Despite over a billion dollars in annual new revenue, few improvements – and many cuts – hammer hundreds of schools on first day of school.
CHICAGO, September 4, 2019—While CPS is raking in more than $1 billion in new annual dollars this year, too many students returned to classrooms on Tuesday staffed by substitute teachers, while others returned to over-sized classes. CPS remains far short in hiring social workers, even for its anemic target. Students continue to have to time their illnesses with the one day a week a school nurse is present. Despite the state’s takeover of its special education program, the district is hundreds of special education teachers short of meeting the needs of our most vulnerable students. And despite claiming “record investments” and “supporting equity”, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS leadership cut $100,000 or more from over 200 schools.
While CPS and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have publicly expressed support to remedy these ongoing needs, Lightfoot’s bargaining team has refused to put those commitments in writing in an enforceable contract.
The CTU’s rank and file-elected delegates responded this evening by unanimously approving a strike authorization vote to be tallied September 26. The earliest CTU members could strike is on or after October 7.
“Our members can’t be bought – they are clear that their schools need the same things that students across Howard Street, Austin Boulevard and Cicero Avenue have,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “Our delegates voted unanimously today to send a clear signal to CPS and the Mayor that what’s been offered to date isn’t good enough.”
“Contrary to the mayor’s statement yesterday, our concerns are not rhetoric,” said Sharkey. “Our concerns – and our bargaining demands – are a civil rights issue built on our commitment to help transform the lives of students that depend on public education. Our students live in a city where it’s easier for them to get a gun than to get access to a social worker. That’s wrong. Our mayor and her administration at CPS can solve these issues. We’re fighting for the schools our students deserve – and our demands for the last decade are designed to truly transform our school communities. The funding is there – more than a billion dollars a year in new revenue – and we’ve documented extensively why CPS can afford our reasonable demands.”
Negotiations on a new contract between CPS and the CTU have dragged for months – and continue to show little progress on what our students deserve: adequate staffing, smaller class sizes that provide real equity, and educational justice for students and their families.
“By CPS’ own admission, we’re confronting serious shortages in staffing and resources, yet all we get are press release promises – and nothing enforceable in writing,” said Sharkey. “We know from years of bitter experience and broken promises that to win real transformation, we need enforceable language in a binding contract.”
Tonight’s unanimous vote by the CTU’s House of Delegates reaffirmed their commitment to fight for fair wages for teacher assistants and school clerks. For these paraprofessionals, over two-thirds earn wages so low their children are eligible for free or reduced school lunches under federal poverty guidelines. Yet CPS has balked at creating a better wage floor for these workers, or steps and lanes that reward paras – some of whom have masters degrees and PhDs – for the educational attainment for which teachers are afforded compensation.
“We cannot get the equity and educational justice that candidate Lightfoot promised unless those promises are enshrined in an enforceable contract by Mayor Lightfoot and CPS,” said Sharkey. “The only way to get the progressive transformation our students and families were promised is in writing. CPS has failed our school communities too many times for us to not ask for it in writing. We don’t want to strike, but if that’s what it takes to win real educational justice for our school communities and our students, so be it.”
The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.