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Chicago's New Union Head Attacks Layoff Policy

Here's an important story from the Chicago Sun Times: The district has just approved a policy for laying off teachers that would dismiss tenured teachers rated "ineffective" before dipping into the ranks of higher-rated novices.

Newly elected Chicago Teachers Union head, Karen Lewis, says the policy is illegal; the district has said that a provision in state law allows it to deviate from the seniority-based layoff system spelled out in the contract. As this Chicago Tribune story explains, the two parties disagree about whether the state or the contract holds the trump.

In general, this is yet another example of the budget crunch calling into question some long-standing teacher-policy structures. But in this case, there's another important subtext: Lewis is part of a group from within the CTU that criticized the former president, Marilyn Stewart, as being too compliant with the district. Lewis has since asserted in the local media that things like charter schools and standardized testing reflect a desire by businesses to make money and to blame teachers for poor scores. Her election was viewed in some quarters as a reaction by rank-and-file teachers to elements of the Obama administration's reform agenda.

Lewis also said that the district's current evaluation system isn't appropriate. But the district is currently piloting a new evaluation system that apparently does a better job distinguishing performance. It will be interesting to see Lewis' views on the pilot—and whether she will support its expansion.

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