By Jim Vail
Special to Mychinews.com
Recently the Chicago Public Schools released an audit of sick days that showed many teachers were abusing their sick days by calling in sick when they really weren’t.
The Chicago Tribune – ever the vigilant watchdog of Chicago City Hall corruption – thundered in its editorial, “Hooky alert: Why do so many Chicago teachers take so many sick days?”
CPS inspectors noticed that many teachers were taking sick days on Mondays and Fridays, thus questioning whether they were really sick. The district estimates that improper sick days cost taxpayers $7 to $15 million per year, according to the Trib.
CPS spent at least $1.3 million in salaries, according to the Chicago Teachers Union, for this “newly created squad of super sleuths.” Apparently the Inspector General’s office doesn’t police the teachers enough.
Trust me, there are bigger fish to fry.
How about the corrupt no-bid $20 million contract that landed former schools chief Barbara Byrd Bennett in prison for four and a half years that was uncovered by a reporter. Or the UNO Charter Schools - which received $98 million from our bankrupt state – and issued no-bid contracts to family members, also uncovered by a city reporter.
Why didn’t the Chicago Tribune thunder about the school trustees who all signed onto UNO contracts and Bennett’s $20 million SUPES fiasco?
A close look at the IG office and Claypool’s new ‘auditors’ will reveal that the district is focusing on policing its employees at a time when morale is super low.
Claypool has been threatening the teachers with massive layoffs, massive pay cuts via furloughs and ending the school year three weeks early. There is a big rally this week to protest the district cutting special education services.
Is it a wonder teachers can become demoralized and want time off?
CPS used teacher absenteeism as a reason to close schools on the South Side. The Tribune noticed that there are schools where teachers are absent a lot and schools where they are not.
I worked in Englewood. When I began teaching the first year, I replaced one teacher who was hospitalized after suffering a nervous breakdown her first year teaching, and four teachers came and went right after her. Another teacher told me she was suffering panic attacks but had to keep teaching or she would have to immediately pay back her student loans.
There are many teachers in rough neighborhood schools who have been assaulted and must take a leave of absence and use their sick days to recover.
Teaching is a highly stressful profession, especially in the city. That is why teachers need sick days.
Daisy Sharp was a middle school teacher at O.W. Holmes Elementary School in Englewood. She told Chicago News that CPS allocates all teachers ten sick days for the school year in the contract. However, this places a serious dilemma upon teachers. If the teachers use up the “contractual right” to those sick days, they then risk the chance of repercussions from administration for abuse of absences, she said.
“Many teachers who work in highly volatile environments such as O.W. Holmes, where students demonstrate an absolute disregard for any authority compounded with extremely weak administrative support, their immune systems tend to break down relatively quickly,” Sharp wrote in an email, “ultimately leaving the teachers more susceptible to communicable diseases and bacteria and ultimately in need of sick days for recovery. How anyone could have the audacity to question whether teachers are in need of or deserve those sick days is simply preposterous.”
Are there teachers abusing sick days? Sure, but this is an internal situation for the Chicago Public Schools to handle, not the Chicago Tribune to editorialize and lecture.
This is the same newspaper that published an editorial wishing a Hurricane Katrina for Chicago so that the public schools would be washed away, and private charter schools would replace them. No matter how corrupt they are.