In three days, Chicago Public Schools teachers will see their contracts expire. This morning, members of the Chicago Teachers Union along with dozens of public school parents and students rallied outside CPS headquarters, calling on the Board of Education to negotiate non-salary issues.
Since November 2011, the CTU has negotiated with the Board of Education for a fair labor contract. The union presented the board with proposals for art, music and foreign language classes for all students, smaller class sizes, properly staffed schools and fair compensation for teachers, among other education-improvement efforts.
The current contract expires June 30, and a fact-finder’s report will be released July 16. Earlier this month, CTU members voted overwhelming to approve a strike should the contract negotiations fail.
“The board and the union are locked in some very tough contract negotiations right now, and we are here to call on the board to get serious,” said CPS parent Erica Clark of Parents 4 Teachers. “Start negotiating the things that really matter to our kids.”
Clark said the board is not listening to the union’s proposals.
“All we hear from the board are proposals that call for a pay cut disguised as a pay increase, a controversial merit-pay scheme that’s not only going to harm teachers, but harm our children,” she said.
It’s the teachers and the union that are putting the kids first, Clark said, adding it’s a “disgrace” that 160 schools don’t have libraries and 90 schools are without playgrounds.
“The board has the nerve to tell us that class size doesn’t matter,” Clark said. “How they can say that to parents with a straight face I don’t understand, but they do.”
Becky Malone, a parent of two CPS students who is with the 19th Ward Parents group, said she stands in solidarity with the teachers.
“As parents we support our teachers, because as it’s been said many times before but bears repeating, our teachers’ working conditions are our children’s learning conditions,” Malone said.
If teachers’ are not supported by the school district, how can we expect them to provide high quality education our children need, Malone asked the crowd.
“This is why our teachers have spoken out with more than 90 percent of their membership voting to strike,” Malone said. “They are looking out for the best interests of our children, and for that they deserve the support from us as parents and community members.
The teachers also have support from students such as Alberto Brito, a junior at Theodore Roosevelt High School, located at 3436 W. Wilson Ave., and member of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council.
“When I was going through bullying and depression, the people I looked up to were my teacher,” he said. “In a lot of ways, teachers are our role models.”
He said the parents, teachers and students are the most important stakeholders in schools.
“We are the ones that are affected in the schools the most, so why is the system not listening to us?” he said. “They’re making decisions without our voices and ignoring our needs.”
The group held a picket line outside CPS’ headquarters chanting, “Education is a right that’s why we have to fight,” before making its way to the 10 a.m. Board of Education meeting.
CPS was unavailable for a statement at the time of publication.