Another fruitless negotiating session undercuts Lightfoot promise of real equity for CPS students, as Mayor and bargaining team refuse to invest $1 billion in new state funds in classrooms.
CHICAGO—Over a thousand CPS classrooms are overcrowded, with students learning in hallways and closets. Most Chicago schools are lucky to have a school nurse for a single day each week. Desperate shortages of bilingual education and special education teachers for the school district’s most vulnerable students, dire resource shortages in public schools—Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s bargaining team, the same bargaining team that Rahm Emanuel used, has said no to every equity demand that the Chicago Teachers Union has presented at the bargaining table.
Instead, while the school district is reeling from a special education scandal that has robbed thousands of special needs students of federally mandated supports, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her bargaining team are seeking to claw back CTU contract language that provides those students with at least some enforceable protections, and demolish workers’ rights written into the just-expired contract.
The CTU’s equity demands mirror the campaign promises that Lightfoot made as a candidate, and the union blasted the hypocrisy of Lightfoot’s bargaining team at a livestreamed press conference today after another fruitless afternoon bargaining session.
“We’ve seen nothing on key demands that students, parents, teachers and support staff have been promised by candidate Lightfoot when she ran for mayor,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “In 2017, the state legislature created a new funding formula that prioritizes everything in our bargaining demands and invests a billion additional dollars each year into our public schools—not sufficient, but a down payment on equity. But that billion dollars a year has not yet found its way into our classrooms and our schools. It’s up to the mayor to see that those funds get into our classrooms, to fund social workers and school nurses and librarians and all of the other critical support services our students were promised. Every day that the mayor and the board of education stall, we’re another day closer to a strike.”
The CTU and CPS were scheduled to file legal briefs today with a neutral fact-finder that the union demanded and won in May. The CTU, which has made their 87 page brief public, has laid out in extensive detail transformative improvements in CPS’ annual revenue stream in the last two years. The report also details how that revenue should be used to meet contract demands that support and enshrine educational equity—and undo the harm created by almost a decade of deep budget cuts and failed education policy.
The mayor and her bargaining team have yet to tender meaningful proposals at the bargaining table. That includes Lightfoot’s failure to propose remedies to eight years of pay freezes, furloughs and deep budget cuts that have gutted wages for workers, particularly low-wage paraprofessionals. Lightfoot released her paltry wage proposal—a proposal that fails to keep pace with Chicago’s skyrocketing cost of living—not to the union but to the fact-finder and the press. Educators responded with a video that takes student needs directly to fellow Chicagoans.
For eight years, teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff sacrificed wages and working conditions under the tenure of a mayor intent on austerity and privatization, the worst national fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, and the rule of the most reactionary governor in the state’s history. But rank and file CTU members and their allies worked with state legislators to reform Illinois’ abysmal public education funding formula. Today, CPS is receiving about a billion additional dollars per year into its coffers—fiscal relief that CPS itself admits has moved the district to a position of real financial stability.
“Under the worst governor in Illinois history, the State Legislature was able to create a new school funding formula that provides real equity for public schools,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “That legislation enshrines everything that we’re demanding. Chicago has a billion dollars to lower class sizes, put nurses and librarians and social workers in our schools, offer bilingual education, support special needs students, and get our students the trauma supports they deserve. Yet the mayor and her hand-picked board refuse. There is enough money to settle this contract. And unless these equity demands are embedded in our contract, the 5th floor and CPS will ignore those promises.”