It’s time for us to draw a line in the sand: Chicago educators won’t be satisfied simply with more money that will contribute to the decline of the district finances. We must demand to be compensated fairly, but also that the district redirect its priorities back to the classroom and away from poorly thoughtful out political shenanigans. The current conflict has illustrated the path to this solution—the CPS current leadership cannot and will not ever place “children first” and so more than a favorable contract, we need a board elected and overseen by the communities whose children actually attend Chicago Public Schools.
Today, a fact-finding panel tasked with reporting on a small portion of the issues involved in the on-going battle between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools appointed board and leadership will issue a report on its findings. The report recommended approximately 18.2% more teacher compensation to pay for the mayor’s proposed “Longest School Day”.
The mayor responded by once again trotting out his tired talking points that CPS has the shortest school day and year in the country. It’s not only false, at the high school level, it’s not really close. Furthermore, American teachers devote far more instructional time and students receive similar instructional hours relative to the other countries corporate education reforms often compare us unfavorably towards.
This fact-finding report that the mayor, city and district governance are tearing apart is actually a report that they themselves demanded through millions of dollars of lobbying of the state legislature.
It appears that CPS will continue to emphasize their inability to pay for basic instructional costs in the district and CTU wasn’t really interested in the fact-finding at all in the first place as CTU’s key issues such as class size and length of school day and year were not subject to either the fact finding process or required to be part of the negotiations due to state laws pushed through by CPS.
CPS will ask for either no major pay increase or massive layoffs.
CTU would be wise to redirect the conversation to teachers’ priorities—humane learning conditions for the students we teach each day. We should emphasize that CPS’ interpretation of the budget—that salaries and pensions are bankrupting the system is categorically false—those portions of the budget are at an all-time low. The budget crunch has been triggered by financial mismanagement in a system that is designed to keep educators and community as far away from management as possible.
The more I watch the process, the more I’m sure that we have no choice but to strike. This isn’t a question of money (which we could negotiate to a middle point). It’s a question of difference in philosophy. CPS believes that it should have unilateral control over all teaching and learning issues. It believes that privatization and the increasing diversion of funds from neighborhood schools and classroom level resources to magic bullet programs, turnarounds and charter schools as in its best interests. It’s not interested in providing a teacher for each classroom on the first day of each school year.
The fact finding process reinforces this notion. It demonstrates that even when CPS gets exactly what they want—a high threshold for strike, the ability to unilaterally impose many working conditions, a neutral fact-finding condition, they still cannot even be motivated to come up with a remotely thoughtful budget or proposals that will allow the independent arbiter any path out of the conflict. The solutions put forth that overworked, overstressed people to work more for no compensation or for students to face inhumane class sizes are nothing that anyone with a care for students could possibly endorse.
Since 1995, the district’s operation has revolved around a simple question, “What is in the best interest of the Mayor and his cronies?”
We must return the operating question to be “What is in the best interests of the students?”
Let me make this clear. I don’t want more money. I don’t need to work more hours. I accounted for my school related hours three years ago and found that I worked between 80-100 hours each week. I cannot extended my day and continue to serve my students in the exemplary fashion I demand of myself.
I want the Chicago Public Schools to bargain in good faith not only with the CTU and us, its members, but with students, parents and communities to the benefit of kids.
We will not negotiate for with those who would terrorize our kids, and we will compromise nothing when it comes to the best interests of their children.
In that spirit, we must redouble our efforts to remove the appoint governance structures that have poisoned our schools and our city. We must be prepared to do damage to our own families and risk our livelihoods to fight the board. We must be the barrier between our students and those who would injure them and our entire city.