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Christel William-Hayes (second from right) is the CTU Recording Secretary and a PSRP for life.

Pay, benefits, lane changes top list of concerns for these vital school workers

PSRPs are the bedrock of our school communities during normal times. But during the COVID-19 crisis their dedication and support for our families is more important than ever.

In April, I was privileged to help lead a CTU PSRP Tele Town Hall, during which we addressed some of the unique challenges distance learning poses for these vital school workers. Following are answers to pressing questions asked during the town hall.

Will we continue to get paid regardless of how long the school shutdown lasts?
The Union has a written agreement from CPS that all union members–including PSRPs–will continue to be paid our contractual wages and benefits as long as the school shutdown lasts for this school calendar.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) also has directed CPS to negotiate any work rule changes with the Union so, if your administration is asking you to perform duties you think are inappropriate, reach out to your CTU field rep. Your Professional Problems Committee (PPC) is also supposed to be meeting twice a month so bring any problems to your PPC. That’s a good resource–please take advantage of it.

What happens if the school closure extends into the fall? Will there be layoffs or furloughs?
We have a written agreement from CPS that covers this school year, but we have no agreements about summer school or next year. The lost school days will be considered “Act of God days” so the district will not lose any state revenue this year, but we are worried about next year. We should be prepared to hear that cuts will be necessary to balance the city and state budgets.

That’s why CTU has been so outspoken in supporting the Right to Recovery campaign, which is calling for rent and mortgage relief for our families, paid sick leave and other supports for our communities. We will continue to wage a political fight to make sure our schools and our families have the services and support they need. But this will be a political fight and we will need all members to be engaged in it.

How will personal business days work during the shutdown?
Personal business days–and other benefits guaranteed by your contract–work the same way they normally do. You use them or lose them, so we encourage members to use them. The same procedures for requesting the days off apply during the shutdown.
Can CPS force school clerks to come into the buildings to work?
We know our PSRPs are dedicated to their school communities and it is hard to do all your work remotely. But we recommend that you stay home and do not return to your school. We do not know what conditions are like in the schools, whether infected individuals have been there or how well the buildings have been cleaned and sanitized. The most important thing is to stay safe and healthy.
If clerks decide to go back to work in the school voluntarily, will we get hazard pay like other school workers are receiving?
CPS has assured us that clerks are NOT required to enter school buildings, so you will not receive extra pay if you do so. The Union recommends people stay home until the schools have been reopened and we know our workplaces are safe.
I am due for a lane change and salary increase. Will I still receive it?
The PSRP salary increases we won during our strike are part of your contract and CPS cannot renege on them. File your paperwork the same way you normally would and if you have any problems or don’t see the raise reflected on your paycheck, contact your CTU field rep.
What if there is a second COVID-19 wave next year?
We cannot predict what will happen with the virus, but our Union is strong and we will continue to fight to protect our members’ health, safety and economic security. If we stand together we can win the Right to Recovery for all our communities.
Christel William-Hayes is CTU Recording Secretary and a PSRP for life.