Teachers Union Win New Contract: Issues Facing Public Schools Remain
On Sept. 19 nearly 800 delegates from the Chicago Teachers Union voted near unanimously to end their strike during a meeting at Operating Engineers Hall. But it is going to take more than a new contract to fix the numerous serious issues affecting many of Chicago’s public schools.
“What we are fighting for are teachers rights, our students’ education, and respect for educators,” said Stacy Sanchez, a social worker for CPS, who was picketing along with about another two dozen teachers outside the Chicago Board of Education building the day before the strike ended.
Although the union ended their strike, the contract still has to be approved by the 26,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union before it goes into effect. Union members will vote on their new contract on Oct. 2, with an announcement of the results on Oct. 4 at the earliest.
“Teachers do not have the resources to give students the best education they can receive. We don’t have books on the first day of class, class sizes are too big, there are problems with the A/C and heat in schools, and teachers are burdened with standardized tests,” said Irene Jackson, a librarian who was also picketing outside the Chicago Board of Education building.
The terms of the contract that the union negotiated contain the following:
- Annual raises to teachers (17.6 percent over four years)
- Lengthening of the school day
- Allowing teachers to be evaluated in part from student test scores
- Half of all Chicago Public Schools hires must be displaced members
- The board will hire more than 600 teachers in art, physical education, foreign language and other classes
- CPS will move away from implementing merit pay
Even though the union achieved a new contract that gives teachers raises, better job security and provides more educators at schools, CPS continue to face several problems that affected their schools before the strike began.
There is the issue of the massive deficit that CPS faces. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the cost to implement a new contract will be nearly $74 million dollars. The Board of Education already faces a $665 million deficit this year; it could top $1 billion by 2014. Additionally, by 2014 CPS will be required to spend $534 million dollars or 10 percent of its budget on contributions to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, according to the CPS 2013 budget.
Gaps in achievement are still a prevalent issue facing minorities in Chicago Public Schools, especially African-Americans. According to the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, “Racial gaps in achievement have steadily increased, with white students making more progress than Latino students, and African American students falling behind all other groups.” Only 19 percent of CPS teachers are African-American while the student body of CPS is 42 percent, according to Reuters. Additionally, the graduation rate in 2011 for African-American students was 52.7 percent, which was below the average graduation rate of 58.3 percent and the highest of any ethnic group, according to CPS Metric Data.
Poverty still affects a large portion of Chicago public school children, as well. According to 2012 CPS data, 85.9 percent of the district’s students are low-income.
Finally, underfunding and limited resources still affect many CPS schools. CPS employs only 731 counselors, when it should be employing around 1,600, according to recommendations by the American School Counselors Association. According to the NYTimes, “many elementary schools have a social worker just one or two days a week (they’re shared among schools).” Chicago spends roughly $7.95 per pupil, which is well below the wealthiest districts in suburban Chicago, according to Reuters.