Chicago Teachers Contract: A Concern for All

October 3, 2006

The contract of the teachers in Chicago's public schools expires in June 2007 and negotiations between the Board of Education (BOE) and the Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) will begin soon.

The teachers are preparing for a difficult struggle and the issues they face concern not only their own wages and working conditions but the future of Chicago's public schools. These issues concern all the working people.

In addition to the teachers' demand for increased pay (which deserves the wholehearted support of everyone who values public education), the contract struggle will affect such vital issues as increasing investments in the schools, opening urgently needed classroom space, lowering class size, stopping the privatization of Chicago schools through Renaissance 2010, stopping the closing of neighborhood schools, fully funding the curriculum including bilingual education, special education, etc.

For several years now, the Board of Education has been running the public schools into the ground.

The Board has refused to properly invest in the schools. Schools in minority neighborhoods receive even less funding.

New school buildings are urgently needed. Many schools are so crowded that safety laws are openly ignored; in some classes students are forced to stand for lack of space. In addition, the Board arbitrarily, and in open violation of state laws, refuses to fund bilingual education classes, special education, etc. The number of students per class is way too high and in many cases flagrantly higher than the contractually guaranteed maximum.

Yet while the BOE criminally underfunds the schools, it is spending tens of millions of dollars turning public facilities over to private companies to operate "charter" or "contract" schools. This drains funds earmarked for the public schools and turns them into sources of profit for private entrepreneurs. Under Daley's Renaissance 2010 program, 70 charter schools will be opened by 2010. In addition to cutting teachers' wages and benefits, many of these schools will be free from public oversight and accountability. Charters are being used to close neighborhood schools and intensify an unequal school system in which most working class and minority children attend rundown, underfunded schools.

These attacks on the public schools are greatly facilitated by special laws which restrict the rights of Chicago teachers to unionize and fight for improved conditions. In recent contracts, teachers have been denied the right to bargain collectively over their working conditions. This gives the BOE a free hand to increase class size, eliminate needed programs, privatize schools, etc. In addition, the teachers' union is undermined because Chicago refuses to accord tenure to a teacher until she/he has worked for 5 years. This gives the BOE and local principals the power to impose overwork and arbitrary conditions on teachers and thus circumvent many contractual provisions. Probationary teachers, who make up 40% of the city's teaching staff, are restricted in their ability to speak out in defense of parents and students.

Education is a vital concern to workers throughout the country. Our system of public schools has been created and developed only because every generation has fought to defend and extend this system. This year's teachers' contract should be an occasion for people across Chicago to renew their struggle to defend and improve the public schools.

As the teachers organize themselves, we should not only support them but help unfold a broad agenda and powerful mass struggles in support of the public schools.

Support the Teachers' Contract Struggle!

No to Renaissance 2010 and Privatization!

Increase Investments in the Public Schools!

(Joint statement of the Chicago Branch of the Workers Party and the Committee to Defend Public Education).