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Dear sisters and brothers:

Thursday at Morgan Park High School, Mayor Lori Lightfoot leaked news of the factfinder report, saying he sides with her. WTTW has also leaked a copy of the report. Siding with Mayor Lightfoot and CPS means we will continue to have the state’s highest class sizes, our schools will continue to be starved of nurses and librarians and social workers, and the mayor will ignore her promises for educational justice.

The Union and CPS received the factfinder report Wednesday evening under strict embargo until Sunday—an embargo the mayor broke Thursday. Factfinding is a legally required step in the negotiations process that Rahm and the state legislature imposed on the CTU in 2011. To refresh your memory, the CPS factfinder only impacts members of the CTU who work for CPS—in a law written by Jim Franzcek, lead attorney for mayors Daley, Emanuel and, now, Lightfoot.

We’re scheduling an all-member meeting on August 20 at CTU headquarters and a teletown hall—with a new vendor—on August 25 to map out next steps.

In the meantime, we’ve summarized some of the report’s more outrageous findings at this link, but let me be blunt. CPS’ factfinder agrees with the mayor’s bargaining team: throw an inadequate wage proposal at educators and literally ignore everything else needed in our school communities to provide our students with a quality education.
Predictably, the factfinder—who wrote that “Fact-Finding is, and should be, an extremely conservative process”—has chosen to ignore the obvious:
  • Chicago Public Schools has gotten a BILLION dollars annually in new revenue from the state to provide wrap around services and special education, fund lower class sizes and offer bilingual education.
  • Despite this new revenue, Chicago Public Schools still consistently has the largest class sizes in the State of Illinois and continues to operate its special education program in severe breach of the law.
  • Too many of the young people who attend the Chicago Public Schools enter our school communities suffering from profound and severe trauma from the persistent violence in our neighborhoods.

Further, the factfinder refused to consider the 21 proposals the union submitted—meaning our students’ learning conditions and our working conditions do not matter to the fact finder or Mayor Lightfoot’s negotiating team. The factfinder sided with the lawyers from CPS and ruled on only three issues: wages, health insurance costs and the length of the contract.

Simply put, Lightfoot, her negotiating team and their factfinder have taken the hardline position that it is okay to have over 40 kindergarteners in a classroom in Englewood. The factfinder and the mayor’s team find it acceptable for schools to do without a school nurse, a school social worker, a school psychologist or a librarian.

This report does nothing but codify inequitable and unjust school policy.

Lightfoot’s factfinder also agreed to a five-year contract to “avoid the expiration of the Contract during the campaign period preceding the mayoral and School Board elections”. He is, in short, effectively protecting the mayor from the political consequences of bad policies in the school district she controls, including her collaboration with Senate President John Cullerton this spring to derail legislation to create an elected, representative school board and restore our bargaining rights.

Candidate Lightfoot promised us she would transform our school communities. We need her to keep her promise.

Be clear: Mayor Lightfoot has a choice.

Mayor Lightfoot can choose to staff our school communities with school psychologists, school social workers and school counselors to help our student process the ongoing and persistent trauma of the unyielding violence in our city—or she can continue to privilege wealthy developers with obscene TIF giveaways.

Chicagoans voted for a candidate who said she would transform our public school communities by making the district’s special education program whole. Yet Mayor Lightfoot accepts the fiction of this factfinder, saying “He sides with us.”

We renew our call to her to join us in providing the resources and the guarantees she promised as a candidate—in an enforceable contract—to strengthen our school communities.

She must pull out of big business giveaways like the Lincoln yards deal and redirect those public TIF dollars to our schools. She must surplus record TIF proceeds to our school communities. And, she must reinstate the corporate head tax that Rahm eliminated; these businesses are reaping the benefits of Trump’s tax breaks for the wealthy, and they can more than afford it. She must stop privileging bankers over school workers and students, by refinancing CPS’ debt.

They can bargain with us to a better position on all of these issues—and we are bargaining today. Or they can use this legal fiction of a factfinder process as an excuse to continue to reject our demands at the table for the schools our students and educators deserve.

If the Mayor and CPS choose the latter path, Lori Lightfoot will be rolling back every promise for transformation she made in her campaign—a campaign built on our movement’s demands for real educational justice for our schools, our students and the educators who work tirelessly to support them.

If we don’t get the resources and the guarantees she promised—in an enforceable contract—at the bargaining table, we’ll win it from the picket line and on the streets, because we are not settling for less.

For breaking news and information, keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter feed. Check our website for resources to help get ready for the next phase in a battle for the future of our livelihoods, our students and our schools.

We lived through eight years of austerity and disrespect under the rule of, perhaps, the worst mayor in Chicago’s history. Our movement made it impossible for that mayor to serve another term. We were promised transformation and partnership by his replacement. Our movement was promised justice. We will not settle for less. And we will fight for that justice, because when we fight, we win. See you on August 20.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
CTU President