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Contract talks should include classroom issues, parents say

A parent group is calling on Mayor Emanuel to expand negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union to include class size and other issues which CPS has so far refused to consider.

A new petition by Raise Your Hand (available here) calls on the city “to open up talks beyond pay and benefits and find ways to compromise with our teachers on issues that are critical to our schools.”

“We believe that the only way to come to a decent contract and avoid a strike is to give the teachers a contractual voice in some of the work-rules that impact their day and profession,” said RYH in a recent statement.

In negotiations under way since last November, CPS has refused to consider issues it is not legally required to negotiate, including subcontracting, layoff procedures, class size, staffing and assignment, and —  with passage of SB7 last year – the length of the school day and year.

It’s the first time CPS has ruled those issues off the table.

CPS’s refusal to negotiate on non-economic issues is a big reason teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, said teacher and union activist Xian Barrett.  “We would never have gotten a 98 percent ‘yes’ vote if it had only been about pay and benefits,” he said.

“If you ask teachers what how they would improve their jobs, they don’t start with better pay, they start with class size, they start with wanting an administration and leadership that works with teachers instead of dictating to them,” Barrett said.

The union has offered proposals on class size; on including art, music, languages, and gym in the longer school day; and on increased social services for at-risk students, an area in which Chicago lags other cities.

Those are the same issues parent groups have articulated about the longer school day – and a big reason Chicagoans overwhelmingly back the union’s plan for the longer day over the mayor’s, according to a recent Chicago Tribune poll.

Parents and teachers are particularly concerned that without a plan for funding the longer day, it will be paid for with larger class sizes.

By allowing CPS to rule out key areas – and encouraging CTU to make a large salary demand as its only leverage for pressing nonsalary issues – SB7 set up the dynamic behind the current stalemate, said Rod Estvan of Access Living at an RYH forum in Logan Square on Monday.  Under sections of the law which apply only to Chicago, mediators now evaluating the two sides’ proposals are restricted to topics deemed acceptable by CPS, he said.

The way to avert a strike, to provide room for compromise, is by opening talks to include the full range of issues, Estvan said.

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Category: CPS, labor

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