What Did You Learn in School Today Johnny? Oh, That’s Right, There’s No School…

Darrell VanDeusen
Darrell VanDeusen

So, school is out for children in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) – the nation’s third largest school district – and it looks like it will be for the foreseeable future. The Chicago Teachers Union continues to strike and has stated that, despite the offer of a huge 16% pay increase over four years, the parties are far apart in reaching a contract. It has been 25 years since there was a teacher strike in Chicago.

Even more interesting, the union has accused Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – President Obama’s former chief of staff – of mischaracterizing the tone of the negotiations.  Responding to comments from the Board of Education and the Mayor that the parties were close to resolving the outstanding issues, a union spokesperson said: “the Chicago Teachers Union has 49 articles in its contract. To date, we have only signed off on six of them . . . The Chicago Public Schools has made proposals to change nearly every article. It is not accurate to say both sides are extremely close—this is misinformation on behalf of the Board and Mayor Emanuel. We have a considerable way to go. This is a fact they cannot deny.”

Just before the strike, the CPS issued a document summarizing key features of the four-year proposal:

•           Wages. CPS is offering a 16 percent average salary increase over the term of the pact. The increase includes cost of living increases, lane increases, and modified step increases. The package is expected to cost the city $320 million over the next four years.

•           Job Security. Teachers affected by school closings would be presented with various options including: receive a job at a school receiving their students; move to a reassigned teacher pool for five months; receive a three-month lump sum severance payment; or, be placed in a quality teacher force pool in which teachers who apply for positions will be entitled to an interview and explanation if not hired.

•           Teacher evaluations. CPS is proposing joint implementation with CTU of a new evaluation system based on performance standards and student growth requirements.

•           Sick leave and short-term disability. CPS wants to eliminate banking of sick days, but proposes a new short-term disability program including paid maternity leave.

•           Pensions. CPS will continue to cover up to 7 percent of each employee’s 9 percent pension contribution. The district also proposes the creation of a joint legislative commission with CTU to work on pension reform issues.

•           Health. CPS proposes freezing all employee health care contributions for single and couple plans with a small increase in family contributions pegged at $20 per pay period and a small bump in emergency room copayments.

•           Longer school day. CPS hopes to extend the elementary school day to seven hours and the high school day to 7.25 hours.

Put aside the political sound bites coming from both parties as to what all this means. The unfortunate fact is that the children of Chicago are the victims here. But the union’s constituency is not school children, and while many, many teachers do put kids first (full disclosure – I am the product of two public school teachers), that doesn’t mean union leadership feels the same way.  Waiting for Superman? Just keep waiting kids. It’s only your life.



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