Chicago Teachers Union explores idea of work strike

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By Isaac Ceh

 

Will the 2012-2013 school year see a re-enactment of the CPS teachers strike of 1987? Lane Tech’s faculty is showing strong opposition to the proposal for an extended school day and school year without the compensation of additional pay. A new law gives CPS the authority to lengthen the elementary school day by 90 minutes, and the high school day by 46.

A CPS press release on Jan. 12 announced that CPS is following through on plans for extending the school day and year. Part of the announcement reads as follows:

With the move to a 7.5-hour day, students will receive the additional time they need in core subjects such as math, reading and science, get needed individual instruction to ensure they don’t fall behind, and have the opportunity for exposure to enrichment opportunities that were not formerly available. The District also intends to move to a calendar of 180 instructional days, an increase of 10 instructional days from the current CPS calendar, which will bring the number of school days in Chicago on par with other cities in the nation.

The teachers can either hope for a raise, work longer hours without extra pay, or choose to go on strike.

Just before the winter break Lane’s Faculty took an opinion survey asking teachers whether they would be willing to go on strike if the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) chose to do so. A staggering 92.4 % teachers at Lane indicated they were indeed willing to strike if a reasonable negotiation could not be made regarding the new school day.

Many believe the only way to avoid a strike is to raise teacher pay. Still, the school’s administration is already planning for the longer school day CPS has mandated for next year by asking the PPLC (Professional Personnel Leadership Committee) to propose a schedule that fits the perameters outlined by CPS.

Next year’s proposed district wide start/stop time of 8:00am – 3:30pm would be accommodated by the PPLC’s current proposal by getting rid of Division and adding a 50-minute enrichment period between periods two and three. Enrichment courses would be offered over five or ten week periods. The PPLC’s plan suggested 40 possible courses that could be offered, including Study Hall, Yoga, Sign Language, Comparative Religion, and Fashion. (For a complete list of proposed courses and other details of the PPLC’s proposal, go to http://www.lanetech.org/pplc/lsd.php).

In a newsletter placed in all Lane teachers’ mailboxes on the morning of Dec. 17, the school’s CTU delegates disputed the idea that the extension of next year’s school day and year was “a done deal.” It read:

While Mayor Emmanuel and CEO Brizard say the longer school day non-negotiable, it in fact is negotiable… everything is negotiable. They want us to work 29% longer over the course of the school year. The CTU wants a 29% raise. Let’s negotiate.

Also, the PPLC needs to be careful not to present the longer day schedule as if it is a done deal when it is far from being a done deal.

“If there is a longer school day I would like to see a study hall added to the schedule for the Lane students, so kids that are struggling can get tutoring during the school day,” said math teacher Mr. Toh.

An extended school day would not only affect students, but faculty, extra curricular activities, and sports as well. It will also make the commute to school much more inconvenient for students who take the CTA and live far away from Lane.

‘’Our kids come from all over the city. It takes some kids an hour to two hours to get home and some even live in dangerous neighborhoods with gang related activity,” said Ms. Smith a special education teacher and CTU representative for Lane.

The CTU considers the a strike a real possibility. It even made a deal with a local bank allowing CPS teachers to open a savings account that will earn a .25 percent quarterly interest rate – a better rate than most banks offer for a short term plan. The CTU is encouraging teachers to set aside money in the event of a strike since they would not be receiving paychecks during that time.

“If the longer school day does take place, hopefully there will be an expansion of art, music, and other cultural diverse activities that are designed to benefit the students,” Smith said.

The urgency of redesigning the school system by newly elected mayor Rahm Emanuel has interrupted the flow of the current system, sparking resentment from the teachers of CPS.

“[Emanuel’s] still green. He needs to listen and weigh in on the peoples voice,” Smith said.

“I don’t think Rahm Emmanuel has been very diplomatic in general. He has put the teachers against him,” Toh said.