CPS rejects assurances for a nurse in every school, or meaningful steps to address dire shortages of social workers, librarians, counselors, other frontline staff. Livestream of today’s press conference is at this link.
CHICAGO, Oct. 11, 2019—CPS handed rank and file CTU educators a half-baked and wholly deficient counter-offer today.
“Their so-called ‘final offer’ covers mandatory bargaining subjects over which the CTU can legally strike,” said CTU corporation counsel Robert Bloch. “The negotiating team of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson, neither of whom have ever been at the table, essentially passed an ultimatum and then walked out.”
Mayor Lightfoot’s bargaining team handed the ‘final offer’ over late Friday afternoon, “explained” it to bargaining team members, and then walked out.
“We barely had time to start reading it before they walked out the door,” said special education teacher and bargaining team member Katie Osgood, who spoke at an early evening press conference today to update the public on today’s developments.
CPS’ ‘offer’ will provide only one more year of guaranteed funding for Sustainable Community Schools, pay for four more social workers or four more nurses or four more special education case managers, and preserve a grossly inadequate status quo that drives desperate shortages of resources and undercuts student needs.
The deal CPS is attempting to force falls far short of real equity for students and the educators who support them, and refuses to enshrine in writing the promises of educational justice the mayor successfully ran on as a candidate.
CPS gets upwards of a billion additional dollars a year from the State of Illinois to lower class sizes, which are chronically among the largest in the state; support students in poverty, the district’s large numbers of English language learners and special education students; and address CPS’ demonstrated need for wrap-around supports for students who confront trauma and violence.
Yet CPS and the mayor have refused to commit to investing that billion dollars in real equity on the ground for school communities—not to remedy critical staffing shortages, reduce exploding class sizes or beef up resources in chronically underfunded schools.
Instead, the CPS bargaining team again brought contract language today that teachers and clinicians rejected months ago – and insisted that CPS would refuse to bargain further.
“Nearly a week before our strike deadline, the mayor has handed over a final offer that is not just inadequate, but is an insult to teachers and support staff and utterly fails our students,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “Their actions today are designed to force a strike, by refusing to put an offer forward that represents progress for students or respects teachers and clinicians.”
More than 1,300 classrooms are overcrowded this year—up conservatively at least 15% over last year, with some kindergarten classes packed with more than 40 students. Close to 25% of elementary students are stuck in overcrowded classes, and roughly 35% of high school students are in at least one overcrowded class.
Yet CPS has offered a paltry $1 million to ‘alleviate’ overcrowding in grades 4-12—barely enough to hire two dozen teacher assistants and teachers. CPS has also refused to provide enforcement language for its own proposed class size limits for children above 3rd grade.
In addition, CPS’ wage offer would still leave the majority of teaching assistants and school clerks mired in poverty in year five of the contract, and has refused to restore prep time for elementary school teachers that the previous mayor unilaterally eliminated. Those are both not just bargainable, but strikeable issues.
While CPS has agreed to reduce some of its proposed increases in co-pays for health insurance, their proposed overall increase remains the same, an ‘offer’ the union says ignores the fact that CPS health insurance costs have been flat since 2014.
CPS has also agreed to spend $400,000/year to ‘recruit, train or hire nurses, social workers and case managers’—an ‘investment’ rank and file school nurses and and social workers called laughable. That figure represents a fraction of a hundredth of a percent of CPS’ $7.7 billion annual budget. Today, the vast majority of general education students have no access to a social worker, while counselors are routinely pulled away from student support to proctor tests or substitute teach.
Rank-and-file CTU teachers, school clerks, social workers and other support staff credited Board of Education president Miguel del Valle with helping to move the needle at least marginally after he met with CTU bargaining team members yesterday. But members talked at length with del Valle on desperate shortages of teachers for bilingual students and English language learners—now close to half of CPS’ students. They also flagged the need for more social workers and counselors for students in crisis and struggling with trauma, and appealed for relief from exploding class sizes.
CPS’ ‘offer’ today continues to fail to move in any meaningful way on those critical issues.
And teachers, social workers, school nurses and teaching assistants are outraged at CPS’ ‘final offer’ on health insurance, which would raise insurance costs for the average school worker by 40%, even though CPS’ insurance costs have essentially been flat since 2014. This comes on the heels of CPS illegally implementing an insurance increase in January 2019 and refusing the union’s lawful demand to bargain over that contract-busting increase.