Chicago teachers poised to walk.

klonsky 2
CTU strike, 2012. Photo: Fred Klonsky

If as expected, the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates votes to go ahead with the Thursday strike deadline, I will be heading over to my neighborhood school, Darwin, to walk the line.

I consider it part of my responsibility as a retired union teacher.

Over the past eight years since I retired from teaching I have walked on quite a few picket lines with striking teachers all over northern Illinois.

I encourage all retired teachers to do the same.

Michael Antonucci, the union basher who writes for The 74, thinks the CTU demand for full staffing of nurses, social workers, psychologists and librarians along with contractual class size limits is some kind of trick by the union to collect more dues.

“It is no coincidence that virtually all of these new employees would be eligible for union membership,” he writes.

Well, I would hope so!

I particularly resonate to the issue of putting class size limits in the contract and thereby making it legally enforceable.

In my old district, we couldn’t get our board to agree to class size limits in the contract, although we tried for years.

I consider it a major failing on my part.

I was a little surprised that Illinois Federation of Teachers president Dan Montgomery claimed at the rally the other day that suburban and downstate union locals already have that contractual language.

I can’t say I checked every IFT and IEA contract in the state, but I looked at many of them and I couldn’t find any that have class size limits in their contracts.

Maybe Montgomery can direct me to which ones he was talking about.

Even those that have a number also have a qualifier. “If practicable,” is the language in the very wealthy New Trier contract, where they have no trouble keeping class sizes small because they’re rich. Hedging their bets.

In the south suburbs, the much poorer Robbins district has this contract language:

25. Class Size The BOARD agrees to implement the following maximum class size program for at least three (3) periods a day for the purpose of student interaction assistance:

Pre-School: will follow the grant stipulations Kdg: beyond 20 / 1 Teacher Assistant

Grades 1: beyond 27 / 1 Teacher Assistant If class size goes over the stated number, the class will be split if building space is available. If building space is not available, the teacher will receive a full-time teacher assistant.

Other contracts have side letters or a memorandum of agreement on what they will do if class size “goals” are not achieved. Rarely are these side letters as enforceable as contract language.

As I have written about for years, Illinois remains at the bottom nationally in state funding for schools. School districts like Robbins struggle to find revenue because like most school districts they depend on local property taxes for of their funding.

Perhaps passing the constitutional change to a progressive income tax will help change that situation. Even if it passes, the funding is years away.

So, I hope for a CTU win on getting class size limits in the contract.

Not because, as Montgomery said, it’s what everybody else has.

But because if it can be won in Chicago, it will set a precedent.

And then maybe the Illinois legislature will be forced to fund school districts at the level they deserve.

7 thoughts on “Chicago teachers poised to walk.

  1. Don’t forget Psychologists! My husband was one for CPS for 35 years. His workload was tremendous. For years prior to being issued a computer he would spend every night hand writing out cases. There wasn’t time during the day as he was responsible for the testing, evaluation and staffing for thousands of students. Even with the issued laptop he couldn’t keep up with the demand as the law states once a child is tested retesting must take place within 2 years. Too few spread over too many. He retired 10 years ago after the final straw of assessing his travel time between locations as if he had control of traffic and parking.

  2. I don’t know if class size language is still in the current contract of the Niles Township High School teachers, but I’m fairly sure they won contract language about class size limits in the late 60’s /early 70’s in a teacher’s strike. Perhaps someone with a better memory than me can provide the details.

  3. FYI District 205 had contract language regarding class size before I retired in 1994. I don’t know if it is still there.

    1. District 205 has no contractual class size limits: “The BOARD and the UNION recognize that the pupil/TEACHER ratio has an important bearing on the quality of the educational program and the relationships between TEACHERS and students. The parties agree that class size should be maintained at levels commensurate with – (1) what the parties may consider to be appropriate learning conditions that relate to the mode of instruction and the nature of the subject matter, (2) the degree to which the community will provide resources, such as a qualified staff, adequate instructional facilities and operating funds and (3) to the extent possible, assign students with accommodations in equal numbers across classrooms at building grade levels and subject areas.
      Class size, as it relates to the mode of instruction, shall be reasonably consistent throughout the District. This does not preclude variable groupings or classes of smaller than average size. Student assignments in classes will not exceed the number of learning stations for the effective delivery of curriculum or jeopardizing student safety.
      The Administration will consider the size of a class and the impact upon the total educational environment when assigning students with accommodations to a general education classroom.”

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