CHICAGO – As Los Angeles teachers prepared to begin the second day of a strike, Chicago’s teachers union took action of its own: delivering a 75-item list of contract demands to the city.
The delivery, to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and school district leaders, followed a rally outside Emanuel’s office early Tuesday. The current contract expires at the end of June, after Emanuel’s successor takes office; among his or her first responsibilities will be negotiating a new contract with the Chicago Teachers Union.
The union wants to see the next contract address a wide range of issues, such as overcrowded classrooms and the loss of veteran black female teachers.
“We have 40-plus kindergarten students in some classes, barely one school nurse for every five schools, a mass push-out of veteran black women educators, chronic shortages of special education and ESL teachers, and schools that have been monstrously neglected for years,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey.
Members also believe some issues that were settled in the 2015 contract have not been adequately addressed, including partnering schools with community groups to provide wraparound services, and establishing restorative justice policies in some schools.
State law prohibits the union from striking over issues that are matters of policy, including class sizes and discipline programs. But the Chicago Teachers Union has a history of achieving gains on demands beyond wages and benefits. In 2012, the union struck after Emanuel, then a new mayor, canceled planned raises and ramped up the role of test scores in teacher evaluations. After seven days of canceled classes, the union won substantial raises and concessions on evaluation rules.
The nation’s first charter teacher strike last year, led by the CTU, also ended with gains for teachers and paraprofessionals at the Acero network. Teachers at several schools in a second network, Chicago International Charter School, could take a strike vote this month.