Thousands of Chicago Teachers Union members and city educators are set to rally in front of the Board of Education’s headquarters Wednesday in protest of a proposed collective bargaining scale-back and other “harmful” school proposals that are on the table.
Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union met with reporters Tuesday to clear the air about why the educators are meeting Wednesday afternoon.
“We are not meeting tomorrow to take a strike authorization vote,” he said. “We are meeting tomorrow to kind of show the breadth and depth of the sentiment inside of our membership.”
A large percentage of the CTU’s membership feels Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the school board are taking public education policy in the city in the wrong direction, Sharkey said.
For example, there’s been talk about a longer school day despite the fact that there is no funding for a longer day, Sharkey said.
And more recently, Sharkey added, the board announced an 85 percent cut in capital spending.
“That happens at the same when we have schools without playgrounds,” he said. “We have schools that are scheduled to meet this summer for classes with no air conditioning. We have 160 schools without libraries.”
There’s not enough money for those capital improvements, yet the Chicago school board has the funds to open 60 new charter schools, he said.
The union is in negotiations with the school board to rethink four areas of recent school proposals, which are “bad for educators and for public education.”
Those areas include contract provisions regarding class size, no “rich curriculum” for the longer school day, proposals that ignore fair compensation for educators and the lack of dignity in job security for experienced educators.
More than 95 percent of the 21,000 CTU members voted to reject those contract proposals, Sharkey said. The Chicago Tribune conducted its own poll with similar results.
Lourdes Guerrero, a displaced art teacher from Frederick Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center, starting teaching in the city’s public schools in 2002, but in 2010, her position was eliminated due to budget cuts.
She said she’s against the Board of Education’s proposal for no art, music or other rich curriculum factored into the longer school day.
“I’m devastated by the lack of arts and music and world languages to the public schools,” she said. “I really propose to the mayor that we really begin to add these full-time art, music, theater, creative writing, world language classes into the public schools in every building.”
The CTU also wants to see fair compensation for public school educators.
Jay Rehak, a teacher at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, said a 2 percent raise over the course of five years, along with a 15 percent longer work day is an “insult.”
“I feel like we are being disrespected right now, and I don’t understand why that’s the case,” Rehak said.
Sharkey said tomorrow at the rally, educators will say they stand for respect and dignity, along with a public education system that educates students and provides support for its staff.
“Those two things are not inseparable—they are one in the same,” Sharkey said. “We want the city of Chicago and the political leadership of Chicago, in particular, to hear our message loud and clear on that.”
Here’s more info about tomorrow’s rally:
Meeting place: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.
Day: Wednesday, May 23|
Time: 4:30 p.m. and later march to the Board of Education’s Clark Street headquarters
Check back with Progress Illinois for coverage on tomorrow’s rally.