Chicago’s big school deal: Longer days for kids, hundreds more teachers – U.S. News

By Mary Ann Ahern,

CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools have come to a rare agreement, and both sides are claiming victory.

Under the tentative agreement, hundreds of teachers — 754 of them — will be added to the payroll, primarily in elementary schools. Two hundred seventy seven teachers were already in the pipeline, but Tuesday’s agreement adds 477 more.

Additionally, the school day for all students will be lengthened.

See the original report at

Elementary school students will now attend classes for seven hours each day, up from five hours and 45 minutes. High school students will get an additional 34 minutes of instruction, with the full day now totaling seven and a half hours, announced Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale.

The agreement ensures that classes will begin as scheduled for the upcoming school year; Track E schools on Aug. 13 and regular track schools on Sept. 4.

Related: Chicago pushes longer school days as key to achievement

“A longer school day has been a goal for the last decade and a topic of other negotiations. Each time before, the interests of our students took a backseat. This agreement is a break with the past; a change that we’ve been waiting for, a change that we’ve been hoping for for a very long time and a change that is now coming,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press event at Sexton Elementary School on the city’s south side.

Sexton was one of the schools that last year voluntarily lengthened its school day.

The Chicago Teachers Union has long argued during contract negotiations for a “better school day” instead of a longer one.

“There was never anything in place to do the art, music, (physical education and) world languages,” said President Karen Lewis.

Under the agreement, those subjects are specifically added to the curriculum.

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While all championed the longer school day announcement, they stressed that it is just one element in a long string of issues.

“We often say that a full school day is a necessary condition for success. We know it’s not everything we need to do; we have curriculum, we have principal leadership we have to work on, etcetera, to make sure our schools are what they’re supposed to be, but this is a great day for the kids of the city of Chicago. This is about them and what they need to do to be successful,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

Lewis said issues pertaining to health care, salary, evaluations and discipline remain unresolved.

via Chicago’s big school deal: Longer days for kids, hundreds more teachers – U.S. News.

Bankrupt legacy – San Bernardino County Sun

Gary Walbourne

Posted:   07/24/2012 04:23:45 PM PDT

An open letter to Mayor Morris:

Well, you have your legacy in San Bernardino. You have driven the city into bankruptcy.

You have spent millions of dollars the city did not have on the San Bernardino airport, Operation Phoenix, sbX bus line, and revamping the CinemaStar. All of this was taxpayer’s money.

You pushed through the changes to the city master plan to accommodate the sbX bus line. Those changes have businesses moving out. This was brought up at a City Council meeting and you still bullied the changes through. Mr. Valdivia and Mr. Jenkins wanted to table it for further review. They wanted more time to see what impact it might bring to the city.

In one of your speeches you mentioned that sales tax was down in the city. Well, “duh.” You have driven many businesses out of town, with many more to follow.

How can you look into people’s eyes? How do you sleep at night? These are the taxpayers who voted for you and trusted you to manage their city. You are the one at several budget meetings who has said that we should trust the “professionals.” You are the one who hired Mr. McNeely to be city manager. If he was a “professional,” then why did he not address the problem years ago? He was city manager for four-plus years. Andrea Travis-Miller addressed it within two months.

And right to the end you have tried to blame Mr. Penman. He did not vote on any of the programs that you installed. You and your supporters are the ones

to blame. You have sat at the trough of public money all of your life. You probably thought that it would never run dry, but it has. Please resign.


San Bernardino

via Bankrupt legacy – San Bernardino County Sun.

Auto Mechanics Strike Over Repair Time | KSTP TV – Minneapolis and St. Paul

Auto mechanics striking five car dealerships in Duluth say an impasse with owners isn’t about money, it’s about the time they need to complete their work.

Dealers have offered raises of 2.8 percent and 2.3 percent during the four-year contract and will contribute more to the employees’ pension fund.

United Auto Workers Local 241 president Del Soiney says an increase in health care premiums is one sticking point. But an even bigger one is contract language on the amount of time technicians have to do repairs. Mechanics say the proposal decreases time for repairs and raises safety concerns.

Duluth Automobile Dealers Association attorney Steve Burton tells the Duluth News Tribune the contract language allows owners to be more competitive. The strike began June 15.

via Auto Mechanics Strike Over Repair Time | KSTP TV – Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Technicians at Minnesota Auto Dealerships Go on Strike: Underhood Service

Approximately 30 technicians and parts workers have gone on strike at auto dealerships in Duluth, MN. According to an article in the Superior Telegram, the main sticking point in contract negotiations is that the dealerships want to reduce the times technicians have to complete repairs.

Below is the article as it appeared on the Superior Telegram website.

Krenzen auto mechanics go on strike

By Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune

Published June 26, 2012

Fourteen mechanics and parts employees at the Krenzen car dealership in Duluth walked off the job Monday morning and began striking after employers failed to return to the bargaining table.

The four-year contract between United Auto Workers Local 241 and Krenzen and three Hermantown dealerships expired April 31. Subsequent talks through a federal mediator broke down in May.

The walkout at Krenzen followed a similar walkout of 17 mechanics and parts workers at Kolar Toyota on May 15. Striking mechanics now are picketing both sites.

