December 11, 2015
By Darcy Palder, Jones
and Luke Zarzecki, Whitney Young
With all the rumors about a possible CPS strike, students, teachers and parents are confused on whether there are days off on the horizon. After a seven-day strike back in 2012, most CPS members don’t want to go through that again. Here’s a rundown on what’s happening and why it’s important.
CPS teachers are currently working without a contract. Over the summer, CPS laid off 1,400 faculty members to tear $200 million from its debt. In addition to this, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, threatened that 5,000 teachers could be laid off if CPS doesn’t receive financial help from the state by Thanksgiving. He has since moved back the deadline to Jan. 1. Schools and teachers won’t know the budget cuts they will need to enact or jobs they will lose until the first day of the New Year.
Why is it happening?
Both the state and CPS are in deep financial debt. CPS has large pension obligations that it has found difficult to meet in recent years. With the recent Barbara Byrd Bennett scandal, there are also many questions about what’s going on behind the scenes of CPS. Some Chicago Teachers Union members wonder if CPS is “broke on purpose.”
CPS depends on the state for a large majority of their budget. Claypool recently wrote an editorial in the Chicago Tribune claiming that unless CPS receives the needed $480 million, “There will be fewer teachers. There will be larger class sizes.” Unfortunately, due to the stalemate between Governor Rauner and the general assembly, a state budget has yet to be passed even though it was supposed to be approved July 1. Until the governor and the general assembly can come to a consensus, CPS is struggling to maintain its schools.
Why should I care?
If 5,000 teachers are cut from CPS, students would face chaos in the middle of the year. Thousands of students would have to switch teachers and their schedules. With CPS class sizes already oversized, the teacher cuts would make them even bigger. At some schools, the loss of teachers would also cause the end to many non-required classes, including AP and honors classes and special education programs. The budget cuts also mean a decrease in teacher pay. The threat of this has caused 97 percent of teachers to be in favor of a strike in a recent opinion poll. The last day for CPS is June 21. A strike for more than seven days would make students go to school until July.
The state government needs to decide on a budget. Governor Rauner and top state officials met Dec. 1 for the first time to reignite the process of passing one, and the teachers’ vote on whether or not to strike will be announced imminently. If the state doesn’t provide CPS with a helping hand, then the district will need to find ways to close the budget gap through unsustainable borrowing and layoffs. It will be hard to predict the outcome as Illinois has a Republican governor and a Democrat-run general assembly and members of the two parties rarely agree on anything.
Meanwhile, CPS students, parents and teachers alike have been protesting in various rallies and events, including rallies at the Board of Education Headquarters, the Thompson Center and various other locations downtown. They do this to remind the state government and CPS of the responsibility they have to provide education to those who depend on it.
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