Yet again, the mayor’s team at CPS has shown that they want CTU’s agreement without engaging us in collective bargaining. CPS reached out to CTU in December, shortly before the Winter Break, asking us to meet with them to get our “feedback” on the SY 23-24 calendar. We informed them that we were willing to meet to bargain with them over the calendar due to the repeal of section 4.5 of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. The mayor’s attorneys continued to deflect any bargaining obligation and said they’d “consider our input.” Their misinterpretation of their duty to bargain our calendar is another example of how the mayor’s team makes even the simplest endeavor impossible.
In addition to the unreasonableness of the mayor’s team, our survey findings show there is little member consensus on key aspects of the calendar.
There are several ways that CPS’ latest calendar aligns with what a majority of members want, according to our member survey, which is still open. But with more than 2,800 responses so far, which is a very high response rate, it’s also clear that member sentiment is varied in some key areas.
For example, there is strong member sentiment that the first semester should end before the Winter Break — but that is largely incompatible with breaking up the first and second semesters into equal numbers of weeks.
There are several elements of the CPS draft calendar that are consistent with the survey results so far. Some of them, according to the survey, were top priorities for members.
There are other elements of the calendar that members care about that this CPS draft calendar does not address, although the survey shows that these are not universally seen as top-tier priorities.
In other words, it’s complicated.
1. Start Date. According to our member survey, a strong majority of members who responded want an August (pre-Labor Day) student instruction start date, which this CPS draft includes. Members who responded indicated this was a top priority.
2. Report Card Pick-Up. According to our member survey, about half of members who responded said they do not care about whether Report Card Pick-up for elementary and high schools is on the same or different days, and the other half is just about evenly split between those two options. The CPS draft calendar has both — on the same day in the fall and on different days in the spring. An overwhelming majority of members who responded on the survey cared more about Report Card Pick-Up days being scheduled much closer to the end of the quarter (compared to this year’s SY 22-23 calendar), which this CPS draft does, than having elementary and high school Report Card Pick-Up days on different days. Members who responded indicated that having Report Card Pick-Up near the end of the quarter was a top priority.
3. Distribution of Weeks. According to our member survey, a majority of members who responded prioritized (as a top-tier issue) having the first semester ending before Winter Break over having equal weeks in a quarter, which is the trade that this CPS draft makes. It would be really hard to accomplish both things. A strong majority of members who responded to the survey care more about having no student instruction the week of Thanksgiving break than equal distribution of pay on paychecks (favored by about one third of respondents), which this CPS draft seemingly favors.
4. Breaks. According to the survey, about half of members who responded cared more about having M-F off for breaks than having a PD day after the break, but opinion is more split on this than other topics. This draft favors M-F breaks staying the same. And we have continued to advocate with CPS that PD days may be more useful for educators to prepare for student instruction if they occur after breaks. CPS says that they will take that under further consideration.
5. Thanksgiving. Members who responded to the survey indicated that having no student instruction the week of Thanksgiving was a top-tier priority, which the CPS draft calendar does. However, the CPS draft calendar is confusing because it shows Monday through Wednesday as “green,” which indicates non-attendance days for students, but it was unclear whether CPS expected members to work that week. When we met again with CPS this week, CPS said that members would not have to work any days Thanksgiving week, however, that does mean that checks would again be short for that period. Members are not being shorted pay overall over the course of the year, but that check would still be smaller over that holiday. Members who responded also prioritized more equal distribution of paid time on checks. We have continued and will continue to press CPS to update their antiquated payroll practices and systems so that they can accurately distribute pay evenly to mitigate hardship around unpaid break time. CPS claims that it would take them at least 18 months to update their payroll systems. Well, maybe they should have started that process years ago, as payroll continues to be a major source of frustration among our members and members of other unions representing CPS workers.
6. Length of Year and Religious Holidays. According to the survey, an overwhelming majority of members who responded do not want the school year to go long into June to add more PD days to the calendar, and a strong majority of members who responded do not favor lengthening the school year into June in order to add non-Christian holidays into the calendar for everyone. Having a more compact calendar that did not extend far into June received the highest prioritization of all the elements included in the survey among members who responded. We understand, and we must find solutions for our non-Christian members (including PSRPs) to equitably observe their religious holidays. It continues to be unacceptable and unfair that teachers must pay the cost of a substitute/guest teacher in order to observe a non-Christian holiday day, while PSRPs are not provided access to religious holidays outside of taking a benefit day. We know how important this is to impacted members, and we think CPS is starting to recognize how important it is too, so we will continue to press them to work with us to change the process.
7. Professional Development. According to the survey, a majority of members who responded want individual schools to have more ability to flex PD time, and they favor this more than moving the beginning-of-year PD days to different dates. This CPS draft does not address additional PD time during the school year or additional flex, for which we will keep advocating. However, half of members who responded want a PD day before coming back from a break. This CPS draft keeps the PD day (School Improvement) on December 22 before Winter Break as opposed to moving it to the Monday afterward. We can acknowledge that attendance is difficult for everyone that Friday. However, the CPS draft does move the spring PD day (School Improvement day) to April 1 after Spring Break, meaning educators will have a day after the break without students to get more prepared for the final quarter. We think that change makes sense for instruction.
We will continue to engage with CPS and listen to our members as CPS’ process continues.
We know that no calendar will solve everyone’s needs. However, your input is critical as we continue to aim for a calendar that serves as many members and needs as possible, so watch for additional information as this process continues!
Jen Johnson (she/her)
Chief of Staff