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  • Informational picket with press availability: 7:15 AM Mon., Feb. 4
    CICS Northtown high school, 3900 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago

CICS offers teachers 8% raise in first year of contract—if they’ll agree to cuts in social workers, counselors, student programs, puny raises for low-wage paraprofessionals.

CHICAGO—CICS management is sitting on $36 million in public education funds as a February 5 strike date looms—and the CTU learned Saturday morning that management will spend some of those dollars to hire strikebreakers.

CICS schools have hired a for-profit substitute teacher company to help line up strikebreakers. They are offering to pay temporary workers time-and-a-half—$21.75/hour—to scab. That parses out to an annual pay rate of over $40,000—a third more than CICS currently pays many paraprofessionals, some of whom earn barely $30,000/year despite having bachelors or masters degrees and years of service to CICS students.

CTU members condemned management’s strike-breaking scheme, and will mount informational pickets Monday at four unionized CICS schools starting at 6:30 AM Monday. The union has set a Tuesday strike date if no agreement is reached at the bargaining table.

Informational pickets go up at 7AM Monday at the following Chicago campuses.

“This charter operator clearly didn’t get the memo last November that union busting lost at the polls,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “The state gave charter operators more money, not less, this year—yet CICS management refuses to spend those dollars on our students’ educations. They’ll do anything to hold onto the public dollars they’re hoarding—including spending money on strikebreakers instead of lowering class sizes or making sure students get the special education services they’re entitled to. That’s despicable.”

The union estimates that CICS management could avoid a strike by spending less than 10% of the $36 million in public dollars they’ve siphoned from classrooms. That redirection of public dollars to classroom needs would save the jobs of counselors and social workers, cut class sizes, reduce high staff turn-over and the disruption it causes to students’ educations, and allow paraprofessionals to earn a living wage.

Acute staffing shortages and corporate cost-cutting at some schools has led to paraprofessionals staffing classrooms instead of subject-trained teachers—at far lower wages. CICS pays its teachers on average $8,000 less than teachers at district schools, while pay for some paras is under $29,000/year—even when they’re teaching classes in lieu of teachers.

CICS owns a series of subsidiaries called CMOs, or charter management organizations. These shell companies leave CICS schools paying multiple rounds of “management fees” that can siphon off close to 30% of the public dollars CICS receives. Top management positions exploded in the last three years, as well, from four six-figure salaries for top bosses in 2017 to 14 today. CICS CEO Elizabeth Shaw earns almost as much annually to run 14 schools as CPS CEO Janice Jackson, who oversees more than 500 schools.

“In an industry predicated on so-called ‘choice’, CICS is making one: their pockets,” said Sharkey. “Their salaries and their surplus is more important to them than their students. Their hoarded dollars are more important than the people who work for CICS schools as teachers and paraprofessionals. Many of these educators are women of color, and they’re confronting both a significant gender pay gap and work without the maternity leave benefits that CICS executives enjoy. CICS, which was once run by Bruce Rauner’s handpicked education secretary Beth Purvis, is working straight from Rauner/Trump/DeVos playbook.”

CTU members and allies will stage a series of parallel actions this week to target CICS management, the charter industry honchos who back them, and the for-profit substitute company that is collaborating with CICS bosses to line up scabs.

The full email sent to temporary workers inviting them to scab is below:

FROM: teachers2@cstnchicago.com

Hi [snip],

I hope this email finds you well.

As you may be aware, there is an anticipated teacher strike at Civitas Schools scheduled to begin on February 5th, 2019. CSTN has been requested to staff classrooms for four campuses in order to provide stability and engaging learning experiences for students during this time.

CSTN supports Chicago teachers in their efforts to secure pay raises, smaller class sizes, improved Special Education resources, and better wages for paraprofessionals. To meet student needs during the strike, CICS will be offering time-and-a-half pay ($21.75/hour) for guest teaching at CICS Wrightwood, CICS Northtown, CICS Ralph Ellison, and CICS ChicagoQuest. Please note that accepting these assignments may entail crossing picket lines upon arrival at the school.

If you wish to teach at one of these campuses during the strike, please follow the steps outlined below:

When you log into Aesop, you will see two-day assignments listed as follows: “Strike On Call CICS Wrightwood,” “Strike On Call CICS Northtown,” “Strike On Call CICS Ralph Ellison,” and “Strike On Call CICS ChicagoQuest.”

Select an open assignment. If the strike is extended, we may reach out to request additional days. If the strike is cancelled, we will notify you right away.

Please direct any questions to our Operations Team at teachers2@cstnchicago.com.

Thank you for all you do,

The CSTN Midwest Team