-By Long time reader
The financial plunder and rape of Illinois teachers continues, not only in CPS, but statewide. The critical difference is the CTU is big enough to fight back! The CTU stopping further cuts and closings in Chicago is the last hope of preserving and stabilizing public education in Illinois.
A few districts have enough money and are treating their teachers fairly. Many more districts that have enough money yet treat their teachers very unfairly. A few of these are so bad that the teachers are forced to strike. The draconian cuts demanded by the school boards are so devastating that the teachers would have to leave to find a way to make a living elsewhere. Some of the school board members in these districts are Rauner-like, they are not interested in fair and honest negotiations. They are power-drunk, and undertake a personal vendetta against unions. They are not interested in the education of the students in their district. Their only interest is in breaking the union. Hinsdale and Waukegan come to mind – they made the news – but there are hundreds more.
One small district I know of had signed a multi-year union contract a few years ago with tiny less than % raises. New board members came in and demanded the union agree to re-open the contract and agree to a wage freeze. The union refused. The harassments of teachers began. First, most of the dedicated, legitimate, long term administrators who refused to go along with the new school board quickly were forced out, retired earlier then planned, or found other employment. Then new “yes person” principals were brought in and ordered to “get rid of” the long term teachers who were the highest paid.
SB7 was abused and some of the best, most experienced teachers were thrown in the street and under the bus. One art teacher planning to retire in a couple years was SB7ed and “not called back”. The union filed a grievance, and lost to the boards expensive union-busting lawyers. She was financially devastated, and when she does eventually get a pension, it will be substantially less then what she would have got, every year forward. Additionally she had to take out huge home equity loans to pay for health insurance and live on until she can get TRS. Very unfair.
The school board gleefully uses this as an unspoken implied message to other teachers. “Look what we did to one of the longest members of the union and the union was unable to stop us. Just think of what we can do to YOU!”
There is no art teacher there now, the art program is now “taught” by the home-room teachers, consisting mostly of coloring books and crayons, mostly bought out of pocket by the home room teacher (in addition to things the teachers already were buying out of pocket.
Things like soap, TP, paper towels, hand sanitizer, etc..). The classroom time that used to be taught by the art teacher was used by the homeroom teachers to correct papers, work on lesson plans, and other assorted paperwork. Now, that is additional time spent doing this work after school and in the evening and weekends. That is just one of many extra tasks now assigned to the remaining teachers.
Things that were previously done by teachers assistants, such as lunchroom duty, playground duty, bus duty, and other assorted uncompensated extras are now the teacher’s responsibility. When the school board first demanded the teacher salary rollback, the typical class was 19 students for 1 teacher and most classes had a teachers assistant. In just a few short years it is now 31 students per teacher and just a few assistants in the entire district.
Then the teachers found surprise increases in their medical deductibles. Now the board is talking of closing schools. They think by putting way more students per classroom, they now need fewer classrooms. Actual teaching has suffered, and the teachers are burdened with giving the standardized tests over and over again, and are expected to “teach for the test”.
Teacher morale is at an all time low. Most that can retire are doing so ASAP. They used to love teaching the kids, and still do, but they now hate their working conditions, and feel sick in the stomach when they arrive each morning. Many are thinking of some other line of work, they know they can not take this much longer.
This same thing is happening in school districts all across the state. If Rahm/CPS busts CTU, Rauner and his imitators will not stop until they have totally destroyed public unions in Illinois.
Karen Lewis has the support of thousands of teachers and other union members statewide.
The decisive negotiations between CPS and CTU is important to us all.
Thank you Karen!