If a school strike occurs it won’t affect charter school students like Kendall Pruitt.
The 17 year-old junior attends Urban Prep Academy for Young Men High School, a charter school on Chicago’s South Side, and teachers at charter schools are not members of the Chicago Teachers Union.
“I feel sorry for the students who do not attend a charter school because they might have to sit at home while I get to go to school and continue learning,” he said. “It is an unfortunate situation that I wish could be avoided but I realize things like this happen.”
However, should the Chicago Teachers Union decide to go on strike the thousands of students attending Chicago Public Schools would still have a safe place to go five days a week.
That’s because a contingency plan is in place, according to CPS officials.
“CPS has been working on a plan for the last several weeks that would allow the District to provide our kids with essential services they need in the event that the Chicago Teachers Union decides to strike,” explained Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for CPS. “[However] it’s premature to release details of a plan at this time, as the Chicago Teachers Union has not yet announced that they plan to strike. [But] if the CTU should issue a notice to strike, we will release our plan in order to get the process going so that parents and kids know what services will be available in their communities and where.”
Safety and providing nutritional meals are also part of CPS’ contingency plan.
“If they (the CTU) choose to strike, we will be ready to provide our kids with a safe environment where they can engage in positive activities and get the food they need every day,” Carroll added.
She added that students attending charter schools would not be affected by a strike since teachers there are not members of the CTU.
CPS is the third largest school district in the country with 402,000 students and 675 schools attended mostly by Hispanic and black students, according to CPS data.
By law, the CTU must give the school district a 10-day written notice of their intent to strike.
Karen Lewis, president of the CTU, said while its House of Delegates has given her the okay to issue a 10-day notice she has chosen not to do so.
“School will start on time,” Lewis said. “[But] we need to have our people prepared. I don’t have any idea about what’s going to happen, but I know it’s ridiculous to sit back and pretend that everything is going to be settled and then scramble at the last minute when it’s not.’’
One benefit to teachers for showing up on the first day of school is health insurance. In order for teachers to secure health insurance, they must work at least one day in a month. Having classes on the first day also benefits the district because federal funding for the school year is largely tied to attendance for the first day.
According Carroll, teachers would not be paid while on strike but other CPS employees including Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard, would still receive their paychecks.
“Only those on strike wouldn’t be paid,” she added. “Everyone else continues to be paid with the exception of hourly employees unless employees don’t use their benefit days (such as vacation, sick, etc).”
And while pay is a sticking point with negotiations Lewis said there are other issues it needs to resolve first.
“We haven’t gotten to the big sticking points (such as pay) because we’re trying to get the little ones off the table,’’ Lewis added.
If the school district and the CTU remain at an impasse Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose three, small children attend a private school, said he will get involved to help negotiate a deal to prevent a strike from occurring.
There are seven members that make up the school board including three whites, two Hispanics and two blacks. David Vitale, chairman of Urban Partnership Bank and former chief administrative officer for CPS, serves as the board’s president.
Andrea Zopp, president and chief executive officer for the Chicago Urban League, and Mahalia Hines, a retired CPS teacher and principal, recently spoke to pingroof.com to discuss their concerns about a possible strike.
“There is definitely a concern about this school year being interrupted. I know parents are not confortable with the way negotiations have gone so far and it is our hope that negotiations improve and a deal is reached soon,” Hines said.
One thing Hines and Zopp agreed on is that teachers are not underpaid.
“People need to understand that starting salaries for CPS teachers are the highest in the nation at $50,000 a year, so our teachers are paid well,” Zopp told pingroof.com. “The 2 percent raise the school board offered is not meant to be an insult but it is the best we can do for now.”
Under the last contract, which expired June 30, teachers were suppose to receive a 4 percent raise in 2011 but the school district exercised their contractual right to cancel the scheduled raise because of a $700 million deficit it faces.