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FAQ: The interim agreement between CPS and CTU: What it is and what it isn’t!

07/27/2012

Note: Click here for information on applying for the new jobs created by the Interim Agreement.

Recently, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union came to an interim arrangement together concerning the longer work day and increasing staffing in order to facilitate the opening of Track E schools. We should be clear, the only reason the Board changed its mind on these issues is because of you and our parent and community allies. If not for parents demanding a 6.5 hour day, if not for thousands of our members marching in the street, if not for marches by parents on the Mayor's house and sit-ins at City Hall, even these modest concessions would not be possible. However, we have a long way to go. We must continue the important work we've started and continue to keep the pressure on the Board and their billionaire allies who would like nothing more than to weaken our union. What did our efforts attain in the latest round of negotiations with the Board?

The current arrangement does a number of things to resolve concerns that the Union has raised regarding the longer day. But it does not resolve many of the most pressing concerns our membership has asserted must be addressed in order to settle our current contract. Below is a summary of what the agreement contains and what it is missing.

The longer day

The Interim Agreement addresses only the teacher work day, not the student day that CPS has steadfastly refused to discuss. The arrangement effectively reduces the proposed 7 hour and 40 minute work day to 7 hours for elementary schools teachers and 7 hours and 14 minutes for high school teachers. It also eliminates the 15 minutes of banked PD time that would have required evening and weekend hours for teachers.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Under the Interim Agreement, teacher work days will be 420 minutes (7 hours), which will include a 45-minute duty-free lunch during the day, which is the same length of day for schools that currently have an open campus. Instructional minutes will be capped at 296 per day, which is no more than was allowed under the expired contract for an open campus. Average daily preparation time will be increased from 62 minutes to 64 minutes. Student days will also be 420 minutes. The Board has committed to not require teachers to work lunch or recess duty in this plan. We must remain vigilant to monitor the situation and ensure that the promise is kept. Of the five preps each week afforded to elementary school teachers, four will be duty free and one will be principal directed.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Under the Interim Agreement, high school teacher work days will be increased 14 minutes, from 421 minutes to 435, but instructional minutes will be increased by no more than 7 minutes, from 244 to a maximum of 251 minutes. Average daily preparation time will be increased up to 10 minutes, to a maximum of 102 minutes, depending on class length. Critically, CPS has also agreed that no teacher will be required to teach a sixth class, as many teachers would have been compelled to do under the original CPS plan, unless that teacher receives additional compensation as required under the expired contract. Student days will be 435 minutes on average per week.

Staffing Up at the schools

Since the student day will be longer, CPS has also agreed to hire about 750 new teachers to cover the extra periods, including 477.5 new positions that will be filled under the Interim Agreement. CPS has finally agreed that any tenured teacher displaced in 2010 or after who had a satisfactory rating or better can apply for an open position, and as long as at least 3 qualified applicants apply for a position the principal must hire a displaced teacher and cannot hire new teachers off the street. Similar to the current process under Appendix H, the principal may elect not to retain the teacher after the semester is completed, but if so, the principal must hire the replacement out of the same pool of displaced teachers. Any teacher retained beyond the semester becomes a permanent appointment.

Does this mean no raises?

No. The Interim Agreement does not address compensation in any form, and this is still a major issue in negotiations. We are very far apart on this issue. Among other things, CPS has proposed to pay only 2% annual raises, with the final year’s raise contingent on our agreement to a merit pay plan, and to eliminate our step increases for the enitre contract term. This is an issue over which we can strike.

Why am I losing my morning prep as an elementary school teacher and what can be done about it?

One reason why we are able to achieve a longer day without significantly increasing the instructional responsibilities of the average teacher is because CPS has agreed to hire additional staff to create a “better school day.” This requires a program that allows some teachers to teach while others are on their preparation periods; similar to the schedules of high school teachers. Accordingly, the scheduling of prep periods has changed, but not the amount of prep time, which will increase to an average of 64 minutes as duty-free preparation time four days a week and principal directed one day a week. Additionally, a 45 minute, duty-free lunch period will provide additional time for teachers to take a substantial break and reenergize before afternoon classes.

My school is already on an open campus schedule with a duty free 45 minute lunch period. How does this agreement change my lunch schedule?

