Over 21,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union have voted in favor of walking off the job.
Teachers have been working without a contract this school year, and last week took a three-day vote to authorize a strike.
The results of that vote were announced this morning.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey called it an "overwhelming" number, but it's not much of a surprise: The union held a “test” vote last month to gauge the feelings of its rank-and-file members.
In the official vote, 92 percent of members voted last week.
Of those who participated, 96 percent of them voted "yes" to authorize a strike–that amount is equal to 88 percent of the entire membership voting in favor of a strike.
The union says it’s still at odds with the district over that 7 percent pension pick-up, also an increase in health care costs and cost-of-living increases. But this morning, Sharkey laid out a number of other concerns the teachers have about the state of the school district.
“Rahm, Forrest Claypool: Listen to what teachers and educators are trying to tell you,” said Sharkey. “Do not cut the schools anymore. Do not commit the mass layoffs that you have threatened. Instead, respect educators. Give us the tools that we need to do our jobs and educate the children and the future generation of this city. We would like to see the public schools improve the teaching and learning conditions in our classrooms. Reduce standardized tests, eliminate time-sucking compliance paperwork, restore professional respect and autonomy over things like grading in the classrooms. These improvements would cost nothing.”
A strike is quite a few more months away.
The two sides are still in the mediation phase of negotiations for about three-and-a-half months.
If those fail, they enter a fact-finding period, and teachers still couldn't hit the picket lines until 105 days after fact-finding begins.
The district says that should happen in February, but the union hopes it would happen sooner because they think mediation has gone on long enough.
So, a strike isn't most likely until May, or the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
Their only chance of it happening sooner is if the state Educational Labor Relations Board orders it, but a hearing isn't even scheduled with the board until late January.
The district has said this strike vote is premature. After all that's happened over the summer with replacing the CEO, it believes mediation and negotiations on this multiyear deal have only been going on for a few months.
And sources point out that it was the union that rejected the one-year contract over teacher evaluations, even though that contract would've continued the much-disputed pension pickup.
In a statement, CEO Forrest Claypool said:
"We have the highest respect for our teachers' work and while we understand their frustrations, a strike that threatens to set back our students' progress is simply not the answer to our challenges. Instead, the solution to our $1.1 billion problem must begin with Springfield.
“CPS students receive only 15 percent of the state's education funding, despite being 20 percent of the state's enrollment. So rather than strike, we ask that the Chicago Teachers Union join us to fight for our shared goal of equal education funding from Springfield for Chicago's children.”
What's more, the district says what CTU is proposing–increasing staffing to maintain reasonable class sizes, additional librarians, counselors, restorative justice coordinators and more–would cost the district an additional $1.5 billion a year.
We also heard from the Illinois Policy Institute which says the last strike was detrimental to the district's finances, and another one so soon after the last, could be only make matters worse.
“I think it can get much worse,” said Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the IPI. “If we’re near bankruptcy today I think things can get even worse. Really, this discussion is not about money. It’s about whether families will continue to put up with it. The results for education have not been great. Some parents who feel that they are paying more and more in taxes, but getting less and less in education may just leave the city, and I think that would precipitate even more problems for CPS.”
As to how this vote compares to the strike vote three years ago, it’s pretty close, with a difference of only one or two percentage points.
In 2012, just over 89 percent of total membership voted yes, compared to this year's 88 percent.
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