By TONIA HILL
Teachers and school support staff members at Murray Language Academy, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., participated in a one-day “work-to-rule” demonstration Friday, March 24, in the wake of the budget crisis facing Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
Using the “work-to-rule” model, which is an industrial action where employees do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, Murray teachers punched in at the start of the school day at 8:45 a.m. and punched out at 3:45 p.m. on Friday. Murray teachers and students wore red in solidarity with the action at the school.
The teachers took this action in protest of school budget cuts, CPS’s plans to end the school year early and their belief that CPS might cut school clerk positions.
Murray is facing a $155,000 budget cut, according to Murray kindergarten teacher and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) representative Antoinette Laws.
“CPS is trying to make us balance the budget on the backs of teachers and students,” Laws said.
As a district, mid-year cuts total, $46 million the budget cuts were announced by the CPS in February as a way to plug the hole in the district’s budget after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed $215 million that would have provided state aid for the district.
The district has also taken other cost-cutting measures to offset the budget shortfall. Last month, CPS ordered four unpaid furlough days for employees, which Law said means that teachers have less time to plan, grade, and prepare lessons for the students. Furlough days also are days for professional development for teachers.
Laws said CPS has also threatened to eliminate clerks district wide.
“There won’t be a clerk to greet the children to talk to the parents,” Laws said.
CPS has also stated that it may have to end the 2016-2017 school year three weeks early, on June 1, in response to budget cuts if the state does not give the district more money.
“Three weeks of non-instruction for the students, where are the children going to go?” Laws said. “Three weeks of non-pay for the teachers, so that will be a collective amount of almost four weeks [includes furlough days] of teachers not getting paid for this school year. In our minds, we think that they gave us a raise but now they are kind of taking it back plus more.”
“The parents, as well as the administration, has our back,” Laws said.
The CTU House of Delegates, early this month, voted to open discussion in regard to taking action, which could include a possible May 1, strike in response to the budget crisis and the district’s likelihood of ending the school year early.
Laws said most teachers are not in agreement with the May 1, strike because that would mean another day without pay. At Murray, on May 1, if a strike is called Law said they would travel downtown to participate in the March after the school day. Another option includes not showing up for report card pick-up next month.