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Frequently Asked Questions

Could there be work stoppage in CPS Schools

CPS and the Chicago Teachers’ Union are engaged in a contract negotiation to negotiate the terms of the new teachers’ contract.

See our deeper dive here.

The current contract expires on June 30, 2012.

The Timeline &Process

  • Fall 2011 - Negotiations start between CPS & CTU
  • February 1, 2012 - Mediation starts because the two sides cannot agree (mediation is a period where an independent party triesto get both sides to agree)
  • May 1, 2012 - Mediation fails and by law bothsides went into ‘fact-finding’ which is a panel of a CTU representative, a CPS representative, and a professional arbiter who work together to compare educator salaries across urban school districts, financial considerations, and the employers’ lawful authority and will propose a fair settlement.  This process lasts 75 days.
  • June 1, 2012 - Fact-finding is still in progress.  The Chicago Teachers Union announces they are calling a 'strike authorization vote' to start on June 6th.  By law 75% of the entire membership would have to vote yes to move forward and give the House of Delegates the authority to call a strike at the beginning of the school year when they are legally allowed to do so. 
  • June 11, 2012 - the CTU announces they have reached the vote threshold to authorize a strike.
  • July 16, 2012 – By this date the fact-finding panel has finished its work and recommended a settlement to CPS and CTU, which several media outlets reported would bejointly rejected by both parties
  • July 18, 2012 – Both CPS and CTU reject the fact-finding report, the report goes public.
  • July 25, 2012 - CPS and CTU come to an agreement to lengthen the school day to 7 hrs, while hiring 477 teachers to help enrich the day. 
  • August 13, 2012 - Track E schools begin, approximately 100,000 students begin school
  • August 22, 2012 - CTU's House of Delegates votes to give President Karen Lewis the ability to file the 10-day strike notice at her discretion.
  • August 29, 2012 - 10 day strike notice is filed, strike date isn't set yet
  • August 31, 2012 - CTU House of Delegates votes for a strike date of Monday, September 10th
  • September 4, 2012 - The majority of CPS students start school, approximately 300,000. 

Why are teachers taking strike votes now?

On June 1st, the CTU announced they were calling a 'strike authorization' vote for June 6th.  On June 11th, the CTU announced they reached the 75% 'yes' threshold to authorize the strike.  This vote does not mean the teachers will be on strike immediately, this vote means that the membership is giving future authorization to the House of Delegates (an elected representative body of 500+ members who function like an 'executive board') to vote when they deem necessary and when it's legally possible for the union to strike.  By law, they cannot go on strike until the end of the 30-day transparency period, which would be the end of August/early September.  

UPDATE:  The strike has been called for Monday, September 10th.

What is the impact of a work stoppage on students and families?

With 400,000+ students, 22,000 teachers, scores of support staff and other school employees, a work stoppage would disrupt learning time and create a lack of stability for children enrolled in CPS. 

(Charter schools would not be affected by a strike because their teachers are not members of the CTU, but traditional, selective enrollment, and turnaround schools would be impacted.)  

The impact would depend upon the duration and timing of the strike.  If there is a work stoppage in September that would affect all CPS students; if they go on strike in August, that will still affect Track E students.  State law requires a minimum of 176 days of student attendance, and there is historically a practice to make up lost days in a settlement agreement, but there is already significant learning loss over the summer months, and lengthening the amount of time out of school exacerbates that learning slide and requires educators to spend more instruction time reviewing old material.

The consequences are far-reaching. Parents struggling to find emergency arrangements for their children will miss work and lose income. Nearly 400,000 students will lose valuable instruction time and have unstructured – and in some cases, unsupervised – time during the day.

What is the impact work stoppage on CPS and the City?

There are big economic and social consequences if a work stoppage was to occur. Some examples:

The largest source of State funding CPS receives is General State Aid, which is calculated based on the “best three months” average daily attendance.   (That is, CPS submits attendance counts for whichever three-month period in the school year has the highest attendance and, thus, nets the most state funding.) 

The first three months of the school year have often been the highest-attended three months. During the 19-day strike in 1987, there was such a significant drop in student enrollment that it resulted in less state aid in subsequent years, and thus less money for principals for their operations.

What is the impact of a work stoppage on teachers?

There are more than 22,000 teachers at CPS and bottom line, teachers want to teach.  A work stoppage is their strongest tool to leverage salary and benefit increases and other improvements to their working conditions, but most teachers we have spoken to across the state who have undertaken a strike speak to the difficulty of the decision and the thoughtfulness with which they approached the issue, seeing it as a true last resort.

If teachers vote to strike, they will not get paid during the work stoppage.  However, when a final contract is negotiated during the strike, it is likely that provisions will be included to allow teachers to make up lost wages by adding school days in the summer.  Because there is a finite amount of revenue available to the district, salary and benefit increases must be offset by equal cuts elsewhere in the budget. (In the 1987 strike, 700 positions were eliminated, which enabled CPS to fund the 4% raise for teachers that year.)

What is the state of CPS Budget and Revenue?

