Teachers want 30% pay raise: If they believe that we can afford it, are they too stupid to be teaching?
Public school teachers in Chicago begin voting today on whether to authorize their union to call a strike if a deal can’t be reached with the district.
Contract talks are ongoing, and the Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey admitted on Tuesday the vote is being taken to serve as "leverage in the negotiation process."
Under a 2011 state law, 75 percent of total CTU membership must give their approval before a strike can take place. CTU hopes to top that percentage to send a message about teacher dissatisfaction with reforms being pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools.
Issues in the contract talks are now before an arbitrator, who will issue recommendations July 16. After that, the process calls for steps that would take 45 days before teachers could walk out.
Emanuel and education reform groups have chastised the union for taking the strike vote before the arbitration process is complete. They’ve argued that the intent of the state’s education reform was for final offers to be made public and to allow for a compromise to be reached.
This week, Education Reform Now, a sister organization to Washington D.C.-based Democrats for Education Reform, began running radio ads calling parents to sign a petition against what they called “an early strike vote.” Another national education reform group new to Illinois, Stand for Children, is also running an online petition against the strike vote.
The union and the district remain far apart on critical issues like pay raises and compensation for the longer school day next year.
CTU has asked for a compounded 30 percent raise over two years while the district has offered a 2 percent raise in the first year, no salary increase in the second and the eventual implementation of a merit pay-like system.
CPS chiefJean-Claude Brizardsent a letter to teachers on Tuesday accusing the union of misleading its members abou the district’s proposals. The letter said CPS is not changing its class size policy and is offering teachers more professional development time.
As for salaries, CPS "cannot afford a 30 percent raise, but teachers deserve a raise and will receive one that is fair," Brizard wrote. Emanuel has also said teachers deserve a raise.
The last time teachers went out on strike was in 1987.
Later today, CTU president Karen Lewis is expected to cast her vote at King College Prep High School where she taught two years ago. Union leaders will also be visiting neighborhood schools across the city to answer members’ questions.
Voting will start at 6:30 a.m., before school begins, and continue after school. Union representatives at the schools will be checking each teacher’s name against a master list and the ballots will be returned to CTU’s downtown office in secured ballot boxes in the evening.
The union has also provided four citywide locations for those teachers and union members that work across the district. The union plans to have observers, a group of faith leaders, at CTU headquarters as the ballots are counted by hand.
While CTU hopes to reach the 75 percent marker on the first day, they plan to keep ballots open for the remainder of the week, which is allowed under the CTU’s election rules
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