Huberman: Teacher talent trumps tenure

June 23, 2010 (CHICAGO)

As many as 2,700 Chicago teachers may lose their jobs this summer because of a big budget deficit.

The Chicago Teachers Union is considering filing a lawsuit because their contract says seniority determines the order of lay-offs not teacher quality.

With a half-a-billion dollar budget deficit, 2,700 teachers will be laid off in the coming weeks. Schools' chief Ron Huberman says bad teachers should be the first to go.

"This is the right thing to do. Kids have a right, parents have a right to make sure their kids being taught by the best possible teachers," said Huberman.

Two hundred of CPS's 21,000 teachers are currently rated "unsatisfactory." Huberman says the state school code gives him the right to fire them first. The teachers' union contends their contract says seniority is all that matters.

"Our reality is our contract has a specific way of showing how these layoffs need to occur but I'm saying they don't need to occur period. We can find this money," said Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers' Union, president-elect.

Why should seniority matter more than skill?

"I think it's a cost saving measure more than it is an accurate way to determine student learning and the ability of teachers to teach," said Jackson Potter, teacher.

"I think they're encouraging teachers to buy into testing culture or leave the system. That's not what drives teachers. What drives teachers is wanting to help kids," said Katie Hogan, teacher.

Some students - who now face a fall semester with as many 35 kids per classroom - say quality should be the deciding factor.

"It should be how you teach and how students react to you. Students should have a voice in what teachers and what teachers go," said Theodore Carter, Uplift Community High School junior.

"You want a teacher who's really teaching something and gonna have an impact on students. You don't want a teacher to sit in front of a class and not make a difference," said Kasi Bowman, Gage Park High School senior.

Also drawing flak at the school board meeting-- top teachers who say they were asked to become literacy coaches awhile back who now say they are receiving layoff notices because those positions are being cut. They say they never would have agreed to leave their classrooms if they new the positions were temporary.

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