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Education Tue Jun 08 2010

The CTU's Lawsuit: Posturing or Protecting Students?

The Chicago Teacher's Union continues to make noise over the cuts and subsequent classroom changes teachers will endure as a result of the CPS' budget quagmire, but this time, it's legal. CTU President Marilyn Stewart (up for a run-off election for the presidency against CORE nominee Karen Lewis in two days) announced today that the CTU is filing suit against the CPS for its plans, announced last Friday, to increase class sizes to 35.

"It appears that CPS is willing to sacrifice Chicago's students in order to balance its budget," she said at a press conference today. According to Stewart, raising class sizes will have a negative impact not only on students' education but also on their safety.

The CTU asserts that the CPS' plan violates Chicago's Municipal Code, which requires that classrooms be built with at least 20 square feet of space for each student. With the proposed increase and including a teacher, each classroom would require a minimum of 720 square feet--a luxury many older classrooms don't have.

Stewart claimed that the lack of space could become a fire hazard, and CTU spokespeople cited the 1958 Our Lady of the Angels School fire as evidence of potential danger, which killed 92 children. In response, a CPS spokesman said that at least 90 percent of Chicago public schools have 700 square feet of space, and newer classrooms have up to 900 square feet.

But some criticize the CTU's lawsuit, deeming it a publicity stunt held by Stewart at the expense of students, eerily in time for the CTU elections. Juan Rangel, CEO of the Hispanic-rights organization United Neighborhood Organization, writing at the Huffington Post, questioned why the CTU has never raised this issue before, when overcrowding in classrooms has been an issue--especially in low-income and minority areas--for years. And still others have denounced the CTU's reluctance to increase class sizes as an act of self-interest, because if class sizes increase, teachers get cut and CTU dues are lost.

Last Days of Stewart / June 11, 2010 2:18 PM

Posturing.

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