The CTU’s proposed structure is designed to phase in real equity for students who are routinely denied access to school nurses, social workers, other desperately needed staff. Livestream of today’s CTU announcement is at this link.
CHICAGO, Oct. 12, 2019—Rank and file teachers, social workers, school nurses, teaching assistants and other critical frontline staff bargained again with CPS beginning this morning—reporting late this afternoon that CPS had relented from its brinkmanship the previous day.
Late Friday afternoon, CPS’ bargaining team produced a prepackaged ‘final best offer’ that funded barely two dozen staff to relieve over a thousand classrooms bursting at the seams, and only $400,000 to fund four nurses or four social workers — when the district is short hundreds of each conservatively.
Today’s bargaining instead opened with CPS backpedaling from yesterday’s ultimatum—and the union presenting a structure to CPS that would allow it to phase in adequate staffing over ramps of several years. Those ramps would prioritize neighborhood schools most in need, particularly on the South and West Sides, while ensuring that ALL schools across the district will be able to meet nationally recommended staffing levels over the life of the contract.
The union’s outlined structure and ramp gives the mayor a path to keeping her campaign promises for a school nurse, a librarian and a social worker in every school — and real justice for every student in the district at the end of that ramp. The structure is designed to support the State of Illinois’ 2017 equity based school funding formula, which is currently sending just over a billion additional dollars a year to CPS to support low-income students, English language learners, special education students, and children and youth who confront high levels of trauma.
The union continues to seek a hard—and enforceable—cap to class sizes, which have exploded this year by at least 15%, to over 1,300 overcrowded classrooms. Close to 25% of elementary students are packed into classrooms that blow past CPS’ own contractually declared staffing levels, and 35% of high school students attend at least one overcrowded classroom.
“Today’s structure lays out a path for a phase-in of staffing and class size caps for all schools and begins the phase-in for students who demonstrate the most need,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “Every single school deserves a nurse five days a week, a librarian, a restorative justice coordinator, a social worker and more. And our outline today allows for that phase-in, along with training for staff that will help every school get to full staffing.”
Teachers in every other school district in Illinois can both bargain over and strike over class sizes and staffing levels. The CTU can bargain those same issues with management consent, but can only strike over wages, benefits and some working conditions. Those issues remain outstanding at the bargaining table, as well.
“We have enhanced our commitment to class size caps by adding two mechanisms that help the district get to the mayor’s promises: an equity lens that the mayor routinely invokes, and a commitment to prioritize our most disadvantaged school communities first,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.
The phase-in structure of the union’s outline is designed to provide both the equity our students have been promised and time for the district to get there.
“Our structure, instead, is designed to ease conditions quickly in the most hard-hit schools first, and lift up equity for every single school community in our city over the life of the contract,” said Gates.