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Time for mayor to put promises into action in enforceable contract

Dear CTU Members: By now you may have heard—or even received an email from CPS—about Mayor Lightfoot’s July 30 promise to improve staffing in our public schools. Let’s be clear. Chicagoans voted for a candidate that said she would transform our public education system. But as the mayor, Lightfoot has yet to provide any real commitment to that type of transformation. Today’s announcement triggers more questions than relief.

Will these individuals be fully licensed and certified school professionals? Will these individuals be staffed by outside companies with zero accountability to students, parents, faculty or staff? Will we be able to see these individuals on day one or in year five? Is this a fixed commitment to increasing wrap-around services or is this an opening offer? Are there loopholes in these promises that will give the mayor the opportunity to renege in year five?

Still absent from either her press release or her bargaining proposals are any discussion on class size, the expansion of sustainable community schools, school librarians, restorative justice coordinators, job stability and salary proposals for our low-wage teacher assistants and school clerks. Instead, the mayor has rejected our concrete proposals for what our schools need, based on national professional organization standards:

• 1 full-time librarian for every school (have 125~, need 500+)

• 1 full-time Restorative Justice Coordinator at every school

• 1 full-time school nurse (CSN) for every school (have 100~, need 500+)

• LPN or HSN: 1:250 gen ed students

• Counselors: 1:250

• Psychologists: 1:500 gen ed students

• Social workers: 1:250 gen ed students, 1:50 SPED students

• OT and PT: 1:30 students on caseload

• Adequate special ed, bilingual, World Language, Arts, Technology teachers

• 1,000 teaching assistants for elementary and 1,000 for high school, building on our last contract’s success in winning TAs for preschool and K-3 in overcrowded classrooms.

• Schools with 50 or fewer aggregate IEPs and 504s shall receive a half-time case manager position. Schools with an aggregate of 51-100 IEPs and 504s shall receive a full-time case manager position, and schools with an aggregate of over 100 IEPs and 504s shall qualify for 1.5 or more case manager positions.

At the bargaining table, CPS must provide an agreement that ensures that the mayor will not use privatization to meet these critical staffing needs—because we’ve learned over the last decade that privatization has instead undermined vital services and been used as a tool to eliminate living wage work for Black women in CPS. We have invited the mayor and her hand-picked board of education to participate in an open bargaining session where we are able to discuss the details of proposals from CTU and CPS in the open and not at selective, ‘invite-only’ tables. So far, we’ve been rebuffed.

We look forward to having a substantive and productive conversation at the bargaining table about our demands to address CPS’ dire shortage of school nurses, counselors, social workers, case managers and other critical front-line workers—a conversation the mayor’s bargaining team has rejected to date, including the staffing demands I’ve outlined above. The staffing commitment the mayor made today still falls far short of the sweeping need in our schools—and they must be supported not by a press release or a public pledge but by a real commitment in revenue and a legally binding agreement with the CTU on behalf of the students for whom we advocate.

There is simply no other way to hold CPS and the mayor’s office accountable for promises made—but still unfulfilled—for our students.

We’ve been down this path of unfulfilled promises before with the previous mayor, who promised to expand early childhood education and improve special education—when today parents struggle even more to access these services for their children.

Instead of ‘studying’ the landmark legislation that transformed school funding in Illinois and prioritized funding for smaller class sizes, bilingual education, special education and wrap around services, the mayor should immediately put an end to CPS’ distorted and racist school funding formula—student based budgeting. CPS’ current SBB funding scheme does precisely the opposite of the evidence-based funding model embedded in state law. She can also secure progressive revenue for our schools today. She can start by moving to reinstate the corporate head tax that her predecessor eliminated, reform the city’s unethical TIF practices, cancel immoral deals like Lincoln Yards that serve the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us, and redirect the resources for these elitist projects to our school communities.

And she can agree to our staffing demands at the bargaining table—the only way to ensure that any 5th floor or CPS pledges are actually actionable, accountable or enforceable.

Our effort to win these contract demands and fund the schools our students deserve is built on our unity as educators and our solidarity with students, parents and neighborhood residents. Watch our website for upcoming events, get involved in our summer actions, and join us in this struggle to for fair wages and benefits, smaller class sizes, adequate staffing, and real equity and educational justice for our students and their families.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey

CTU President

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.



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