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Important victory undercuts principals who manipulate endorsement and certification requirements to arbitrarily lay off teachers despite their experience.

While we continue to battle CPS and the Mayor in their dangerous plan to push thousands of members and students back into schools next month, we’re pleased to report an important victory at Funston Elementary. The principal laid off a member in summer 2017, because the principal decided over the summer that all regular classroom teachers must have an ESL or Bilingual endorsement. At the time, our member had completed four out of the five classes for an ESL endorsement, but did not yet have the endorsement.

The arbitrator held that this grievance should be granted under the principles of a 2014 arbitration award involving several layoffs at Ames Middle School. The 2014 award held that: (a) a principal has the authority to require endorsements for teaching positions at the principal’s school, over and above what the Board may require; but (b) the principal cannot impose that requirement in a way that would cause tenured teachers to be laid off, at least without giving the tenured teachers a chance to acquire the endorsement.

Yet the latter is exactly what happened at Funston. The principal at Funston had received several reports from OCLE in years leading up to 2017, which encouraged the principal to have more teachers holding ESL endorsements. Instead of phasing in the requirement, the principal decided to impose a strict requirement of an ESL endorsement in summer 2017 without any notice. Our member was laid off. But under the precedent of the Ames decision, the arbitrator granted the grievance and reversed the layoff.

The arbitrator also rejected the Board’s arguments. The principal had “strongly encouraged” teachers at Funston to obtain ESL endorsements, but the Arbitrator found that this didn’t communicate that there was a deadline after which they would be laid off. The Arbitrator acknowledged, and we did not dispute, that Funston’s students needed more ESL-endorsed teachers. But the Arbitrator agreed with us that there was no need to implement this as an unforgiving immediate requirement in summer 2017.

This case strengthens our hand for a range of similar grievances—and it’s another important victory over principals who seek to manipulate endorsement and certification requirements to arbitrarily lay off teachers despite their experience.

When we fight, we win—and our unity today will continue to help us beat back every single bad decision our bosses try to foist on us!