Chicago board votes to close 50 schools
The Chicago Teachers Union, headed by Karen Lewis, opposes the closures.
May 23rd, 2013
03:07 PM ET

Chicago board votes to close 50 schools

By CNN Staff

(CNN) - The Chicago Board of Education voted Wednesday to close 50 schools, a controversial move that drew sharp criticism from the city's teachers union.The vote comes two months after officials announced plans to shutter the schools.

The closures "will consolidate underutilized schools and programs to provide students with the quality, 21st century education they need to succeed in the classroom," Chicago Public Schools said in a statement Wednesday.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposed the closures, which it said would disproportionately affect African-American students.

"Today is a day of mourning for the children of Chicago. Their education has been hijacked by an unrepresentative, unelected corporate school board, acting at the behest of a mayor who has no vision for improving the education of our children," said Karen Lewis, the union's president. "Closing schools is not an education plan. It is a scorched earth policy."

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Filed under: Illinois • School budgets • School closings • teacher unions
March 21st, 2013
10:05 PM ET

Chicago to shutter dozens of schools

By Dana Ford and Katherine Wojtecki, CNN

Chicago (CNN) - Chicago school officials said Thursday that they plan to close dozens of schools in a bid to improve education and tackle a $1 billion deficit.

The move would shutter 61 school buildings, including 53 underused schools and one program. The cut represents roughly 10% of all elementary school facilities in Chicago Public Schools, the country's third-largest school district.

"Every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but for too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they are in underutilized, under-resourced schools," said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive officer of CPS.

"As a former teacher and a principal, I've lived through school closings, and I know that this will not be easy, but I also know that in the end this will benefit our children. Like school systems across the country where enrollment has dropped, Chicago must make tough choices, and by consolidating these schools, we can focus on safely getting every child into a better performing school close to their home," she said.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposes the closures, which it says would disproportionately affect African-American students. The union also warns the move would expose students to gang violence and turf wars, an apparent reference to neighborhood loyalties.

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AFT recommends an entry 'bar' exam for teachers
Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
December 4th, 2012
01:44 PM ET

AFT recommends an entry 'bar' exam for teachers

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) The American Federation of Teachers has issued a report advocating an entry exam for all teacher candidates, like the bar exam taken by aspiring lawyers.

The test, which would be required of all future teachers nationwide, would be given to candidates regardless of whether they are entering the profession through traditional means or “an alternative route.”

The AFT report titled “Raising the Bar: Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession”  included a statement by AFT president Randi Weingarten: “We must do away with a common rite of passage, whereby newly minted teachers are tossed the keys to their classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they (and their students) sink or swim. Such a haphazard approach to the complex and crucial enterprise of educating children is wholly inadequate. It’s unfair to both students and teachers, who want and need to be well-prepared to teach from their first day on the job. At a time when we are raising the standards for students through the Common Core State Standards, we must do the same for teachers.”

The report suggests that the exam be multidimensional and include subject knowledge as well as pedagogical knowledge. In other words, in addition to having to know the subject they teach, teachers would have to demonstrate that they had the qualities to be “caring, competent and confident.”

The report also states the responsibility for setting professional standards and establishing quality teacher preparation programs should reside with K-12 educators and teacher-educators.

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Filed under: Policy • teacher unions • Teachers • Voices
September 20th, 2012
10:19 AM ET

Wins, losses and draws in Chicago school strike

by Michael Pearson, CNN

(CNN) As schools reopened Wednesday - the day after teachers union representatives voted to suspend their eight-day strike - union leaders, city officials and even students could all claim a few wins and admit a few losses after a bruising battle that had both sides hurling insults like pro wrestlers.

Teachers were happy to secure concessions limiting a school reform program that they said would harm students and cost teachers jobs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel walked away with a teacher evaluation system and other changes that he says will make educators more accountable.

And there was even an upside for the 350,000 Chicago kids who had to go back to school after an unexpected eight-day holiday.

My View: The Chicago teachers' strike from an ambivalent union member's perspective

"It was kind of boring being at home, so I'm kind of glad I'm going back to school so I don't have to have any more baby sitters," South Loop Elementary School student Grace Bauer said.

In all, teachers appear to have come out ahead in a strike that gained nationwide attention, said Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and director of its Labor Education Program in Chicago.

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Filed under: Policy • Politics • teacher unions • Teachers • video
September 18th, 2012
06:49 PM ET

Chicago teachers vote to end strike, classes resume Wednesday

From the CNN Wire Staff
Chicago (CNN) - Hundreds of thousands of Chicago schoolchildren will return to class Wednesday after the teachers union voted to suspend its strike.

About 800 union officers and delegates met for just over two hours before there was an overwhelming voice vote to suspend the walkout, according to delegates who attended the meeting.

The contract agreement with the school system still needs to be ratified by the more than 29,000 teachers and support staff who are members of the union.

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Filed under: Policy • Practice • teacher unions • Teachers • video
My View: The Chicago teachers’ strike from an ambivalent union member’s perspective
September 18th, 2012
02:52 PM ET

My View: The Chicago teachers’ strike from an ambivalent union member’s perspective

Courtesy Kelli Rushekby Gina Caneva, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Gina Caneva is an eight-year veteran high school English teacher in Chicago Public Schools. Caneva is a Nationally Board Certified teacher at Lindblom Math and Science Academy and was recently awarded a fellowship with Teach Plus. She can be found on Twitter at @GinaCaneva.

