Cleveland Teachers Union Gives Strike Notice
by Michelle Faust
Teachers at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will strike starting September first, unless the district and the union can come to an eleventh hour deal. The Cleveland Teacher’s Union on Monday night voted to authorize a strike.
The breakdown in negotiations stems from a disagreement with the way CMSD teachers are evaluated.
Based on rules in The Cleveland Plan (a 2012 law to reform the city’s schools), teachers’ pay is linked to performance.
CTU President David Quolke says test scores are weighed too heavily in a teacher’s evaluation. He wants to see a better balance between test results and student classroom performance (known in educators’ circles as student learning outcomes).
“Our notion is that the closer those numbers get together the fairer they are. So, that's what we're looking at…not to eliminate it, just to make it fair,” he says.
Cleveland is the only place in the state that has performance based pay.
“We don't get to look to other school districts and say, “How did you do it?” because we're really at the front in cutting edge and that makes these much more complicated issues for us to solve,” says CMSD CEO Eric Gordon.
Both sides say they hope to come to a deal before the end of the month.
A quick resolution to the contract negotiations becomes more urgent in light of the election cycle. It’s unclear how a strike will affect the results of the continued bond levy both sides want to see voters approve on the November ballot.
CTU President David Quolke says he’s hopeful a strike may be avoided.
“The goal is really to use those 2 weeks to get that contract to get something that both sides—not just the teachers but both sides—the teachers and the district can ratify, so that we can actually put our collective energy and working to get the renewal of the levy passed in November,” says Quolke.
Both sides recognize that a prolonged strike could hurt the district in voters’ eyes. They say they’ll work together to renew the school funding levy once a contract is approved.
Statement from the district on the strike notice:
We are disappointed to learn that the Executive Committee of the Cleveland Teachers Union has authorized a strike of its members. The District and CTU have been in negotiations since November, 2015, and have spent hundreds of hours in bargaining. A significant number of items have been resolved and only a few remain. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the CTU has chosen to put its efforts toward a strike rather than working to resolve the few remaining items.
Nonetheless, the District is making preparations to minimize the impact on our 39,000 students. The Board remains committed to resolving any remaining issues without eroding school reforms critical to meeting the goals of The Cleveland Plan.
To CMSD families:
As you have likely heard, the Executive Committee of the Cleveland Teachers Union has filed a notice of its intent to strike if contract negotiations are not settled by the end of the day Thursday, September 1st.
I want to make it clear to families that our teachers are not on strike. Schools are in session tomorrow and throughout the week, and our principals and teachers continue to be focused on a great start to our school year.
I will continue to keep you informed of our progress as the District and CTU work together to resolve the issues we face without eroding the progress we have made under The Cleveland Plan.
In the meantime, thank you for a successful start to the school year. We look forward to seeing our students in school tomorrow and the days ahead!
Statement from the union: