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At the urging of our union and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois General Assembly included in a package of pandemic relief legislation a provision that allowed PSRPs to collect unemployment benefits during summer months where they were not working in 2020 and 2021. This applied to both our CPS division and charter division members.

A number of charter PSRPs who had elected to receive deferred pay — spreading their compensation for 10 months of work across 12 months of the year — had their applications for summer benefits denied. In issuing the initial denials, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) cited the PSRPs’ deferred paychecks as evidence that they were not unemployed for the period of time for which they would be receiving benefits, and were therefore ineligible.

The Union provided these members legal assistance, and appealed their cases to the IDES Board of Review. Earlier this month, the Board of Review issued the first decision in these cases, and agreed with our argument that charter PSRPs should not have been deemed ineligible solely because they had elected to spread out their wages for 10 months to be received across 12 months — including two months they were not working.

The appeals still pending with IDES on behalf of the other charter PSRPs deal with the same issue, and we anticipate that the IDES Board of Review will apply the same reasoning in deciding those cases.

Also…An important reminder for all teachers and staff regarding substitute assignments:

We know that CPS is experiencing a severe substitute teacher shortage. This is exacerbated by the lack of safe working conditions in the buildings.

Teacher assistants and SECAs are not to be utilized as substitutes. They are only permitted to cover a class for up to 60 minutes, and only in the case of a temporary emergency. The lack of substitutes does not constitute such a “temporary emergency.”

Many special education teachers have reported being assigned to act as a substitute teacher and/or provide class coverage. Article 27-3 of our Agreement with the Board of Education clearly states that ancillary class teachers should not be used as substitutes absent a true emergency and that, even then, special education teachers should be the “very last to be called after available certificated non-teaching personnel have been assigned.”

Additionally, be advised that counselors are only supposed to be assigned duties as specified in Article 20-2.6. This does not include substitute teaching or class coverage.

If the above guidelines are not being followed at your school, please make sure that this issue is an agenda point for your next PPC meeting. If you need further assistance with a persistent problem, please reach out to your field rep or organizer.