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CEO Brizard,
 
Thank you for sharing your concerns about the upcoming CTU strike authorization vote. I think a teacher’s perspective may help you better understand why we will overwhelmingly vote yes to the authorization this week.
 
Though you often tell me how much you respect me and how much you support me, Board policies and CPS contract proposals do neither. If I felt respected and supported, in actions not words, if the thousands of other CTU members felt respected and supported, we would be at a very different place in our relationship, wouldn’t we.
 
Unfortunately, the fact that you feel that you and CPS respect and support teachers and staff only serves to highlight how massively disconnected CPS leadership and the Board of Education are from classroom teachers, career service personnel, and the students we serve every day.
 
When my CEO cannot be bothered to attend a single session in negotiations, a process for which dozens of teachers and career service employees have gladly volunteered, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When selective enrollment schools serving 1% of CPS students receive 24% of TIF funding spent on schools and I work in a neighborhood school, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When CPS contract proposals indicate that experience, education, and training are unimportant or even undesirable, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When 4% of my pay is taken (for the rest of my career – not just for one year) even though the Board budgeted for it, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When charter schools dump their least desirable and least successful students into my neighborhood school, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When CPS attempts to mandate a scripted curricula that has nothing to do with the needs of my students, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When CPS closes 100 schools since the start of my career with threats to close 100 more, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When privatized, non-union charter schools receive a disproportionate share of CPS capital funds and I work in a neighborhood school, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When entire swaths of the city of Chicago are left without access to a neighborhood school, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When Board policy terminates or pushes out the door thousands of our most valuable and veteran teachers (I’ll be one of those some day), I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When CPS completely ignores my Union’s positive agenda and its vision for publicly funded public education (The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve), I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When CPS takes enormous pension holidays and then complains about later balloon payments required to make up for it, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When the Board asks me to invest 15-20% more mandatory hours in exchange for 2% more pay, I do not feel respected or supported. (By the way, a recent U of I study found that Chicago teachers average about 58 hours of work per week.)
 
When students coming in to my high school have never had the opportunity to take a music class in elementary school, I do not feel respected or supported.
When my field trip request to a CPS sponsored event is rejected by CPS, I do not feel respected or supported. (Yes, this has actually happened.)
 
When I am paid inaccurately over and over and over again and invest hours and hours into getting it corrected, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When CPS has offered teachers for years an embarrasingly meager 250 MB of online storage and a decades old communication and collaboration platform I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When I cannot access GradeBook or Impact for hours on end, or I wait 13 minutes for a computer to boot up, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When wave after wave of unproven education reform initiatives du jour are foisted upon teachers, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When the temperatures hit 100 degrees on the third floor of our building at the beginning and end of the school year and over the summer, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When the district is so unstable it cannot even keep its most senior leaders in place much less retain outstanding teachers, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When grades are due a week before school ends, or we spend days on end on high stakes exams, or when other large portions of learning time are wasted but CPS wants to extend the school day and year without improving it or funding it, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When counselors and special education teachers are woefully overworked with caseloads far beyond those recommended by respective professional organizations, I do not feel respected or supported.
 
When the Board dictates without discussion decisions on important issues like a longer day, a longer year, the number of classes I teach, the number of students I teach, class sizes, narrow test-prep curricula, etc., I do not feel respected or supported.
 
I am sure other teachers and employees could add on to this short list and make it a long one, but for the sake of brevity I will stop here.
 
Thank you for your respect and support and for sharing your concerns, but I have no choice but to vote yes. Though I expect to be fired or have my school closed or turned around or privatized or transformed or whatever else CPS intends to do to neighborhood schools next, I am confident I will still be teaching in CPS long after you and your team have moved on to greener pastures.
 
Sincerely,
Eric Skalinder, NBCT
Kelly High School