CTU slaps Rahm’s CPS bosses with grievance for cutting staff in overcrowded classrooms
CPS forcing staff out of their union, as wider cuts to critical school personnel create dangerous staff shortages.
CHICAGO, June 22, 2018—Public sector unions across the nation are bracing for the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, which could undercut union membership and bargaining power. But in Chicago for the last seven years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has mounted his own assault on classroom workers and their union, including PSRPs – paraprofessional and school-related personnel. Emanuel has slashed PSRPs by 25% – over a thousand workers – mirroring trends cited in a new BGA report that shows school staffing in Chicago falls woefully short compared to the rest of the state.
PSRPs are the backbone of our school communities – and they and their union are fighting back. The CTU has slapped CPS with a grievance for refusing to staff overcrowded K-2 classrooms with teaching assistants in violation of the CTU contract, and for forcing PSRPs in elementary schools into non-CTU special education classroom assistant, or SECA, positions – a form of union-busting. The CTU has also been able to force CPS to back off its recent plan to unilaterally force PSRPs in ‘blended’ Pre-K classes into SECA positions – and out of their current union.
“PSRPs are overwhelmingly Black and Latinx women who provide critical support as teaching assistants and paraprofessionals in our classrooms and school communities,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “They live in communities on the South and West Sides, where job cuts hurt not just them and their families but the neighborhoods in which they live and the schools that they serve. The bottom line is that Emanuel has been mounting a Janus-like assault on PSRPs and thousands of our other members for seven years, repeatedly trying to rob workers of our contract's common-sense protections and their rights on the job.”
Emanuel has also slashed the number of school clerks by 25%, cut librarians to only 140 for more than 500 public schools, and hacked away at the number of teachers – driving overcrowding in many classrooms. Twenty percent of school nursing positions are vacant, and CPS' student to nurse ratio is almost 2,900:1 – up 70% since 2010. The student to psychologist ratio is 1,760:1 – two and a half times the recommended level. The ratio of students to social workers is five times the recommended ratio for the city’s low-income students, and the counselor to student ratio is nearly double the recommended level, with 150 counselors cut just in the last several years. All of those educational professionals play critical roles in identifying and reporting physical and sexual abuse, and in providing support to students in need.
Emanuel’s cuts to frontline PSRPs have destabilized schools that he's also crippled with deep budget cuts, including for the upcoming school year – despite CPS' promise in March not to cut staff or funds even if enrollment at a school fell. Under Emanuel’s control over CPS, the district has been blighted with ethics and contracting scandals, chronic mismanagement in programs from pre-K to special education, costly no-bid contracts and privatization schemes that have hurt students and educators and catastrophic failures to protect students from sexual abuse.
PSRPs worked for months with CTU leadership and staff to pull together the evidence to file the grievance. That cooperative effort mirrors the CTU’s advocacy work with clinicians and educators in pre-K and special education, which helped expose scandals in those program areas.
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The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago’s publicly funded schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and is the third-largest teachers’ local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at www.ctunet.com.