Chicago Teachers: Prepare for Struggle!

April 22, 2007

The following is reprinted from the Chicago Teachers' Chalkboard.

In only 2 months, the contract between the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) and the Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) expires.

This contract will have a big effect on the lives of more than 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel (ESP) as well as on the future of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Everyone knows that, in addition to keeping wages low, the BOE wants to keep privatizing the schools and eliminating union jobs, keep increasing class size and workloads, use probationary employees and other arbitrary means to undermine union standards, cut pensions and health benefits, etc.

Teachers and other CPS workers cannot afford to wait and be presented with a last minute decision to vote "yes or no" on the Board's contract offer. In-depth and ongoing discussion must be organized NOW! This discussion must aim at working out our bottom line - that is, uniting our ranks around the demands we are determined to fight for.

The Chicago Teachers' Chalkboard raises the following issues as part of developing this discussion.

1) We Need A Real Raise! In 2004, a basic budget for a 4-person Chicago family (including 2 children) was $43,704/year according to the Economic Policy Institute. CPS teaching assistants generally earn less than $25,000/year despite years of experience. Teachers' salaries are also far below the Illinois average and tens of thousands of dollars lower than professionals with similar education and experience.

2) Charter Schools and Privatization Must Stop!

Already thousands of teachers and other CPS workers have lost their jobs as a result of Renaissance 2010. Make no mistake! As the BOE goes ahead with opening more charter schools, more jobs will be eliminated. The goal is nothing less than completely undermining the strength of our union and drastically cutting the wages, benefits and working conditions of teachers and other school employees.

3) Probationary Teachers Must Have Full Rights!

Nearly 40% of CPS teachers are on "probation." "Probationary Appointed Teachers" (PATS) have to wait 5 years to get tenure and until then can be fired or laid off at will. Thousands of PATS lose their jobs each year. By relying on PATs, the Board can circumvent contractual guarantees on class size, work load and extra duty and undermine the rights of all teachers. Our contract must defend our union and guarantee the rights of all CPS workers.

4) Class Sizes and Workloads Must be Reduced!

Class size, caseloads and other duties assigned to CPS workers are often double the workload in many suburban districts. In fact, the BOE systematically violates state law, federal standards and our union contract by increasing class size, caseloads and extra duties.

In addition, there is talk about the BOE attacking our pension and health care plans. We must stand firm: No Cuts in Pensions or Health Care!

Discussion over these and other key demands must be organized not only in the House of Delegates and other city-wide forums, but also in each school and every department. Networks should be developed between schools. Send reports of your discussions and concerns to teacherschalkboard.org.

There are a broad array of tactics and forms of struggle available to us to advance our contract struggle but the decisive thing is to strengthen our convictions and unity by discussing our essential demands.

We Can't Afford to Wait Until the Last Minute!

The Discussion Is Now! The Struggle Is Now!

We Must Organize Now!