With mayor now effectively bargaining in public, CTU proposes livestreaming negotiating sessions to give families, educators, public a seat at the table.

CHICAGO, Sept. 30, 2019—In a maneuver to publicly spin the mayor’s Friday ‘offer’ to CTU members, Lori Lightfoot announced today the creation of a website that lays out her contract proposals. The CTU is demanding that the mayor take that one step further, and begin to allow livestreaming of bargaining sessions.

CPS has repeatedly rejected our proposal for open bargaining; the mayor’s new website represents a step toward public bargaining that CPS should expand. Open bargaining via livestreaming will help stakeholders—families, educators, neighborhood residents and Chicagoans across the city—observe bargaining unfiltered, providing the transparency and accountability Mayor Lightfoot successfully ran on as a candidate.

The CTU has also flagged serious deficiencies in CPS’ latest round of proposals that go unanswered in the mayor’s new website.

The salary floor for low-wage teaching assistants:

  • CPS has at last proposed lanes for these low-wage workers, thousands of whom are Black and Latinx women who live in the communities in which they work.
  • Yet the wage floor for teaching assistants still hovers at $30,000/year, leaving two thirds of the children of these workers still eligible for free and reduced lunches under federal poverty guidelines. CPS bumped their offer on the lowest paid schedules from 3% to 4.5%. For teaching assistants, that translates to around a $1,300 annual increase, bringing their annual wage to about $30,000. For example, a starting teacher assistant I earns $28,314, and a teacher assistant II earns $29,445 in FY19. CPS’ offer to teaching assistants without an associates degree: $29,588. TAs with an associates will earn $30,772.
  • For context, a family of four with free meal eligibility is $33,475 this year—and that number will go up each year after factoring in inflation. CPS’ proposal doesn’t even get starting teacher assistant salaries to $33,000 until 2023.
  • CPS has ‘offered’ additional Lane compensation for attaining credentials (associates/bachelors degrees)—but their proposal doesn’t offer credit for a Bachelor’s degree until 2022.

“If you don’t raise the wage floor in a meaningful way, this ‘offer’ means nothing,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “These workers, who are overwhelmingly Black and Latinx women, work full time and yet would continue to be forced to live in poverty. We want wages that lift these workers OUT of poverty—and we’re nowhere near that.”

Open bargaining: This CTU demand has been on the table since January.

“This new website does not replace open bargaining, which we’d still like to see,” said Sharkey. “Those who are most impacted—including more than 25,000 teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians and the families they serve—deserve a seat at the table, and livestreaming bargaining would be a step towards that.”

The board of education is not at the table:

  • During contract negotiations in 2012 and 2016, a member of the board of education was in negotiations most of the time.
  • Yet under the Lightfoot administration, board members have been absent from EVERY bargaining session, despite the mayor’s public pronouncements that her hand-picked board represents a departure from past practices based on both their records as public servants and their positions on the issues.

“I truly wonder why the very people, the mayor’s appointed board, who continue to argue that the mayor will be fair to educators and support equity at the table are themselves not at the table,” said Sharkey. “Frankly, how can they even know what’s transpiring in our exchanges in bargaining if they’re not there? How can they truly bring the mayor’s agenda for equity and educational justice to bear if they’re no-shows?”

Prep time and unpaid labor:

  • CPS has said they’ll agree to three teacher directed prep periods versus two principal-directed prep times—even though most principals assert that teachers today do not have enough prep time.
  • Even principals have proposed that MORE, not less prep time should be given to teachers, and argued that morning prep time that CPS has taken away should be restored.
  • CPS’ continues its assault on the time educators spend preparing curricula, calling parents, grading papers, filing mandatory paperwork and more—the work required to be able to get in front of students and teach. Instead, CPS is seeking to again increase the amount of unpaid labor teachers are forced to provide simply to do their jobs.

“CPS’ entire system is predicated on unpaid labor, and they want to INCREASE that unpaid labor—while we seek to end that,” said Sharkey. “Teachers already spend upwards of 20 hours a week doing the work of educating at their dining room or kitchen tables long into the evening and over the weekend. That’s just wrong.”

Rollback of nursing privatization: The CTU has welcomed this CPS proposal as a positive first step that must be accompanied by real steps to hire in full-time nursing staff—concrete steps CPS still resists putting in writing in an enforceable contract.

  • Last year CPS failed to fill hundreds of ‘budgeted’ positions. “Budgeting” is not the same as hiring, where CPS continues to fall far short of school community needs. That’s why we want it in writing.

“Privatization of nursing services has been an epic fail for our students—particularly special education students who still are not getting the services they are entitled to under federal law,” said Sharkey. “At the same time, most school communities still go without a full-time nurse on site every day. This is a good first step—and now CPS needs to actually hire those health care professionals. They could start by agreeing to our pipeline proposals and ending their practice of posting positions so late in the year—including after the school year has started — that there literally are no workers available to fill those positions.”

In the budget versus in the contract: CPS has for years failed to make budgeted hiring targets for nurses, social workers, librarians, teachers and more.

  • Lightfoot claims that she’s moving on equity issues by budgeting for more critical frontline staff. But that claim falls flat without contract language that can be enforced—in key issues from staffing for nurses and social workers to class size limits. In fact, our schools, even with what the mayor claims is baked into the budget, still don’t have social workers, school librarians, nurses and other critical frontline staff for general education workers.
  • The overwhelming majority of nurses, social workers, school psychologists and other clinicians today almost exclusively serve special education students, leaving the rest of our students without access to these vital services. The mayor’s proposals do nothing to address this.
  • Exploding class sizes are an issue across the city. At McClellan, 35 children are packed into one in kindergarten class. Kindergarten classes at Fort Dearborn and Gresham have topped 38 students, At Sauganash, there are 40 kids in two first grade classes, and at Metcalf, 41 students are crammed into a first grade class. CPS’ ‘solution’ at schools has been to split classes between grades, meaning that teachers are responsible for educating two grades of classes at the same time.

“CPS can and has in the past bargained on class sizes, which are on average the largest in the state, just as they’ve agreed to end the privatization of nursing staff,” said Sharkey. “We need to see enforceable contract language on class sizes, so we will never again have what we confront today. This would never be tolerated in Winnetka or Schaumburg, yet CPS expects teachers to not just safely supervise but actually educate students who are literally packed into classes like sardines.”

Rank and file members of the bargaining team echo these concerns about CPS proposals and CPS’ painfully slow movement at the bargaining table.

“I have worked for CPS for almost 30 years and I have a bachelor’s degree,” said Taft High School teaching assistant and bargaining team member LaShawn Wallace. “Teachers will tell you they can’t run a classroom without the support of teaching assistants like me, yet we continue to earn low wages, even when we have advanced degrees. We’re the backbone of our school communities. We deserve living wages.”

The lack of equity for teaching assistants and school clerks also rankles CTU officer and former school clerk Christel Williams Hayes, whose daughter also works for CPS as a paraprofessional.

“We’re the people who interact most closely with family members, and we provide essential support for our teachers and our school communities,” said Williams. “Yet the mayor is proposing that I ask my own child to settle for poverty wages in this contract, at the same time that classrooms across CPS are both overcrowded and desperately short of teaching assistants. CPS has the money to do better—more than a billion dollars a year in new revenue since 2017. They need to invest those funds in our workers and our classrooms. Anything less is wrong for our students and the educators and support staff who educate and care for them.”

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.