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Can teachers strike over evaluations? ‘Yes and no,’ experts say

Updated: October 14, 2012 1:49PM



A key point of contention in the Chicago Public Schools teachers strike is how teachers will be evaluated.

But while teachers and administrators don’t agree on how the evaluations should be done, the two sides couldn’t even agree over whether the teachers could legally walk out based on the issue. Who is right? It depends, independent legal experts contacted Tuesday said.

“The best answer I can give you is yes and no,” said Professor Robert Bruno, who teaches labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“You cannot bargain over the inclusion of student test scores” in the evaluations, he said, referring to a CPS plan to base evaluations in part on student growth on standardized tests.

“That’s imposed by law,” Bruno said, referring to the Illinois Teacher Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010. “And the law sets the percentage of student test scores that can count.”

Andrea Kayne Kaufman, professor of educational leadership at DePaul University, saw as a loophole in the umbrella law, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.

If the negotiations stand where they did Sunday night when school board president David Vitale offered the union a free first year, where evaluation scores won’t count except to improve the process, then CPS opened themselves up, she said.

Pilot programs, she said, are clearly on the list that’s subject to collective bargaining, and therefore strikeable.

But Zev Eigen, associate professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, said the law is murky. “It’s not clear,” he said.



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