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General CTU Announcement
CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union today welcomes back to classrooms thousands of rank-and-file members and Chicago public school students and their families throughout the city. While we celebrate this day as the start of another year of learning for hundreds of thousands of Chicago children, and the next step for the leaders of future generations, our members also begin the year fighting for essential conditions that must be met for them to be successful in city classrooms. Among the issues that Chicago Public Schools educators and school staff face as they return without a contract to their classrooms are pending layoffs and a nearly $500 million budget deficit, severe cuts to special education resources and programming, and a threatened 7 percent pay cut with the loss of the district’s long-standing pension pickup.
“The start of the school year is always a time for hope and optimism from perhaps the most important stakeholders in the fight for public education in Chicago—our children,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “As the parent of two Chicago public school students, I know first-hand the joy in a child’s face as they prepare for the first day of school, and despite the work we adults have ahead of us both in the classroom and at the bargaining table, we’re all extremely excited about another year of our children learning and growing with their amazing teachers.”
The start of classes today marks the end of a summer of discontent for CPS—a summer that began with the scandal-plagued resignation of former CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and ended with the courageous stand of the Dyett 12 and their ongoing, 23-day hunger strike for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. In the months in between, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education laid off more than 800 teachers and education support personnel and cut $200 million from school budgets—21 percent of which will affect more than 50,000 special education students.
This is a period of excitement for our students, but also a period of uncertainty over what the next year holds for Chicago’s public schools. The CTU has been engaged in negotiations with the Board of Education on a new contract for our 26,000 members, with the only constant being the rejection of nearly every proposal that is good for CPS classrooms—including those that would cost the district little to no additional financial resources.
Educators in Chicago have already endured zero increases in pay and longer school days, and now Emanuel, his newly appointed CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and Governor Bruce Rauner want these hardworking public servants to give up 7 percent of their pay due to a financial crisis of the district’s own creation. The 2015-2016 CPS budget, which relies on hundreds of millions of dollars from Springfield and includes the potential for hundreds of additional teacher and staff layoffs, highlights the reckless fiscal plan of action set by CPS leadership and the political leadership responsible for its appointment.
We are fortunate that in the midst of continued CPS chaos, there is renewed energy among legislators in Springfield for an elected, representative school board in Chicago, and for securing progressive revenue streams to restore the fiscal health and democratic control of the nation’s third-largest school district. Communities are also empowered by the actions of the Dyett 12 activists, who have galvanized the city with their unwavering passion to community-led planning for the future of public education for their children.
While our students make their classroom needs an absolute priority, it is this type of passion and commitment that the CTU and our members will continue to bring to the fight for the city that Chicago’s students and families deserve.