The Chicago Public Schools district and Chicago Teachers Union appear to be headed for a "showdown" on April 1, according to CTU President Karen Lewis.
After CPS announced that it would be installing three furlough days into the district's calendar over the remainder of the school year, Lewis said a strike on April 1 was a near guarantee considering the impending threat of the 7 percent pension pickup being dropped. The district reportedly walked back on the threat, saying the pension pickup payment would remain in place -- for now.
CTU officials say that while they are pleased to hear the news, they still plan to make April 1 "a day of action against [the district's] austerity agenda." During a press availablity this afternoon, Lewis told reporters that April 1 will be a "showdown for education justice."
The CTU is pleased that CPS today backed down from CEO Claypool's February 2 announcement to discontinue the pension pickup in 30 days. The pension pickup is part of the status quo that CPS is required by law to maintain during bargaining, and unilaterally discontinuing the pension pickup would surely be illegal.
We regret that it took the threat of an unfair labor practice strike to induce CPS to reconsider for now its ill-advised action of enforcing a 7 percent pay cut on teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians who have borne the brunt of horrific attacks against their professional and the students in their classrooms.
Unfortunately, for us, and many of you---CPS has a credibility problem.
We do not trust what they say. We only brace ourselves for what they do.
Mr. Claypool has rescinded his threat today, but he is clear that he will enforce a 7 percent pay cut 'at a future date.' This is unwise and not productive toward concluding a labor agreement--therefore this unfair labor practice remains un-remedied.
The working conditions in our schools are directly tied to the learning conditions for our students. We are dealing with unclean schools and our most vulnerable students are without school nurses.
High school seniors have no librarians--and yet they are to do endless test prep for CPS imposed standardized tests, and in to prepare for the SAT and ACT.
Children are exposed ever more to violence and prolific poverty--and yet there are few counselors to help guide them through this trauma. Students exposed to the rising homicide rates, still show up to school. They bring their sorrows, their fears, their anger and despair with them.
Principals have been forced to cut their staff to bare bones---and therefore class sizes have ballooned and continue to grow.
All of these cuts, reductions, and actions by the mayor's handpicked Board of education are punitive. They do nothing to improve the quality of education we are able to offer more than 350,000 school children each day. These budget cuts, furloughs, layoffs and a refusal to honor steps and lanes are all short term fixes.
What about next year? The CTU finds itself inside a scenario similar to the movie 'Groundhog Day' where we keep waking up to the same mess, every single day. We have to do something different.
Vulture Capitalist Bruce Rauner purchased the governor's chair. And, he is committed to gutting not only collective bargaining in Illinois, but specifically to blowing up the Chicago school district. We do not take his threats idly.
Rauner has already shown us what he thinks of child care workers, low-income parents, working-class families, state university students, the elderly, the disabled, and the indigent families of the dead. This governor has become a true enemy of the state.
While the CTU is buoyed by the Illinois House's successful passing of the Elected Representative School Board legislation; we hope the Illinois Senate does what is just and passes it as well--making Chicago catch up with the rest of the state. We deserve democracy and we deserve it now.
With these continued threats to our working conditions, learning conditions, most vulnerable students and our pay and benefits, the CTU will continue with an April 1st day of action against this austerity agenda.
April 1st is a showdown for a fair contract.
April 1st is a showdown for progressive revenue for our schools.
April 1st is a showdown for our students and parents.
April 1st is a showdown for communities.
April 1st is a showdown for equitable funding and good governance.
April 1st is a showdown for education justice.
This is a showdown for every single teacher, paraprofessional and clinician who is dedicated to their craft, who rises each day to provide instruction and education nurturing to our students.
And, we will join with anyone who believes, it is time for us to unite, to fight Rauner, Rahm and the Ken Griffin's of our state who are united in a Trump-like campaign to turn back the hands of progress and destroy public education in Illinois--and most definitely Chicago.
Meanwhile, district officials pushed back against the April 1 strike talk, saying the union will not be able to hit the picket line until some time in mid-May. CPS CEO Forrest Claypool argued that the law-mandated fact-finding process needs to take place before teachers can hold a strike.
But Lewis countered that claim by saying the union can hold a strike over unfair labor practices on April 1, despite the need for the required fact-finding process for a contract-based strike. Both parties are still in negotiations over the teachers' contract.
"Nothing is off the table," Lewis said. "The strike is still on the table just as the 7 percent pension pickup is still on."