As Chicago teachers union officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office were assuring Chicagoans that they had reached an agreement Friday afternoon on their contractual dispute, a judge a hundred miles north in Madison, WIsconsin struck down as unconstitutional that state’s hugely controversial law banning collective-bargaining rights for public employees. As I write, the text of the judge’s decision is not yet available, but since a ban on public-employee collective bargaining exists in many states, either the judge found new grounds to declare the law unconstitutional, or he declared it so for reasons not related to the constitutionality of such prohibitions. Nor is it yet clear whether his decision immediately reinstates the old law, or whether the effect of his decision is on hold until a higher court rules on what is sure to be the state’s appeal.
Things are clearer down in Chi-town. There, the union has apparently agreed to a teacher-evaluation system in which student test performance constitutes a percentage of that evaluation, though not so high a percentage as the mayor initially demanded. For his part, the mayor has apparently agreed to the union’s demand that teachers laid off when their schools have been shuttered should have first call on new hirings in other schools – though the union has agreed that only teachers with positive evaluations will be on that call list at all. The unions has said it will submit the contract to a vote of its delegates on Sunday, with the reopening of schools anticipated for Monday. At which point, the situation in Wisconsin will either be clearer, or not.