The historic closing of 49 elementary schools in Chicago left many parents bitter and feeling left out as they try to get involved in new schools. Yet parent engagement is essential for school improvement, and principals are faced with the challenge of building trust at schools that scored poorly on surveys of parent involvement.
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For the Record: Latest contract proposal
Chicago Teachers Union leaders said Friday morning they won’t file a strike notice today or Saturday, assuring the on-time opening of school, if not its continuation.
However, CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin left open the possibility that they would issue the 10-day warning Sunday or early next week.
In a switch from earlier in the week, she said contract negotiations were in full throttle at CTU headquarters on Friday.
Days ago, the union made public a rundown of the district’s latest offer on what it sees as the major issues and the CTU position.
One key issue is the length of the contract. The board wants to lock in four years, while the CTU wants two, likely to keep its oar in the roiling waters of school finance and a district restructuring that could see massive school closures.
Compensation is another major unresolved issue. The CTU document notes an old proposal of 19 percent for the first year and 3 percent the second year. The district is offering 2 percent for each of four years but would end the practice of automatically granting increases for additional years of teaching, called step increases.
However, teachers would still be eligible for so-called lane increases, which provide extra money for additional graduate education courses. Eventually, though, the district would move to a differentiated pay scale where teachers’ pay is affected by their performance, leadership, coaching, mentoring, department chair responsibilities and whether they are teaching in hard-to-staff jobs. A new salary scale would be created “based on market factors, graduate degrees, qualifications, certifications or prior work experience.” District officials want the CTU to agree to be part of a committee that would craft the differentiated pay scale.
Another contentious part of the CPS proposal is a clause asserting the district’s “managerial rights.” CPS officials do not want to, and note they aren’t required to, bargain over a number of major issues, including school schedules and class size, outsourcing work to non-union employees, staffing policies when new educational programs and technologies are put into place, the size and composition of the work force, and teacher evaluations, transfers, promotions, layoffs, discipline and firings.
CTU, however, wants influence over many of these items. For example, they want the district to be prohibited from subcontracting. CTU also wants the ability to file grievances over disciplinary issues, which would be a new power.
Other key points of contention are:
- Job security, which has particularly been an issue since an Illinois Supreme Court ruling clarified that state law does not give laid-off tenured Chicago teachers the right to be recalled when positions open up again. The union wants a guarantee that CPS “will conduct future hiring from a pool of displaced members before making new hires.”
- Teacher evaluation. CTU is asking the district to scale back the percentage of a teacher’s evaluation determined by student test scores and surveys; make the cut scores to determine each rating category more lenient; and create an appeals process for teachers whose rating may cause them to lose their jobs. CPS isn’t even required to bargain over these issues.
- Class size. The union seeks “effective enforcement” of class sizes, rather than the current joint committee that currently addresses class size issues, which many CTU members say lacks teeth. CPS wants to maintain the current class size policy.
- Work rules. CTU says it seeks more school clerks and teacher assistants; designated paperwork time for clinicians, and “a provision that would free counselors from case management duties and designate 80 percent of their time to be spent counseling.” But such provisions could cost the district millions of dollars and sharply reduce the amount of discretionary money available to principals, which has been a cornerstone of recent CPS budget changes.
- Health premiums. CPS wants the union to participate in a wellness program that would offer employees a $600 a year discount for participating. Many other unions in the city are taking part, but CTU has not agreed.
- Sick day payouts. CPS wants to let employees that have currently retained up to 325 sick days to keep them, but to eliminate the practice going forward. The district also wants to implement a short-term disability policy and paid maternity leave. The CTU wants to keep sick day payouts.