(Chicago) - On day one of the Chicago teachers strike, I picketed with my fellow teachers outside of Lindblom Math and Science Academy in the Englewood community. Across the street, an African-American family sat outside a dilapidated black-and-white flat. Three school-aged boys played in the yard while we stood in red T-shirts.

Statistically speaking, if public education does not change these boys won’t make it through college. Only 2% of African-American males graduate on time from a university after graduating from Chicago Public Schools.

Statistically speaking, if public education does not change these boys won’t get into Lindblom Academy, a selective enrollment school now ranked 20th in Illinois, even though they live across the street. Only 11% of Lindblom’s population resides in Englewood.

I couldn’t help but think that the strike was both for them and not for them, that the terms discussed in the media—minor raises in pay, a freeze on healthcare, the percentage of teacher evaluations based on standardized tests—largely ignored them. Reforms for stronger teacher education programs and processes for retaining our strongest teachers not just our most experienced have not been central to this very public debate.

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Filed under: Policy • Practice • teacher unions • Teachers • • Voices
My View: We’ve got your backs, Chicago teachers
September 18th, 2012
04:20 AM ET

My View: We’ve got your backs, Chicago teachers

Courtesy Dug MaraBy Bonnie Kenaz-Mara, Special to CNN.

Editor’s Note: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago-based writer, photographer and videographer and mother to two children. She blogs daily at

My 9- and 11-year-old Chicago public school kids are getting schooled in politics, union organizing and grassroots protest in a very visual way this week. The streets of Chicago are running red as teachers wearing crimson shirts take to the streets for the first strike in a quarter of a century. They're joined by red-wearing parents, kids and supportive community members.

This isn't an “us vs. them” fight. Our teachers ARE our friends, neighbors and parents with their own kids in public schools right next to our own.  Where is Mr. Mayor?  Maybe he missed out on every one of those 50 prior meetings that Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union had because he was so busy chauffeuring his kids to a well-funded, private Lab School.

The teachers have taken it to the streets, and the strike has exploded into the public consciousness.

As closed door negotiations remain at an impasse, eyes nationwide are on Chicago now.  Before Monday, September 10, if the public had heard the acronym CTU at all, they equated the moniker with “Counter Terrorist Unit.” Now, CTU is better known as Chicago Teachers Union all over social media and the news.  Chicago's real CTU is the teachers, keeping 400,000 kids off the streets and educating them into crime-free futures as productive members of society.

My father was a product of the Chicago public schools in the ‘40s and ‘50s. He went on to an accounting degree at Northwestern and then a master’s degree.   Now, two generations later, his grandchildren are in CPS.

I've had two kids in a fabulous Chicago public Montessori school since they were 3 years old, and the teachers are professional, committed and caring, and go above and beyond.   As the daughter of a teacher myself, I have the utmost respect for the invaluable work teachers do.

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Filed under: Issues • Parents • teacher unions • Teachers • Voices
September 17th, 2012
12:37 PM ET

Q&A: What's behind the Chicago teachers' strike?

by Ed Payne, CNN

(CNN) - The Chicago teachers strike drags into a second week, after a representative group of the Chicago Teachers Union decided over the weekend not to end the walkout even though union leaders and school officials had reached a tentative contract deal.

The strike in the third-largest school system in the country is affecting more than 350,000 children.

A quick primer:

Q. What's the sticking point?

A. Among the major issues, the teachers are negotiating over the length of the school day, objecting to their evaluations being tied to performance and fretting about potential job losses.

Q. How would the length of school days change?

A. Elementary students would gain 75 minutes to create a seven-hour school day. High school students would gain 30 minutes to create a seven-and-a-half-hour school day. Teachers wants additional money to teach the additional hours.

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Filed under: Issues • Policy • teacher unions • Teachers
Chicago teachers strike enters 2nd week; mayor takes fight to court
September 16th, 2012
08:21 PM ET

Chicago teachers strike enters 2nd week; mayor takes fight to court

From Kyung Lah and Greg Botelho, CNN

Chicago (CNN) - Chicago school kids won't be back in class until at least Wednesday after teachers union representatives decided not to end a week-long walkout - despite a tentative contract deal reached by union leaders and school officials.

The move left Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowing to go to court to force teachers back to work, calling Sunday's actions by the union "a delay of choice that is wrong for our children."

The mayor announced in a statement that he's asked city lawyers to file an injunction in circuit court to "immediately end this strike."

CNN's Kyung Lah reported from Chicago; Greg Botelho from Atlanta. CNN's Ed Payne and Chris Welch also contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Policy • teacher unions • Teachers
September 14th, 2012
11:45 AM ET

Interview with a parent on the impact of the strike

(CNN) CNN Student News conducted a Skype interview with Chicago parent Nino Rodriguez about how he and his family are dealing with the teachers' strike.

We asked him about his family's daily routine during this time and how he felt about the strike.

Rodriguez says, "We are always doing stuff at home.  You know, keeping them away from the computer, keeping them away from television and movies, which is what they want to run to first.  They must either do writing, reading or something like that."

He looks forward to his kids being back in class because he feels that they are losing valuable instructional time.

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Filed under: At Home • teacher unions • Teachers • video
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