Karen Lewis takes us inside the bargaining sessions this week, and rejoices over the election of troy LaRaviere. She also explains why the CTU isn’t wildly enthusiastic about joining CPS in a united front against Bruce Rauner. It’s a wide-ranging conversation that covers many topics.
A few samples:
On support for Sen. Manar’s education funding revamp (SB 231)
(7:00) Ken: It’s controversial in so many ways but at least it’s something that’s on the table. Where are you on it?
KL: We support Senate Bill 231 as a first step. It’s not a solution to the problem.And while it does look like it’s taking from the rich and giving to the poor, what it does is it starts us on a road to equity. Not equality, but equity. And I think that people don’t understand the difference between the two concepts. Especially when you use property taxes as the majority of funding for public schools, there’s always going to be this huge gap – an inequality – from the very beginning. So if we’re going to evaluate people equally, then we have to have some sort of funding formula that works. I mean, it’s easy. Go to the wealthier school districts. Look at their buildings. Look at their curriculum. Look at what they have to offer. It’s quite different from what you see in many of our schools.
What the CTU is fighting for in a contract:
(32:00) what my people would like to see and what they constantly complain about is the constant drumbeat of inane work. That’s just compliance. We want to see a change to the evaluation, where we’re not doing all this extra work just to justify that we’re doing good work. The new evaluation system as far as I’m concerned is a complete bust because they haven’t found all these terrible teachers that they claim exist…This notion that the system is full of incompetent teachers is just a joke. And trying to tie teaching to test scores is ridiculous.
What it’s like in the bargaining room:
(33:00) the actual bargaining meetings themselves are quite amicable. It always starts with (James) Franczek giving a big speech, and we all roll our eyes, going, OK, Franczek speech, you know, and then we tease him about whatever the heck he said –
Ken: And then you give a big speech?
KL: And then I give a big speech and they roll their eyes. It’s not ugly. Normally they’ll say, we can’t make a decision on that. And they take a caucus, and I guess they call the mayor, or they’ll come to us and we take a caucus and discuss it…
On the dismissal of Troy LaRaviere:
(41:00)I thought it was the stupidest move ever…when I first heard this I even brought it up at bargaining. I said, OK, what did Troy do now? And they were like, -what hasn’t he done? And I said, you all need to leave him alone. He’s a good principal, he does a good job, the parents and teachers seem to like him.
I’ve got a meeting with him today, this afternoon. (May 19)
Ken: Did you call him to congratulate him?
KL: Of course I did. I wrote him a little text, Mazel tov.
Ken: Ben Joravsky said the Mayor has now created a second Karen Lewis?
KL: He really has…and I hope Troy and I can work together, because I think the principals and the teachers union working together, we can fix this crazy system…I think it’s huge. Because I think that Troy has a vision. And because he has a vision that he wants principals’ voice to be heard, that it will be.
On Forrest Claypool
(44:35) I think the problem with CPS and the problem with Forrest as CEO, which is very different from previous CEOs is that they don’t, I mean the fact that we even have a CEO is a problem. Why can’t we have a Superintendent? Why can’t we have somebody that really gets education? Forrest is a numbers guy. He’s a technocrat. I kind of feel like what works for buses and trains doesn’t work for human beings. we need to figure out how we’re gonna work together to get stuff done. But we can’t get stuff done with – here’s some stuff (pushes paper across table). You go out and sell your members that. Nobody’s going for that.
On the possibility of building a united front for reformed State funding
(51:30)Ken: Isn’t this one of those cases where there’s more that unites you than divides you?
KL: Let me just parse this out for you. I’m not gonna go for anything that ultimately doesn’t fix the problem. I’m not interested in any short-term band-aid approach. We have to look at a long-term set of things. We need to figure out how to work together to get progressive income tax in Illinois. How to at least restore the flat tax back to where it was. How to do a financial transaction tax. There’s a whole bunch of things we could do. look at Colorado. They legalized marijuana. All that money’s gone to education. They don’t have the problems we have. I got excoriated for talking about legalizing pot. Yet Rauner even says let’s decriminalize it. That’s a step. Let’s figure out where the money is instead of playing these little games around it, and coming up with slogans – we’re 20% f the population so we need to have 20%…
The problem is, they want us on their bus. I’m not getting on the crazy train with these people. I want to have real solutions that figure out how to deal structurally with these issues.
Ken: So you expect Rahm Emanuel and Forrest Claypool to get on your bus?
KL: Yes. ‘Cause our bus is also the humane bus. It’s not the crazy bus.
Ken: Of course, calling the other guy’s bus the crazy bus…
KL: (laughs)You didn’t think I was gonna go through this whole thing without saying one provocative thing about them?
Ken: I just was wondering, things are so bad that maybe we’d be better off if everybody could find a neutral bus to sit on, but…
KL If we could find that bus, I would be on it. There are certain things that I completely think we need to look at. And they keep saying that’s not on the table.