pay raises, which “many believe will cause layoffs” and school closures.

Duncan: ‘Everybody won’ in Chicago teacher strike

“Everybody won” in the Chicago teacher’s strike, said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the National Press Club Tuesday. Duncan was CEO of Chicago public schools from 2001 to 2009.

Obama on education

President Obama talks about education in an NBC interview as part of Education Nation. He manages to praise Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago teachers’ union, while accusing Romney of “teaching bashing.”

Here’s the transcript.

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The deal on the deal in Chicago

The proposed Chicago teachers’ contract moves the district in the right direction with “a step back here and there,” concludes the National Council on Teacher Quality. However, “some of the most positive changes like the longer school day predate the contract and are a result of state law or previous negotiations.”

Among the unknowns: How well the new evaluation system will be implemented, whether the union will keep under-enrolled schools open and whether the district can come up with an extra $295 million over four years through  ”COLA reduction, step and lane compensation, and savings in layoff benefits, sick day compensation, and a new wellness program.”

Chicago teachers earn more than most urban teachers, but about the same as suburban teachers in the area, says NCTQ.

Teacher Beat has more on the question:  Where’s the money coming from?

Chicago teachers end strike

After more than a week on picket lines, Chicago teachers’ union delegates have voted to end the strike. Schools will reopen Wednesday.

Saying it marked “a new day and a new direction “ for Chicago schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the contract — with its teacher evaluations, longer school day provision and plans for five new science and technology high schools.

A union statement bragged about stopping “corporate ‘school reform’.”

“Now we have stopped the board from imposing merit pay! We preserved our lanes and steps when the politicians and press predicted they were history. We held the line on health care costs.”

The district will use students’ “growth” scores as only 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, the minimum set by state law. A committee will discuss how to evaluate teachers.

I still think it looks like a victory for the union — and for union chief Karen Lewis, who’s rumored to be thinking about challenging Randi Weingarten for leadership of the American Federation of Teachers. Whether a more militant AFT is good for teachers in the long run is another question.

Rahmbo got rolled by the union, writes Rick Hess.

Chicago mayor asks court to end ‘illegal’ teachers strike

Calling the Chicago teachers’ strike “illegal,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for a court order to force teachers back to work, but a Cook County Circuit Court judge refused to hear the case till Wednesday, reports the Chicago Tribune. Union delegates will meet Tuesday to discuss the proposed deal.

“State law expressly prohibits the CTU from striking over non-economic issues, such as layoff and recall policies, teacher evaluations, class sizes and the length of the school day and year,” the Chicago Public Schools motion states. “The CTU’s repeated statements and recent advertising campaign have made clear that these are exactly the subjects over which the CTU is striking.”

In addition, the strike is “a clear and present danger to public health and safety,” the motion states.

Rick Hess analyzes the politics of the strike in week two. Chicago Teachers Union leader Karen Lewis “is becoming the anti-Michelle Rhee for teachers who’ve yearned for a fire-breathing anti-evaluation, pro-LIFO champion,” he writes. While she looks strong, Emanuel is “losing traction.”

In the fight against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Democratic reformers had argued “you could get dramatic reforms without changing the rules around collective bargaining.”

If even Rahmbo can’t follow through on tough-minded school reforms, while offering more pay in a tough economy, it’ll raise questions about the seriousness of less combative Dems.

In the long run, it’s bad for the unions if Democrats “decide they have to choose between teacher quality and working with unions,” Hess concludes.

 

Chicago teachers won’t end strike

Chicago public schools will not open tomorrow: Teachers’ union delegates refused to vote on a proposed contract settlement today, saying teachers need more time to discuss the offer.

So far, the public has supported the teachers, for the most part. That could change if the union seems to be dragging out the strike.

Chicago deal looks like union victory

The “framework” for a new teachers’ contract in Chicago looks like a victory for the teachers’ union, if early reports are accurate. The deal includes an average 16 percent pay hike over four years (that’s not new) with no change in how raises are calculated, reports CBS News.

The latest proposal includes retaining STEP wage increases — which are based on teacher experience — with larger increases for tenured teachers. Those increases will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but both sides differ on the exact cost.

It also calls for an annual 2 percent cost-of-living increase for the four years of the deal, retaining current contractual class size language, and establishing a joint committee to craft a new teacher evaluation plan.

Kicking teacher evaluation to a committee could mean another fight in the future — after the election.

The details haven’t been finalized, but it’s likely Chicago schools will be open on Monday.

Compromise in Chicago: Strike may be over

Chicago teachers have reached a tentative deal with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to end the weeklong strike. While details aren’t yet clear, it appears the mayor has compromised on a plan to tie 40 percent of teacher evaluations to growth in student test scores. Student performance will account for a smaller percentage of a teacher’s rating.

. . . the union won assurances that if a teacher is laid off because of a school closing, that teacher gets preference in hiring decisions in other schools as long as he or she has positive teacher evaluations.

It’s also believed teachers who receive poor evaluations will have more protections before being fired.

Teachers will vote on the deal over the weekend. It’s likely schools will reopen on Monday.

“Some Chicago teachers seem to think that they shouldn’t be held accountable until poverty is solved,” writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Instead of asking for higher pay to attract better teachers, “the Chicago union seems to be using its political capital primarily to protect weak performers,” he writes. “There’s now solid evidence that there are huge differences in the effectiveness of teachers, even within high-poverty schools.”