Teachers strike looming

By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

The Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) delegates voted Thursday to go on strike starting Sept. 10. The vote was unanimous with all 700 delegates voting in favor of the strike. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has made alternative arrangements for students during the strike.

“We do not want a strike but apparently the board does,” CTU President Karen Lewis said. Chicago has not had a teachers strike since 1987. During the strike, more than 26,000 schoolteachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals will not work in public schools.

CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said if CTU leaders decide to strike, more than 350,000 students will be taken out of their classrooms, just as they’re making progress with the full schoolday. Varsity sports for 11,000 student athletes will be suspended. More than 400,000 daily breakfasts and meals will no longer be served. College transcripts and recommendations
for 20,000 seniors will be put on hold.

“If our priority is our kids, then strike should never be an option,” Brizard said in an e-mailed statement.

He said CPS would work with CTU until a fair resolution is reached. Should a solution be reached, CTU could vote to cancel
or delay the strike at its regular monthly meeting on Sept. 5.

CTU and CPS have been in contract negotiations since November. The two reached an interim agreement in early August, which included CTU agreeing to the longer school day and CPS agreeing to re-hire displaced teachers for the longer school hours, which allowed the Track E year-round school year to start on time. Teacher compensation, class size and job security are still being negotiated.

CTU president Karen Lewis received the go ahead from union delegates on Aug. 22 to issue a 10- day strike notice at her discretion. Lewis did not issue the notice right away, which allowed the Regular Track (Track R) school year to start on its scheduled day of Sept. 4.

Stating that talks with CPS are often stalled until the union takes bold steps toward a strike, Lewis followed through in issuing the 10-Day strike notice on Wednesday.

“…This is the only way to get the [CPS]’s attention and show them we are serious about getting a fair contract which will give our students the resources they deserve,” Lewis said. “They denied us our 4 percent raises when there was money in the budget to honor our agreement; they attempted to ram a poorly thought out longer school day down our throats; and, on top ofthat they want us to teach a new curriculum and be ready to be evaluated based on how well our students do on a standardized test. It has been insult after insult after insult. Enough is enough.”

Thursday morning , CPS has sent out letters, text message and robo-calls to let parents know that the following plan will be put in place in the event of a strike:

  • Keep approximately 145 school sites open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Sites are selected based on the size and location of the building, with preference given to those with strong leadership, air conditioning, a gym and cafeteria, computer labs and proximity to public transportation.
  • While instruction will not be provided, students will participate in positive activities to keep them engaged, including independent reading and writing, arts and journaling, sports activities, computer-based programming, among others.
  • Elementary, high school and special education students would attend separate designated facilities to address their unique needs.
  • Staffing open sites with Central Office staff and other non-CTU employees as well as organizations who will be invited to submit a request for proposals to help staff schools and provide programming.
  • Staff-to-student ratio would be capped at 1 to 25.
  • Providing daily nutrition services to all students attending a site, including breakfast and lunch.
  • Partnering with City Sister Agencies to provide additional options for families and children such as:
  • Extending 70-80 Chicago Park District summer camps, and providing students with online learning opportunities at 79 Chicago Public Libraries.
  • Working with the Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago Police and Fire Departments to ensure safety and provide additional services. CPS said it has budgeted $25 million to implement this plan and is seeking a waiver from the Illinois High School Association to allow a continuation of practices and games for some of the student-athletes who participate in fall sports.

d.phillips@hpherald.com