Now that the Chicago Teachers Union has turned down a proposal that called for elementary teachers to work an additional 90 minutes a day beginning in January in exchange for a modest pay raise, school district officials said there is no need to give the teachers a pay increase.
“It does not make sense to give raises for nothing in return especially during these difficult financial times,” said Jean-Claude Brizard, chief executive officer for Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third largest school district with 409,000 students and over 675 schools.
But CTU officials said while it supports a longer school day it also wants to make sure teachers are fairly compensated for spending extra time in the classroom.
“Yes, we fully support a better, smarter school day for our children but teachers are now being asked to work 29 percent longer for only a 2 percent pay increase,” said Karen Lewis, president of the CTU. “To that we say thanks but no thanks. For a teacher earning $57,000 a year the increase would mean a mere $3.41 an hour, less than minimum wage. Teachers on average already work 21 hours more than they are paid for; we grade papers, create lesson plans, confer with parents and counsel our students. There will be little time for us to do any of that.”
Lewis added that the pay raise swap for working longer hours was not made directly to the CTU but instead on TV.
“Rather than negotiating through the press and setting up political committees, CPS needs to sit down with teachers and come up with a better plan. Other school districts have found ways to lengthen the school days by good planning, and we welcome doing that as an interim step while we negotiate,” Lewis said.
Brizard said despite the CTU turning down his offer to extend the school he will continue working with the union to resolve their differences.
“We are disappointed that the Chicago Teachers Union turned down our offer to give elementary school students a longer school day starting in January, in return for a 2 percent raise despite the rising tide in support of the longer day and year,” he said.
The school district’s proposal further fails to explain how the Chicago Board of Education will pay for a better school day that would provide the critical resources teachers and CPS employees need to enhance the quality of education in our schools, explained Lewis, who added that CPS also has not said how it plans to fund art, music, civics, world languages, recess and physical education classes required to make a school day of any length more effective.
In order for CPS to extend the school year prior to June 2012 it needs approval from the CTU because its current contract with teachers does not expire until June 30, 2012. The only other alternative would be for CPS to get waivers from teachers at individual schools agreeing to work outside their contract, something Lewis has urged teachers not to do.
One final action the CTU could take is to authorize a teachers strike. To do so, 75 percent of its members must vote for it as required by a new state law passed this year.