The projections aren’t looking good.  CPS expects a $700 million deficit in the next school year.  The catastrophic budget situation this year is due to a culmination of years of irresponsible budgeting and the economy. Pension payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund are set to rise by more than $300 million in the 2012-2014 school year. Federal stimulus funding that helped stabilize CPS’s budget is no longer available. Debt service payments, which pay off bonds issued for capital improvements, will increase by almost $100 million.  CPS has levied the maximum property tax allowed under law.  

How much are Teachers paid?

Teaching is an important profession.  Effective teachers work long hours preparing lessons, delivering instruction, working with students who need extra help, participating in extra-curricular activities, and communicating with parents. For this, they deserve a competitive salary. According to the Illinois Interactive Report Card, the average CPS teacher earns $71,237.  Catalyst identifies the starting teacher salary for teachers with Bachelor’s degrees at $47,268. The salary for each teacher is determined by a “salary schedule” that is negotiated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement based on two factors: the teacher’s level of education/accreditation and the years of service (commonly called ‘seniority’) the teacher has at CPS.

Are teachers allowed to strike in every state?

No. Eleven states, including Illinois, allow teachers to strike after mediation. In 23 states, disputes between the union and district are settled through arbitration, legislative action, or implementation of the employers’ last best offer. The remaining 16 states do not statutorily guarantee teachers a right to collectively bargain.

Have Chicago teacher’s had a stike before and what happened?

Yes, the last strike was in 1987 when CTU sought a two-year contract with a 10% pay increase in the first year and a 5% raise in the second. CPS proposed a 1.7% salary cut. This dispute led to a 19-day strike, the longest in CPS’s history. Families across the city were forced to make alternative arrangements for their children, either through enrolling them in private schools or moving outside the district. The drop in student enrollment enabled CPS to fund 4% raises in each year of the two-year contract by only laying off 700 employees.

Are Charter Schools affected by a Work Stoppage?

No. Charter school teachers are not members of the Chicago Teachers Union. (Some charter school teachers are organized in other unions, but those teachers have different contracts and would not strike when CTU members authorize a strike.)

What are the disputed issues at the bargaining table?

The parties at the table do not generally disclose this information in the midst of contract negotiations, but according to CTU President Karen Lewis in the Sun-Times, CPS has proposed a 2% pay increase in the first year and a shift to performance-based compensation after that. When Ms. Lewis was asked if it was true that she opened negotiations by proposing a 30 percent teacher pay raise over two years, Lewis said: “I don’t remember [but] if I didn’t, I should have.’’  Class size and the longer school day are also likely being discussed, though the impact of those issues is handled through an alternative bargaining process. Based on the information from the fact-finder’s report that has been publicly reported, it appears that the proposed settlement increases salaries by about 15% in the first year. Both CPS and CTU are expected to reject the settlement because of the $335 million price that would likely be funded through significant employee layoffs.

What is Performance Pay?

Though we don’t know the specifics of any proposals on the bargaining table, performance pay normally refers to tying teacher compensation/increases to an educator’s performance in the classroom. Performance Pay may also refer to bonuses for special considerations, like teaching in hard to staff schools and subjects, and willingness to become a teacher mentor or leader. Performance pay also has the ability to add student growth and learning into the formula.

How are teachers currently evaluated and what is changing?

According to the The New Teacher Project, between the 2003-04 and 2007-08 school years, 94 percent of tenured teachers received one of the two highest performance ratings on their performance evaluation (“Superior” or “Excellent”) with no correlation in student performance.

In most cases, these ratings were based on only a short classroom observation and the filling out of a simple checklist evaluation form. But a change in state law has re-vamped teacher and principal evaluations. Now, teacher evaluations in Chicago will be based on the Charlotte Danielson framework, a model that emphasizes teacher practices and preparation in addition to classroom observations. The more substantive evaluation will also incorporate student growth as a factor and evaluators will undergo a rigorous training program to ensure they reliably conduct comprehensive observations. Although CPS and CTU also negotiated the framework for this evaluation, it was done through a separate process from the current overall contract negotiation.

How did Senate Bill 7 affect this process?

In the education reform bill that passed last year, several changes were included to enable CPS to lengthen their school day. Because past efforts to lengthen the school day were met with threats to strike, SB7 enabled CPS to increase the length of the school day and year without going through the bargaining process. However, the “impact” of any additional time can be bargained – so CTU can request higher wages to offset the additional work time. SB7 also made three additional changes to the process so minimize chances of a strike. First, it added a fact-finding process to help the parties reach agreement. Then, SB7 provided for a window of public transparency. And finally, the bill established the threshold by which CTU members must approve a strike at 75%.

Did the new fact-finder requirement really make the process better since CPS and CTU are rejecting it?

Although the fact-finder proposed an unrealistic and unaffordable settlement, the process has given the public significantly more information about and input into the CPS contract.  Great teachers deserve to be well-compensated for their hard work. The transparency of the process enables the public to have a voice in how to balance the need to fairly compensate teachers with the need to retain teachers and stave off mass layoffs.

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