It doesn’t. Your lunch in the middle of the day will remain the same. Only those schools on a closed campus schedule will see their lunch situation change. Instead of students being dismissed prior to your lunch, you will now have your duty free lunch period in the middle of the day. This will enable our members to have a real break and enable our students to experience recess, additional instructional time and longer lunch periods.

Why didn’t the Union force the Board of Education to roll back the day to 6.5 hours?

Under the new Illinois law, the length of the student school day and the teacher work day are permissive bargaining subjects, which means that CPS has no obligation even to discuss them with the Union.  CPS rolled back the student school day to 7 hours due only to external pressure from the Union and supportive parent and education groups. The Interim Agreement addresses the teacher work day, and is a compromise designed to roll back the excessive 7 hour and 40 minute day and eliminate evening and weekend professional development requirements. We were also able to significantly increase staffing levels in a way that will alleviate the additional work responsibilities associated with the longer day. We believe this outcome is much better than the alternative of starting Track E with a nearly 8-hour teacher work-day and without additional supports.

Who gets recalled and when?

Teachers who have been displaced and whose last evaluation was Satisfactory or better are eligible to apply for any vacancies generated by the 477.5 new positions to be filled under the interim agreement, provided they have the proper qualifications and certifications. At least three qualified applicants must apply for each open position as a condition for principals hiring only displaced teachers. Accordingly, it is critical that everyone who is displaced apply for each and every single vacancy you are eligible to fill in order to maximize the likelihood of rehire. The union will be sending out detailed instructions and calling you with this information shortly.

If you have not been contacted by CPS by August 1 please send your current address, telephone number and email address to the Union immediately by calling 312-329-9100.

What happens if I’m recalled and the principal decides to remove me from the position at the semester break?

If you are let go at the semester break you will be returned to the position you held prior to the assignment. For example, if you were a day-to-day substitute teacher, you will return to the substitute pool. If you were in the reassignment pool, you will return to the reassignment pool to finish the 10 month period in the pool, (minus the amount of time you were in your interim position during the previous semester). If you were a cadre, you will return to the cadre pool. If you were displaced without a position, you will return to that designation.

If the principal can dismiss me after a semester, how do I know the principal will take me seriously?

Under the Interim Agreement, if the principal elects not to retain you after the first semester, the principal must hire your replacement from the same applicant pool of displaced teachers. So the principal will have little incentive to hire a teacher just to bide time since the replacement must also be selected from the same pool of displaced teachers.

Issues not included in the Interim Agreement

The Interim Agreement, though an important step forward, is a limited agreement that does not address many critical issues:

Evaluation and continued job security: The Board still has not agreed to a system-wide permanent recall pool. The interim agreement is a step in the right direction but is not sufficient. Additionally, the new Charlotte Danielson teacher framework, Common Core State Standards and Evaluation rubric will make our jobs much harder next year. We still need to put in place checks and balances to prevent principals from removing thousands of teachers from their posts for faulty reasons. Our evaluation committee and bargaining team are currently working very hard to put in place these safeguards. Lastly, the Mayor and Board of Education’s continued insistence of massive charter expansion jeopardizes the stability and efficacy of our neighborhood schools over the long term.

Class Size: CPS still has the 5th largest class sizes in the state and the language in our current contract is advisory, not mandatory. While CPS has verbally committed to keep our current language, there are no such assurances yet that would provide funding to schools that have over-sized classrooms, whereas our current contract does provide funding.

Staffing: We are still not out of the woods in terms of properly staffing our schools. We will have to monitor the current commitments to staffing and determine whether or not they are implemented correctly. There will be plenty of opportunities to get it right. We also have yet to address the lack of city-wide positions throughout the system. The woefully inadequate number of PSRPs, social workers, nurses, counselors, and school psychologists still need to be addressed.

Length of School Year/Holidays: No agreement has been reached regarding the length of the school year or CPS eliminating two holidays from the school year.

Compensation: No contract can be concluded until CPS pays fair salaries and provides excellent benefits at reasonable expense to us. CPS continues to ask for low salary increases, merit pay, and elimination of steps. No agreement can be concluded on these terms.

Chicago Teachers Union