About 30 mechanics and parts workers who are also covered by the contract remain on the job at Duluth Dodge and Kolar Chevrolet. Those dealerships, as well as Krenzen and Kolar Toyota, are represented by the Duluth Automobile Dealers Association in the contract negotiations.

“If we don’t get them back to the bargaining table, others will walk out,” said David Friske, a Krenzen mechanic who was picketing outside the dealership on Monday afternoon.

The 2.5 percent a year wage hike offered isn’t the issue, according to Alex Freeman, a striking master mechanic at Kolar Toyota. Higher employee contributions to health insurance and employees being asked to pay a surcharge for their underfunded pension fund are issues, he and union president Del Soiney say.

But the biggest sticking point is that dealerships want to reduce the times mechanics have to do repairs, veering away from industry guidelines used for years, according to the strikers.

“They want to eliminate wording in the contract so they can charge whatever they want and pay us whatever they want,” Freeman said.

Kevin Bushe, a mechanic and union steward at Krenzen, summed it up this way: “They’re not giving mechanics enough time to do the work. That’s the main deal.”

To read the entire article on the Superior Telegram website, click HERE.

via Technicians at Minnesota Auto Dealerships Go on Strike: Underhood Service.

LB looks at pension reform options – Press-Telegram

Posted:   07/24/2012 09:11:07 PM PDT

Updated:   07/25/2012 10:30:36 AM PDT

COUNCIL: Leaders told all but one would require state action.

By Eric Bradley Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — All but one pension reform option presented to the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday would require action by state legislators, underscoring the burden this city and others are facing with rising retirement costs.

That option — in which employees pick up their full employee contribution — would save the city 21 percent on its pension expenses over 20 years, according to Director of Financial Management John Gross.

The average yearly savings to the general fund would be $5.9 million, he said.

Public safety unions in Long Beach have already agreed to pay their full employee contribution and institute a lower benefits tier for new employees in landmark reforms negotiated last year that officials say will save $100 million by 2022.

Miscellaneous employees, who make up the bulk of the city’s workforce, have yet to make the same concessions, but discussions are continuing.

Mayor Bob Foster urged city leaders to focus on reforms that can be accomplished under current law rather than rely on Sacramento lawmakers, who remain divided on how to change the pension system to save money.

“There is self-help here,” said Foster.

Other more ambitious changes offered to the council that require state action include:

Equal sharing between the city and employees of total pension

costs, including covering investment losses and unfunded liabilities, to save $822 million over 20 years. The option would reduce pension costs by 46.5 percent;

Sharing standard annual pension contribution costs, with the city paying unfunded liabilities and other commitments, to save $453 million over 20 years. The option saves 25.6 percent of retirement contribution costs;

Paying new employees lowered pension benefits and increasing the retirement age to 65 to save $110million, or 6.2 percent of costs, in 20 years.

The reform options were requested in April and follow last week’s announcement that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System had gained 1 percent on its investments in the past 12 months.

The gain was far below CalPERS’ assumed rate of return, which was 7.75 percent before being lowered to 7.5 percent in March.

CalPERS’ trouble hits Long Beach more than most cities since it is the system’s largest city.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that the payments we are making this year and are projected to make next year understate the payments we need to make to get rid of our unfunded liability,” Gross said.

Long Beach has reduced its spending by $209 million since 2004 and eliminated 811 positions, yet still has a three-year deficit now estimated at $34.5 million.

With the city facing $202million in unfunded pension liabilities, Councilman James Johnson said officials and residents will have to think about what kind of city they want to have, going forward, and make difficult decisions.

“We’ve tried to cut our way out of this problem for 10 years,” Johnson said. “From my perspective, the time has come to not just address the symptoms of the problem, but to address the core of the problem.”

via LB looks at pension reform options – Press-Telegram.

Keizer Fire District accepts union contract extension | Statesman Journal |

A union contract extension offered by the Keizer Professional Firefighters Union of Keizer Fire District has been accepted.

The extension is part of an effort to reduce the rising costs of running the fire district for another year.

Keizer Fire District Board President Joe Van Meter accepted the offer by the union.

“I think this is the third time that they have taken a cut in pay to assist the fire district,” he said. “They are definitly interested in something beyond their pay.”

The first time the firefighters took a pay cut was in 2007, when career staff declined a wage adjustment to pay for additional ambulance coverage in Keizer by increasing the hours of operation of Keizer’s second ambulance. The second was in 2011, to assist in paying the legal costs of the Clear Lake Annexation proposal.

The paid-career staff offered a one-year contract extension and wage freezes with no increase in benefits. Normally, contract negotiations would have started in January of 2013 since the exisiting contract was slated to expire in June of of 2013. The extension was proposed in June and accepted in July.

Van Meter said this decision saves time and is good for the community.

Union President Captain Brian Butler said they would like to work with the district in finding solutions to staffing levels and replacing aging equipment.

Keizer Fire District is a career, volunteer and combination fire district. The union proposal represents the paid members of the firefighting/paramedic staff and captains of the organization.

via Keizer Fire District accepts union contract extension | Statesman Journal |