An update on bargaining last week: We presented on issues that include REACH—proposing that highly rated (Proficient and Excellent), tenured members should be able to skip an evaluation cycle. We also presented moving to 25 steps for pay scales, and improving base pay for PSRPs and creating lanes for these workers. CPS continues to fail to provide substantive responses on these issues, or on prep time—where they’ve refused to move off their proposal to give principals control over three out of five prep periods a week. We continue to believe that this is unacceptable.

CPS salary offer: Use the graphics in this email to understand—in context—the CPS salary offer. Click on all of the graphics in this email to see larger versions—and share these with your colleagues. Every member deserves to know the real facts about CPS’ so-called offer and budget health. You can also view and share a version of this update on our website.

Paraprofessional Salary: CPS wants this over­whelm­ing­ly Black and Brown female workforce to continue to live in near or actual poverty, with stagnant wages and no recognition of educational attainment—including no lanes, even though we have PSRPs with BAs and even MAs and PhDs. Currently, CPS is proposing to pay wages that will leave the children of 2/3rds of our PSRPs eligible for free or reduced lunches under federal poverty guidelines. Click on the graphic on the right.

What’s the CPS offer for PSRPs?

Click on the graphic below.

Next year, the average teacher assistant will STILL earn less than $36,000 a year. And under CPS’ wages, thousands of our members CANNOT afford to live in over half of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Over 1,100 of our PSRPs are paid wages so low they literally cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment in ANY Chicago neighborhood. Check out that graphic below right.

To put this in real, everyday terms, one of our PSRPs mapped out her take-home pay versus her monthly expenses: her mortgage, car note, insurance, gas, utilities, food, childcare expenses, phone and other household costs. Her wages versus her expenses leave her in the hole every month by nearly a thousand dollars. Check out her video breakdown at this link. And see the chart on the right for a breakout of who—and who cannot—afford to live in our city among our members.

Teacher pay: CPS spin about teacher salary and their ‘raise’ offer distorts key details, including a health insurance proposal that raises rates AND caps and eliminates LMCC savings, even though CPS health insurance costs have essentially been FLAT since 2014. CPS ‘offer’ for wages and benefits also fails to take into account eight years of oppressive austerity that has seen our wages frozen, our contractually agreed upon raises cancelled, and our workers furloughed.

How does this play out in real life? Our COLAs between 2012 and 2019 have not kept pace with the CPI—the rate of inflation in the region. Check out the graphic on the left.

On top of that, CPS used its self-inflicted fiscal crisis as an excuse to starve us of wages—even as the cost of living in Chicago has risen every year.

The tide has turned: CPS has a billion dollars a year in new revenue and they can afford our contract demands—including our salary demands. We should not be forced to trade class size for salary increases or wrap-around services for salary increases.

Between 2011 and 2018, the CPI-U—the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers—for shelter in the Chicago metro area rose 19.2% compounded. That’s 7.2% more than the COLAs that CTU bargaining unit employees were granted across that same period of time. CPS must address this at the bargaining table in any wage proposal.

It is ALWAYS about working and learning conditions: Wages and benefits are a huge issue and we are eager to get an offer that respects all our members. CPS’ current offer continues to fall far short. Our demands are larger than wages and benefits—and those demands directly affect our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions.

  • Too many of our classrooms are overcrowded.
  • We have desperate shortages of school nurses, social workers, counselors, school psychologists and other critical frontline staff.
  • We need more teachers—and we need more PSRPs to work as TAs and support staff in our schools. So far, while CPS acknowledges that we need more boots on the ground in our schools, their bargaining team has rejected our staffing proposals.
  • CPS also wants to undercut our right to grieve REACH evaluations.
  • They want to take away our prep times.
  • They want the right to force more testing on our classrooms and undercut other rights that we have already won.

If we get raises in a contract but no relief in these other issues, we will still be no better off.

CPS CAN afford our demands: On August 28, the board of education passed the largest budget in CPS history: $7.7 billion dollars. Where does this revenue come from? Largely from new state resources we fought for in Springfield.

When we combine new CPS revenue from the State’s equity-based school funding formula, State pension relief (see the graphic above right), funds from CPS’ local transit TIF, State early childhood funds, and CPS’ portion of local property taxes—which are growing along with skyrocketing housing prices—CPS has over $1.4 billion in new revenue in its coffers for 2020 over 2019. See the graphic below.

Fighting for the schools Chicago students deserve: A new contract must be better for students, their families AND CTU members, and we will continue to demand that CPS and Mayor Lightfoot put their promises in writing.

Our students’ families rely on us to not just educate their kids but tend to their emotional growth and social needs. We trust that they believe us when we say we’re fighting for the schools our students deserve.

We got into this profession because we’re passionate about improving the lives and futures of our students. We owe it to those students—and we owe it to ourselves—not to settle for less than what we need and what we have every right to demand.

We’re fighting to make major gains in this contract that truly transform our schools. That’s what we were promised by CPS and the mayor who controls our schools and appoints the board of education. And that’s what we’re demanding at the bargaining table. In writing. In an enforceable contract. With real accountability from CPS.

Talk with your coworkers, build up power in your schools, and get ready to do what’s necessary—including striking, if it comes to that.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
President, Chicago Teachers Union