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South Bend Empowerment Zone plans to pull teachers' union out of Navarre and Coquillard Schools

NOW: South Bend Empowerment Zone plans to pull teachers’ union out of Navarre and Coquillard Schools

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South Bend, Ind. - South Bend Empowerment Zone, the group of community leaders tasked with resolving the issues facing five schools in South Bend, announced its plan Wednesday night to pull the teachers' union out of Navarre Middle School and Coquillard Elementary School.

The announcement was part of a five year strategic plan that the South Bend Empowerment Zone has for the five schools it's trying to improve. The plan includes a $10,000 stipend for teachers.

Teachers in the audience wanted to know where that money was for teaching initiatives. Empowerment Zone officials said they were getting “last year's budget confused with this year's."

The plan drew criticism from the crowd, but one person said she will teach to the best of her abilities not for the pay but for her kids.

"I am a union family," said a Navarre teacher in the crowd. "I grew up in a union family. My mama would probably knock me right now if she knew I hadn't already signed up for the union yet, but I'll tell you this. Whether I'm union or not, I'm going to be there for our black and brown and white children."

President of the South Bend Chapter of the National Education Association (NEA) Linda Lucy said South Bend Empowerment Zone's plan is not the right idea.

"It is not a fix for what's going on in urban and rural Indiana and in our school systems," Lucy said.

Lucy said she questions the legality of pulling the teachers' union out of Navarre Middle School and Coquillard Elementary School citing a legal expert to back up her claim. She also said the move would create charter schools out of Navarre and Coquillard.

South Bend Empowerment Zone leaders said their attorney is certain pulling the teachers' union out is legal. The group wants to adequately pay teachers and said this is the first step in getting there. As for turning Navarre and Coquillard into charter schools, the group said that is simply not true.

"That's complete misinformation," said South Bend Empowerment Zone Chief Cheryl Camacho. "We are traditional public schools. We are not charter schools. We're not going to be charter schools so that's complete misinformation."

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