Case study. The Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union: Power and participation
Collective bargaining is an adversarial process. The primary concerns of the Chicago Board of Education are school governance and the preservation of its legislative mandate to provide an orderly, efficient public school system. The Chicago Teachers' Union, on behalf of its members, continues to pursue and protect the rights and benefits which it has successfully negotiated since achieving recognition in 1967. The collective bargaining process is not intended as a vehicle to accomplish educational reform. The former demands the participation of teachers in matters concerning education policy and outcomes. To the extent that teachers are not voluntarily invited to contribute to the reform process, their recourse is to rely on collective bargaining to raise their level of participation by addressing educational reform and professional problems as conditions of employment. A panel of experts identified several contemporary power issues in public education for inclusion in this research study. They were used to determine if the power relationship between the board and the union had shifted in favor of the union and to gauge if teachers, individually and collectively, had achieved recognition as professionals and partners in matters concerning education in Chicago public schools. The research involved a study of the collective bargaining history between the parties. Its singular purpose was to determine if collective bargaining and contract enforcement improved the professional status of teachers, increasing their role as participants in decisions intended to improve public school education. Collective bargaining does what it was intended to do. It establishes terms and conditions of employment and provides a process for resolving disputes and protecting the rights of teacher-members. It does not provide a mechanism for accomplishing education reform although it does permit such topics to be discussed and explored jointly. To the extent that the union continues its involvement at the local school level and by its participation in joint board-union studies, it can continue to influence the nature and pace of educational reform in Chicago public schools.
Alexander Barty McKenna,
"Case study. The Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union: Power and participation"
(January 1, 1988).
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