Chicago Teachers Reject Deal Followed By Massive Layoffs
By Jim Vail
Special to Mychinews.com
|CTU President Karen Lewis said she liked the latest contract offer that the bargaining team rejected.|
A major fight between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools over a new contract went into overdrive this week after the teachers rejected CPS’s latest offer.
The teachers now plan a major protest Thursday, Feb. 4 at 4:30pm in front of the Bank of America at 135 S. LaSalle after CPS announced it would immediately lay off 1,000 teachers and no longer pay into the teachers’ pension fund, amounting to a draconian 7% pay cut.
The CTU chose the Bank of America because CPS pays $500 million for debt servicing rather than try to renegotiate toxic credit deals that other cities have successfully sued to not pay.
At heart of the issue here is, of course, money, and with that trust on either side.
Both sides have been negotiating a new contract for the past year with neither side in agreement and now a mediator will be appointed. The earliest the teachers can strike would be mid-May. The teachers may not walk out of their schools until the beginning of the next school year.
Mixed signals were sent by the teachers union leadership when CTU President Karen Lewis sent out an email to teachers stating, “After a period of intense and difficult bargaining, the CTU has received a serious off from CPS.”
Democracy in the union then led a revolt in which the leadership had to take a step back and issue a completely different press release on Monday after its bargaining team of 40 members rejected the plan.
“After much deliberation, the Chicago Teachers Union has rejected the Board of Education’s most recent contract proposal because it does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the long-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city,” the CTU stated. “Moreover, educators do not believe the Board will honor its promises because it has lacked the will to join with parents, students, community and others in identifying existing revenue solutions that can stabilize the district.”
While the mainstream media have focused on city and state budget woes, due to political fighting between the republicans and democrats in Springfield, including the release of roughly $500 million from the state, the Chicago public schools have amassed an enormous budget deficit due to questionable spending, spending money on new charter schools, and corrupt $20 million no-bid contracts while it is broke, and then refusing to generate revenue, such as pushing for a tax on the rich, a financial transaction tax on trading, declaring a surplus in Tax Increment Financing (a mayoral slush fund), and renegotiating toxic bank deals.
“Chicago Public Schools (CPS) challenges are a revenue-based problem because two of the three biggest cost drivers are things that have to be paid: pensions and debt service (which includes the swap termination payments),” CTU President Karen Lewis said.
The tentative four-year deal that Lewis had initially supported over the weekend had the teachers paying 7% of their paycheck into their pension fund, while CPS ‘guaranteed’ no more economic layoffs or charter schools during the contract.
However, a state charter commission can override the final say on whether or not a charter school can locate in the city, which usually results in layoffs of teachers at public schools that lose enrollment.
Veteran CPS pundits have written with irony that CPS has for years cried doom and gloom with impending massive budget deficits, only to find itself a little later with a miraculous budget surplus. Former schools chief Ron Huberman under the last year of Mayor Richard Daley cried that the school district was facing a “$1 billion deficit.” The cure? The pensions have to be cut – a script written by the corporate sector who gutted their employee pension obligations while obscenely enriching their CEOs.
CPS Chief Forrest Claypool fired off a letter to Lewis stating that the layoffs and cuts would be immediate. He told local media he is still hopeful, especially after Lewis said his offer had a “lot of great things” in it.
“This agreement provided pay raises (over the four years), guaranteed job security (no economic layoffs = no school closings) and met the union’s key demands, including restrictions on charter-school expansion (no guarantee since the state takes precedence), raises for seniority in addition to cost-of-living increases, and more classroom autonomy for teachers,” Claypool said in a statement.
In the email to teachers, Lewis said CTU members have given more than $2 billion back to the district in the last five years, including $500 million from a contractual 4% raise that was rescinded once Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, $500 million from school closings and other layoffs and $1.2 billion for a three-year partial pension holiday between 2011 and 2013.
“CPS has been living on borrowing for too long,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Now to turn around and blame teachers and staff for that debt while letting bankers off the hook is not acceptable. We think bankruptcy is a bluff, but if it isn’t, the mayor and his handpicked school board need to examine our commitments to progressive revenue.”