This was our first week of bargaining with CPS! As the Sun-Times reported, our negotiations opened with optimism as our 60+ rank-and-file members—the largest bargaining team in our union’s history—presented our ambitious proposals to CPS. We’re ready to deliver on these proposals to transform Chicago Public Schools. Our first member-led presentations to CPS were about:

  • A library and librarian in every school
  • Robust arts education
  • Green schools
  • A better school day for elementary and middle school students
  • Investment in early childhood education

In each of the presentations, our bargaining team members shared the concrete policy proposals our union developed over the last six months as well as lived experiences from our schools, the kind that can only come from educators in the classroom and in our schools. CPS was slow to respond to our demands and had no counters at our 2nd session on Tuesday. Like last time, they have an extended team of bargaining members.

Team CTU at CPS Central Office on the first day of bargaining: Financial Secretary Maria Moreno, Vice-President Jackson Potter, Counsel Thaddeus Goodchild, Rank and File Teacher Faith Mitchell, President Stacy Davis Gates, Counsel LaToyia Peterson, Rank and File Teacher Nina Hike, Counsel Robert Bloch, Grievance Department Director Zeidre Foster, Recording Secretary Christel Williams.ABOVE: Team CTU at CPS Central Office on the first day of bargaining: Financial Secretary Maria Moreno, Vice-President Jackson Potter, Counsel Thaddeus Goodchild, Rank and File Teacher Faith Mitchell, President Stacy Davis Gates, Counsel LaToyia Peterson, Rank and File Teacher Nina Hike, Counsel Robert Bloch, Grievance Department Director Zeidre Foster, Recording Secretary Christel Williams.

Check out the slides from our bargaining presentation here.

A Librarian in Every School: In 2012 there were 450 librarians in CPS. Today there are only 80 — which means 80% of students in CPS attend schools without a librarian. The vast majority of students attending schools without a library and librarian are Black students.

During our presentation to the CPS team, “Having a librarian in every school is necessary for quality education, and it’s a priority in our contract,” said Nora Wilste, librarian at King College Prep High School.

Our proposals include a librarian in every school and also provide the support and resources needed to rebuild the school library system in CPS, including $30 per student for library materials and 10 central office staff to coordinate school library support across the district and ensure equity.

Arts Education: Only 10% of CPS elementary schools offer arts education. In 90% of the schools that do not offer arts, 85% of the students are Black. Every student deserves access to the arts. Our proposals here include clearer language for arts specific equipment, workstations and technology, as well as arts specific professional development for those educators. Our proposals also include two funded arts positions for elementary/middle schools and support for students with IEPs in arts courses.

“A school day that centers joy is one with robust arts programming and support for our students,” said Erin Lynch, a teacher at Jahn School of Fine Arts who presented during bargaining.

After our presentation, CPS said they agree: art teachers are not “prep time” teachers. Every student in every school in Chicago deserves the kind of enrichment that arts educators provide. And, we have an expectation that their agreement will mean a multi-dimensional investment in arts education.

Green Schools: Years of underinvestment in Chicago’s neighborhood schools that serve Black and Brown communities have made many CPS buildings unsafe. Right now, CPS has no real plan for renovating or replacing these buildings. CPS schools are also contributing to the pollution in our school communities, producing yearly emissions equivalent to 900 rail cars worth of coal. During bargaining, Lauren Bianchi, who teaches social studies at George Washington High School, shared pictures of dilapidated areas in her school as an example of the kinds of repairs and structural problems many schools face.

Repairing and retrofitting the many schools that need better facilities is an opportunity for livable, green, union jobs for students, parents, and community members.

Our Green Schools proposals would mean all CPS schools will have lead pipes removed, toxins eliminated, and windows fixed for ventilation. They also include 25 schools getting kitchen equipment for healthy and culturally relevant lunches, starting 5 new Green Technology CTE programs, and installing solar panels in 50 schools across the city.

Early Childhood Education: This is students’ earliest educational experience, which means students need deep support, especially when it comes to social-emotional learning. The needs of our students right now far outweigh the resources available: we need support for every student, especially the support our PSRPs provide. We also need to make sure we protect student development by removing standardized testing for pre-K through 2nd-grade students and removing additional evaluations for pre-K through 2nd-grade teachers.

“This contract is a chance for us to define what early childhood education looks like for our district,” said early childhood educator, Diane Castro. “What our students need in the space is different, and this contract allows us to advocate for what they need.”

A Better School Day for Elementary and Middle School Students: A better school day is about students having the space they need to develop and grow. Our members know better than anyone what this support must look like on a daily basis.

“Middle school is a critical point of human development,” said Ravenswood Middle School teacher Kimberly Toomey as she presented our middle school demands to transform and improve the school day. Our students deserve a team that truly collaborates to support their growth, and full extracurriculars that allow them to explore as they grow. This is why our proposals for middle school emphasize support for greater collaboration across departments and meaningful electives for every student at every school in Chicago.

At the elementary school level, the foundation of education, our members know students need more time for play, support, and a curriculum that’s for every aspect of their growth.

“Reading is fundamental for all children — we need a better elementary school day that gives students the individualized attention, curriculum, and support they deserve,” said Kim Walls, a special education teacher at Fulton Elementary. “Today we got a chance to show CPS what that could look like in practice.”

With this contract negotiation, we have an extraordinary opportunity to get it right in our schools.

We expect to hear from CPS regarding their counter proposals and their response to our proposed bargaining calendar soon.

he 60+ rank-and-file members who participated in our Tuesday bargaining session with CPS, the largest public bargaining team in CTU historyABOVE: the 60+ rank-and-file members who participated in our Tuesday bargaining session with CPS, the largest public bargaining team in CTU history.

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MUST WATCHCheck out what President Stacy Davis Gates said when asked about how to fund a transformational school district.

Winning these proposals will only be possible once we come together to push CPS and state lawmakers to fully fund Chicago schools. Here are some of the ways you can help make this happen, and make our bargaining a success:

Save the Date May 15: Lawmakers in Springfield Need to Hear From CTU Members

Our contract demands require leadership from our governor and state legislators, too. CTU is heading to Springfield again on May 15th to lobby lawmakers to fully fund the evidence-based education formula for Chicago schools. We need the state to fund CPS as we negotiate for the schools our students deserve. Sign up to join us here. Members should be prepared to take a personal business or zero day to attend- a difficult sacrifice to make, but a step that can help protect us and our students from the sacrifices forced on our schools if Springfield refuses to adequately fund education!

Upcoming Regional Meetings

Every member across the city must participate in this transformative contract negotiation. Build solidarity in your network by coming to one of our regional meetings to learn more about the priorities in our contract campaign and what matters when it comes to organizing in your school.

Sign up here to attend a session in May.

 

Activate Your CAT Team: Circulate the CTU Contract Commitment Petition!

From our contract negotiations to the elected school board races in November, we are 30,000 members strong and transforming Chicago schools. Delegates & CAT members across the city are circulating a pledge that shows our power and commitment to this contract in every building. Sign the pledge for the contract and school board that our students deserve! If you want to sign on but haven’t seen the pledge in your school yet, contact organizing@ctulocal1.org

Get a Button For You and Your Co-Workers: Ask Me About My Contract

Buttons that say -- ask me about my contract!

Everyone needs to know about this transformative contract. With these buttons, you can let everyone know they can ask you about what matters in this contract. Need a button for you or your coworkers? Be in touch — email organizing@ctulocal1.org