CTU following Los Angeles teachers' lead on demands, charter schools
Their contract is up at the end of June but Chicago teachers through their union, CTU, have already presented Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the school district with a list of demands.
The 5 percent pay increase, capped classroom sizes, more librarians and counselors, and other demands (The “rich people” will pay for them, according CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates) are nearly identical to what Los Angeles teachers won last week after a week on strike.
Those teachers and their union, United Teachers Los Angeles, got something else too: a resolution from the Los Angeles Board of Education to direct state leaders to ban charter schools until their impact can be studied. The resolution, approved by a 5-1 vote, is nonbinding.
A New York Times article called the resolution the latest in a string of defeats for the charter school movement "that for over a decade has pointed to Los Angeles and California as showcases for the large-scale growth of the schools."
Teachers unions around the country are fighting back hard after last June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which declared that public-sector workers who choose not to be union members are no longer required to pay dues. Orange County elementary teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, the plaintiff in the lead-up to the Janus case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, told “Breitbart News Tonight” that the charter schools were the big target for the Los Angeles teachers. (The interview was held before the strike was settled.)
“Teachers unions in L.A. have been offered a 6 percent raise. They’ve been offered more nurses, counselors, librarians—who would all pay dues, by the way—and they’ve even been offered the smaller class sizes they want,” Friedrichs said. “They’re continuing to strike because they’ve been convinced by state and national teachers unions that they need to push for a moratorium on charter schools and push for full unionization of charter schools. So those teachers are denying school choice to the very little kids who need it.”
In Illinois, charter schools are facing attack on multiple fronts.
Twenty percent of charter school teachers are now unionized, and the CTU is pushing hard for more. But just building union membership is not the end goal, Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, told the Chicago City Wire.
“They want control to limit the growth of the schools,” Broy said. “I call it faux progressivism. They act like they are doing it for the greater good, but it’s for their own good.”
In December, the teachers at 15 Acero charter schools in Chicago went on strike, the first strike by charter school teachers in the nation. The teachers became CTU members a few years ago.
In addition, teachers at four charter schools operated by Chicago International Charter Schools have announced a strike date of Feb. 5 if they cannot reach a contract deal with the school. Those teachers are also part of the CTU.
The charters face a tough crowd in Springfield as well this session. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on more than one occasion during the campaign that he would support a moratorium on charter schools. And the pro-union Democratic Party now has a supermajority in the General Assembly.
“It’s definitely going to be more challenging than it was with Gov. Rauner,” Broy said. “We could depend on him (Rauner) for a veto of anti-charter legislation. But I’m hopeful we can work with Gov. Pritzker to find common ground.”
State Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena), a charter school supporter, said in an interview with the Chicago City Wire she expects a rash of anti-charter school legislation once the session gets up and running.
She added that her district has become a popular destination for some city families attracted to the schools. It is a decision that works, though, only for those parents who can afford it, she said.
“Without choice, you’re telling parents that if you can’t afford a down payment on a house, then your child has to go to a school picked by the union,” she said.
Illinois has 143 charter schools, 128 of them in Chicago. They teach approximately 64,000 students, 60,000 of whom are in Chicago. Schools sizes range from 150 to 2,000 students.
(The CTU did manage to get a cap on charters as part of their 2016 contract negotiations. But then CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said that there was room for charters to grow under the cap.)