Furlough days have underlying impact on students
April 6, 2017
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It’s a day off for students, and there are empty teachers’ lounges where meetings were planned to take place. Students haven’t lost a day of school, but most teachers feel their students are missing out.
CPS has ordered four furlough days for all CPS teachers, each one falling on what was originally a professional development day. Teachers are losing preparation time and financial resources.
Furlough days are days when teachers are ordered to take a temporary unpaid leave, — their salaries are cut by the time they were required to miss.
Professional development days are designated for department meetings, and they allow time for teachers to plan accordingly for their class and grade work. According to Mr. Carity, an AP Macroeconomics teacher, professional development days are important for teachers to discuss assessments and course material.
“It really is an invaluable day for us and I understand why these days are selected, but it really is damaging to the teachers in our department by not being allowed to meet with each other,” Carity said.
According to Ms. Diamond, a teacher who teaches AP 2D Design, Media Crew, and Digital Photography, although students aren’t losing instructional time, their education is being impacted.
“The days we have been furloughed are our planning days,” Diamond said. “These are the days we can finish grading for the end of the quarter.”
Not only are teachers concerned about the education of the students, but they also have to consider the financial aspect of furlough days. Each day furloughed is a day they go without pay.
“It’s also the financial part of it too, because that is what we rely on, that’s our source of income,” Diamond said.
Teachers are not the only CPS workers affected by the budget crisis. According to Ms. Trine, a Chemistry teacher as well as a Lane delegate of the Chicago Teachers Union, it has been suggested that several clerk positions have the possibility of being cut. The Board of Education has expressed to teachers that they should be taking on more clerk work, in addition to all of the extra work they do outside of the hours they are paid for, according to Trine.
“We know that when students need help in the main office or with records or in the college and career center or in the counseling department, those school clerks are not superfluous or extra,” Trine said.
In response to the possibility of losing schools clerks, some teachers participated in “Work to Rule” March 20-24, a week where teachers only work during the hours they’re paid for.
“The idea was twofold — to let people see how much work we really do and to try and help keep our clerk positions because we think they’re really valuable,” Trine said.
The ongoing budget issues led to CPS making a more drastic potential cut. On February 27, CPS announced that the school year could end as early as June 1 if there is not a ruling on the lawsuit filed against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois State Board of Education. According to the Chicago Tribune, CEO Forrest Claypool presented the possibility as a last resort, and also said that lowering the number of days cut or keeping the original ending date is feasible, if a decision is agreed upon.
According to the Chicago Tribune, CPS officials have recognized that an early end to the school year could infringe upon certain requirements on the length of school year, which could result in an impact on state funding for Chicago Public Schools.
“I know in the Chemistry department, we’re trying to make plans for what will happen if the school year does end early, because there will be whole units we don’t get to teach,” Trine said.
Besides inconveniencing teachers and students in regards to lesson plans, a loss of three weeks of the school year would have a significant effect on teachers’ salaries.
“We’re now talking about a whole month without a paycheck,” Trine said. “That is still a month where I have to go buy my kids diapers, I have to feed my family, I have to pay my rent, and I don’t know how I’m going to make that work.”
On March 8, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced a possible one-day strike on May 1 in response to the four furlough days as well as the uncertainty of the end of the school year.
May 1 happens to be an AP testing day for AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, and AP Psychology.
“That perhaps is the biggest issue, especially with a school like ours that is a strong AP school — to have that day taken away when it is supposed to be an AP testing day, I’m not even sure logistically what that would look like, but it certainly would be damaging to a school like ours,” Carity said.
Karen Lewis, the president of the teachers union, came to Lane on May 23 to discuss the reasoning behind the proposal of a strike and provide an opportunity for teachers to discuss other options with union leadership.
According to Trine, the majority of teachers at Lane are not in support of the idea of the strike. She and the five other delegates at Lane have made it known they want to see other action taken in response to what they feel is unfair treatment.
“We’re hoping that teachers will work a full day on May 1st, do the great job they always do, and then go downtown and rally after work to support the idea of getting more revenue for our schools,” Trine said.
The main concern of most teachers is their student’s education, and they feel that a one day streak would take away classroom time with their students.
“When you start trying to do things to make the board respect and appreciate you more as an employee, that unfortunately will have some consequences for the students,” Trine said. “We as teachers just feel like were caught in the middle, of the Board, and the mayor, and the governor, and we really just want to help you learn.”